Y&C: Beau Gervais

For Part Four of the ‘Young and Creative’ series, SOON met with newly graduated fine artist Beau Gervais. (Photographs taken by Dave Rowswell).

Introduce yourself and your work.
My name is Beau, I graduated from my Illustration degree in July from the University of Brighton. I grew up in London but was born in Canada, and now I feel I’ve made my home here in Brighton. I feel like my work is constantly changing, even in it’s subtleties that others might not notice, but my ways of seeing the world are also changing and that is reflected in my practice. The thread that runs through all of my work is the study of human form, female in particular. I grew up around strong women, my mum being a research scientist having done her PHD whilst pregnant (badass), and I’m constantly interested and engaged with their beauty and power- that juxtaposition between strong and soft. Much of my work is simple and line based, but women are and I think that always will be my main subject matter.

How long have you been making art?
I feel like I’ve been drawing for my entire life, and I hope I’ll never stop. Drawing is at the heart of my practice, I went to the Royal Drawing School back in London which really grounded me in classical art and ways of seeing. I took History of Art as well at school, and I feel like that feeds a lot into my obsession with female form and the female nude, but I’ve been striving to create my own visual language for this.

Describe your work in 3 words.
Strong, Simple, Feminine

Describe the way you work in 3 words.
Private, Informed, Self-Reflective

What’s your favourite colour?
I’ve been really into red lately, after years of swearing myself to monochrome, it’s time for some colour.

How long do you spend on each piece of work?
That really depends on a few things, whether the piece is a commission for a particular person – I’ll always take my time with those, as making work for myself I tend to get quite impatient and rush things. I also work quite large, so the larger tapestries take much longer than the smaller ones, however my work is almost purely line based and fairly minimal, so I would never spend longer than a couple of days on one piece.

What’s your favourite environment to work in?
I thrived in the studio culture of university, I’ll stand by the fact I’m sure I learned more from friends around me working than I did from the actual degree, and I miss that energy that you feel when working with a room full of creative people all doing their own thing. But when I really needed to get shit done, I always went away to work in small cafes. The combination of being away from studio/home distractions and also the fact that you’re paying however many coffee’s an hour to be there, made me focus in ways I sometimes struggle to do around friends. Even now, post uni, I still love being able to structure my day through ‘working away from home’, taking all my supplies and books and chaining myself to a cafe table for as long as they’ll have me. I’m surprised I’m not asked to leave more often.

Who inspires what you do? 
In a visual sense, my main loves have always been Picasso and Matisse. I remember being 7 years old and making these huge illustrated posters about Picasso’s blue and rose periods and thinking wow this guy has really got something. It took me several years before I understood the skill in which it takes to be a minimal artist, to untrained eyes the radical simplicity of Picasso’s later work may seem less skilful than his earlier more detailed and realistic paintings, but the skill in which it takes to communicate something so clearly through so few lines is something I’ve been chasing for years. I know that some of my family still get jollies when I can draw a picture of them that looks like a photograph, but to me thats just not interesting anymore and I don’t think it ever will be again. The more my style grows, the more paired back it becomes, I reckon by the time I’m 60 my work will look like Mondrian’s shapes. In a greater sense, I’m inspired by all the women around me. Strong women, fashionable women, smart women, women who don’t say sorry for not fitting into box standards. I love the relationships and friendships women share, and the unique support and love we have for each other. I’m hoping to do a project soon on female friendship, and also motherhood and how as we grow up our relationships with our mother’s evolve. I love my mum, she inspires me endlessly.

What’s your favourite piece of work you’ve ever made?
Recently I’ve been contacted to design tattoos, something I never thought I would ever do – not because I doubted my work, but just never considered the idea that someone would want one of my works on them forever. I worked with one of my close friends to design her a tattoo, just a simple line drawing of a female figure, but it was her reasoning that made it one of my favourite works. She’d wanted it on her body as she resonated with the message that my work carries, strong and unashamed femininity. This touched me greatly, and every time I see it I feel so much love.

Where would you like to be in 10 years time with your work?
That’s a scary question, I don’t think at any point in my life I’ll know what I want even 6 months in the future. Post graduation is the most terrifying and exciting thing I’ve had to grasp, the idea that no one will tell you what to do which means you could do anything – and suddenly you’re overwhelmed with possibilities that you could so easily just do nothing. Thats what I’m fighting at the moment, trying not to push myself too soon into something I don’t want to do, but also trying not to get complacent with my work. I love freelancing at the moment as it suits my time frame, but I’m also really interested in working with other creative people, so I might decide to apply for some studio based work. Art direction seems really interesting, and I loved designing my own small magazine/book so maybe going into independent publishing design is a route I’d like to take. I mean who knows.

What’s your ‘Something Out Of Nothing’? One of life’s simple pleasures that you absolutely love… 
I’m all about the small pleasures in life, I actually wrote my dissertation about ‘Slow Living’ which is just that – taking life that little bit slower to enjoy the small things. For me, it would be going to my favourite shop, Magazine Brighton, picking up an independent magazine and taking myself for coffee somewhere quiet to just sit and be alone in that small indulgence.

If, like us, you love Beau’s work and want to see more of it- you can follow her on Instagram, or visit her site here.