Artist Biography - Olivia Lomenech Gill
Olivia Lomenech Gill is perhaps most famous for her various illustration commissions for famous and celebrated books. Olivia's first professional illustration commission, Where My Wellies Take Me, written by Clare and Michael Morpurgo, was shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal and won the English Association Picture Book Award.
Further commissions have included Michae...l Morpurgo’s ‘War Horse; Only Remembered’; Kathleen Jamie’s anthology ‘The Bonniest Companie’, recipient of the Saltire 2016 Book of the Year Award; Francesca Simon’s ‘The Monstrous Child’ and most recently, JK Rowling’s ‘Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them’ for Bloomsbury Publishing.
Taking roughly eighteen months to complete, Olivia began the Fantastic Beasts project by studying and sketching animals from real-life and Greek Mythology. Some beasts pure products of Rowling’s imagination, Olivia worked with her to create the creatures visiting zoos and studying special animal collections and archives.
Olivia has recently completed another story book for Michael Morpurgo and Walker Books which is inspired by the life and work of Dame Elisabeth Frink, with publication due in June 2019.
For someone who was probably always going to end up an artist, Olivia’s career has followed a somewhat circuitous route.
Attending a specialist music school (Wells cathedral) when she was young, Olivia discovered a passion for drawing and, after being offered both music and art scholarships at sixth form she had the opportunity to pursue this more extensively, along with music, theatre and set-design.
Choosing to train in theatre, Olivia gained a 1st class degree from Hull University in 1996, during which time she also held her first solo exhibition, the success of which helped finance her studies. After several years working with various theatre companies in London and many other jobs besides, Olivia came to enroll on an MA in Printmaking, which she completed at Camberwell College of Art in 2001.
By now she had begun exhibiting regularly in the National Print Exhibition, where she won several awards. However, a move to Northumberland in 2001 meant devising new ways of working, with no printing facilities available; the adaptation and employment of different techniques in varying combinations is perhaps a trademark of Olivia’s work.
During the next several years, Olivia exhibited at most of the major London Art Fairs and with Duncan Campbell Fine Art in Kensington. After a chance encounter with the writer Michael Morpurgo in 2009, Olivia came to do her first illustration commission, ‘Where My Wellies Take Me…’ a story and anthology of poetry including Rosetti, Ted Hughes, and Norman MacCaig, written and compiled by Michael and Clare Morpurgo.
"Animals and children are Olivia’s touchstones, all living creatures in fact, in their various landscapes. There are some imagined beasts too, but living ones triumph. Olivia calls herself ‘an untaught artist and accidental illustrator’. Perhaps that’s her secret. Her work speaks to everyone, unforced, and full of soul". Kathleen Jamie, poet.
Olivia lives and works in north Northumberland in a timber studio she built by hand with her husband, a paper conservator. They also have a workshop in a nearby village, which houses Olivia's three-ton printing press.