Nicholas Romeril is a Jersey born and based artist focusing on the seascapes around the islands coast. We caught up with him to talk about his latest solo exhibition ‘Free to Jump’ and life as a full time artist.
Tell us about where and when getting creative all started for you?
I come from a farming background. My parents were both hobby artists, my father used to do oil paintings in the kitchen in winter, he attended evening classes, Paul Kilshaw had a studio in one of our outbuildings and my mother did handicrafts, so from a very young age I was used to seeing people making stuff all around me. At school, it was really the only thing I used to like doing. Fred Sand was my teacher and he obviously saw something in me and encouraged me and Mark Blanchard taught me for my O, A levels so I was lucky to have had great teachers. I used to do portraits of my friends and help them with their artwork too. I sold my first painting to a teacher, they saw it, liked it and brought it. So that got me thinking there was obviously something in my skill, as it wasn’t a relative! When I was around 16/17 my Grandfather had died and I made a painting of him from a photograph. I was working on this in our kitchen and my aunts and uncles all cried when they saw it, seeing that emotional impact really made an impression on me.
How would you describe your work and what you do?
I’m a realist landscape painter, in that I am not interested in topography, what it looks like, but instead I try to capture the essence of the place. Since I exhibit all over the world, topography could be a problem as people may not be familiar with the island, so instead I’m trying to capture the essence of the place, it’s more about living by the sea, which people will be familiar with and can relate to, rather than the place.
What does an average day look like for you?
My studio is based at the top of Bonne Nuit hill, I have a commute of around 30 seconds as it is also where I live. I start work at around 7am and I then work as hard as I can until 5pm, during this time I’ll have an hours break. I’m working on 20 or 30 pieces at any one time, which means I don’t get bored. I also have to stay on top of my admin too. As an artist you have to be pretty good at all sorts of things, logistics, purchasing, sales, accounts, admin, PR, website updating. It’s a really involved job that goes way beyond the finished piece you see, the art really is the cream on the cake.
I’m also incredibly fortunate to be working with my two sons on several projects. William is the poet who wrote the verses that accompanied the brochure for my recent exhibition Free to Jump and Danny has been helping me create the fish walls for the last couple of years.
I also work at Highlands in the art and design department, teaching painting, printmaking and sculpture. I do it because I enjoy it, it’s nice to have a conversation with young people.
Your recent exhibition was titled Free to Jump, what inspired the title?
It’s the name of a painting in the series, it’s of a splash of someone that has jumped into the sea from Bonne Nuit harbour. The reason, well the whole exhibition is based on a day in my life. I try and see the sea every day, I go to the boulders and the sand dunes. I used the activity of jumping in the sea in the same way as making art, you may be apprehensive of what the sensation is going to be when you jump in the water, all the crazy thoughts that go through your head, of what’s going to happen and how it will feel, It’s the same as painting, you start with nothing, and you can visualise the journey but you never know what’s going to happen. But it’s well worth doing because once you’ve jumped you feel invigorated, you feel you’ve achieved something.
What mediums do you use and which of those you use is your favourite?
I use any really. Although the only one I don’t use is watercolour as I find it quite fussy and flat, which as most of my paintings allude to three dimensions doesn’t work for me. My favourite is oil as it’s elastic, malleable and rich and it has real history too.
I see that sculpture featured more heavily in your recent exhibition, what’s prompted this and what materials do you use?
I use mirror polished stainless steel, which is highly reflective so it works well with what I’m doing and it can stay outside and never change. It isn’t particularly giving, which is challenging. I buy it in large sheets, which I then have to work with and it can mean I have to compromise on the detail.
Do you have a favourite piece of work that you’ve kept, one that you loved so much you just couldn’t sell it?
Yes, obviously, but I have to make a living. I usually know that the ones I think are the best ones someone else will like too. One thing I do, do is keep the sketches when I do a commission. So when I’m old or dead my kids can exhibit and sell them, hopefully. I like the idea of a work of art going in to the world and surviving on it’s own, it’s like its real story begins when it leaves me.
Do you have any particular artists that have inspired you throughout your career?
This is a really difficult question to answer, because I look at lots and lots of art, so to be honest the list is almost infinite.
How does it feel to have your work adorn the Jersey Dairy building, do you ever drive up there just to see it?
I do and I still do some work for them now and again, which means I have to go up there. it was a great project to work on and the biggest thing I’ve ever created. There is actually a video on YouTube where you can see me making the panel, type in; Nicholas Romeril The Herd.
Do you have any great advice for people with an interest in pursuing a career as a professional artist?
Being an artist is a peculiar job, it’s more of a vocation. The primary reason to be an artist is that you want to express you thoughts by creating something that connects or communicates beauty or emotional power to an audience. If you’re lucky enough to make some money out of it, then that’s amazing. I’m now 48 and I didn’t really feel that I was getting anywhere until I was about 30, so perseverance is key.
We know you’ve just exhibited at CCA, but what’s coming up in the future, anything we should be keeping an eye out for?
Lots of admin and clearing down after the show will keep me busy. I’m having an exhibition in London next year, there and Switzerland. Work doesn’t stop. I’ve also got a couple of great commissions to work on. I’m lucky to have such nice clients, who work with me and understand that I don’t like rushing things, as that can create bad art. They let me work in my own space and time. I’ve also got a new website in development which will have a shop in it, so you’ll be able to buy my art online, fingers crossed.