Artists We Love: Gabi Lee

INTERVIEWED BY Lindi Brownell Meiring

Up-and-coming Cape Town artist Gabi Lee may be known for her quirky Chimney Creatures, but it’s her calming seascapes that are giving her a newfound focus. We chatted to her about what inspires her creativity and what’s next on her agenda.

What do you love most about being creative?

I get to have the most fun and do what I love every day. I am an avid lover of stories, films, colour, images, characters and feelings – and I get to make my own versions in my work.

How did the Chimney Creatures series come about?

I just started drawing them (probably out of pure frustration because at that point in my life I put being creative aside). I knew I loved making art, as I had grown up doing something creative every day without even realising it, but I had somehow convinced myself that it wasn’t something I could do to make a living. It was just something that I did for fun and not something I could do in reality.

I started drawing one Chimney Creature and I loved it. Every time I drew a creature I laughed at it and it made me happy. I showed my friends and they loved them too. It also didn’t matter to me if people didn’t like these drawings because I loved making them and that meant the most to me.

I literally couldn’t stop drawing them. I drew them on whatever material was available in the moment and with any free second I got. I drew over 100 of these little guys, each with its own personality and character. I loved the graphic quality of the black, black ink on the white, white paper. I love these guys because they sparked a passion and great love for being creative – a right place at the right time feeling, I guess.

I called them the Chimney Creatures because most of them are scruffy and I could imagine a whole civilisation of these dusty friends living happily together in someone’s chimney.

What three words do you think best describe your Chimney Creatures.

Graphic. Scruffy. Mischief.

There’s a big aesthetic divide between this series and your oil Seascapes. What inspired the change?

I’ve always loved drawing and have always made art, but it was in making my Chimney Creatures that something changed in me and I started to believe in my art and my work.

Once I had finished my Chimney series I knew what my next five bodies of work would be. I have a great love for oil paints. When I paint with oils I feel so calm and free and when I paint my Seascapes, the oil paint seems to flow freely on the canvas with each long brush stroke.

My Chimney Creature series was all about the black and white contrast created with ink and paper and I wanted to move to colour and calm and canvas. Choosing the colours for each seascape is one of my favourite things to do. Pure joy!

I wanted to sort of challenge myself to move to a body of work that was a little more grown up and a little more serious, but in the same breath, a body of work that I could have fun with. The calming sense of the ocean is something I have always been attracted to. The ocean was where I would go when I was younger to feel calm and I would like those who view my Seascapes to be able to feel like they are almost in the seascape, in the middle of the ocean, feeling a sense of calm.

Do you have any exciting projects coming up?

I am looking to have a small exhibition of new Seascapes for Spring/Summer 2015. A big dream is to paint one of my Chimney Creatures on a building looking out at Cape Town’s CBD. l would love to exhibition this mass body of work in a huge space too. I have started experimenting with wood and sculpture, which excites me, but this is still a work in progress.

View more of Gabi’s work at