View From The Top, 11″x15″ watercolour on paper

Nature’s Palette

 by Deena Dolan

Intrigued by shapes, design, and how they relate to each other in their natural habitat, Gill Cameron’s watercolour paintings begin their process as pleasing shapes. These shapes then morph into dynamic landscape compositions filled with bold colour and elemental imagery. 

As a child, Gill Cameron was influenced and encouraged by her artist father, Ken Cameron. An architect by trade, he made the move to full-time artist at age 50 and never looked back. He was prolific in most mediums but preferred watercolour and oil. Gill’s passion was and is watercolour. 

As a student at Guelph University School of Fine Art, Gill was exposed to every aspect of art and creation. Through it all, however, her passion for watercolour was ever-present, simmering just below the surface. 

Following graduation, but never expecting to be an artist, Gill taught English for a year in Ecuador, where she met her husband, Bruce. While there, her artistic nature was immediately attracted to the vibrant colours, innovative designs, patterns, and textures she discovered in ethnic fabrics. Her mother created beautiful quilts, so Gill’s interest in fabric design was a natural progression. But that’s another story. 

Returning to Toronto, Gill began a career in graphic design with the publication firm MacLean-Hunter Limited, working on various projects for about 10 years. “I learned a lot about design and colour. I loved it! I absolutely loved it!” Layouts, organizing, cut and paste—it was a different world back then, just before the dawn of the digital age, when print design was truly a hands-on process. In her spare hours, of course, Gill was continuously creating her own art. 

With the arrival of their first child, Gill soon learned that changes had to happen. She left the corporate world and moved her drafting table into the couple’s dining room, where she painted three days a week and also took two-day-a-week position teaching adults with disabilities. “Honestly, it was such a great combination—the best of both worlds.” 

In 1996, Gill got her first studio—shared with four others— on College Street. Her first show was in Toronto in 1998, and there’s been an exhibition in the city almost every year since, most often at the century-old redesigned and transformed streetcar facility, Wychwood Barns Artscape. 

Old Baldy Cliffs, 15″x11″ watercolour on paper

Rock & Roll, 11″x30″ watercolour on paper

Singing Trees, 11″x15″ watercolour on paper

Two Pools, 11″x15″ watercolour on paper

The Toronto studio operated for approximately eight years and following that, she worked from her home studio, juggling motherhood, artistic endeavours, and everyday life in general. 

By design, Gill’s landscapes are bold but at the same time peaceful. “My paintings are calm,” Gill smiles. “And happy.” She uses an interesting technique of applying pigment to damp paper in sections, then she rolls the paper from side to side, letting the paint flow until it settles and dries. This results in a deep and even application of hues, which is not often seen in watercolours. These complexities of colour, design, and the power of elemental imagery infuse her work. “Always looking for patterns and shapes, I simplify my forms. Even though it’s a landscape, it’s more design-oriented. The composition is vitally important. I start with colours, patterns, and textures that work together and morph into a landscape.” 

Always on the lookout for inspiration and possibilities, Gill is smitten with the positive energy found in nature. She finds excitement in shapes and patterns. When she has reached a certain point with a particular piece, once the washes are in place and dry, she will pick up her watercolour pencils and begin adding shapes here and there—wherever it feels right. “That’s when I’m really having fun, the music is pumping, and I’m not looking at anything other than what I’m feeling at the moment—making marks, adding patterns—that part is just really exciting to me.” 

Generally working from photos and sketches she’s done while exploring various locations, Gill most often works on two pieces at a time. “I’m not very patient, and it takes a while for watercolour to dry, so creating more than one works well.” She admits to having a brain that’s always active, always searching. “Painting really calms me down, it settles me.” She keeps copious notes relating to colours and references and always has a few ideas ready to go. Colour is critically important in Gill’s paintings. It’s remarkable how she achieves the strong impact and boldness found in her work by expertly adding more pigment and less water. Sounds simple, but if you’ve ever tried painting with watercolour, you know it’s not. 

Nottawa Poppies, 11″x15″ watercolour on paper

Physically active year-round, skiing brought her family to the Escarpment years ago, and tennis has always been in the mix as well. She laughs about how she’ll stop in the middle of a serve, captured by the clouds above, and direct everyone to take a look. Canoeing, especially around Killarney, is a priority every season, and many paintings feature the La Cloche Mountains, sparkling quartzite peaks, pink granite rock, and deep waters of northern Georgian Bay. For over half a century, her family has maintained a rustic cottage in Pointe au Baril—another favourite subject for her work. In fact, Gill has participated in the PAB Art Show for over 50 years—her father entered one of her pieces when she was just a child. 

Travel with her husband figures into Gill’s life in an important way, and her paint supplies always tag along. She captured the rice fields in Vietnam and the poppies in France. “I take inspiration from wherever I am.” Clearly, more adventures are on their horizon. 

An award-winning artist, Gill’s paintings have been coveted by collectors around the globe. She is a member of the Society of Canadian Artists, the Canadian Society of Painters in Watercolour, and the Ontario Society of Artists. She has had several group and solo exhibitions in Toronto, Collingwood, and Pointe au Baril. Gill’s studio is in Collingwood, and her work can be viewed there by appointment. You can also see her work at Loft Gallery in Thornbury. E 

Gill Cameron’s art show at the Nottawa General Store runs from October 1 to November 16, 2024. 

Canola Yellow, 11″x15″ watercolour on paper

Escarpment View, 11″x15″ watercolour on paper