I had a chance to interview one of my favorite watercolor artists a few years ago. I have reprinted this interview from an earlier blog article. Gunnar Tryggmo inspired me to begin painting and painting birds. His renditions of the native coastal birds of Sweden are inspiring. He is also an accomplished plein air sketcher and painter.
Gunnar Tryggmo was born in Växjö, Sweden. Raised in Sjöabro, a scenic spot deep in the middle of the forest in Småland, which is a province in southern Sweden. The forest’s diversity of animals and birds caught his interest at an early age and it became a natural source of inspiration. He shared this artistic interest with his uncle, who encouraged him from a young age. His uncle encouraged his craft and took him to his first art exhibit.
After high school, Gunnar moved to Helsingborg, a city in southern Sweden which faces Denmark. Here , he studied painting and drawing at Sundsgårdens college. He continue to be inspired by nature and in particular animals and birds in their natural environment. The beauty of the Swedish landscape ranges from the coastline to the heavily forested interior.
His artwork is characterized to a large part by his natural interest. “Values, the mood and the moment are the most important things in my paintings. The techniques I practice are Watercolor, oil and drawing.”
“My favorite subject over time has been Capericaillies and their life and the scenery in the old forest. The fieldwork and studying these birds have always fascinated me.”Gunnar Tryggmo
Gunnar works in both his studio and outdoors. Outdoors, he will often bring one of his sketchbooks to get ideas for his work. He was gracious enough to give this informative interview.
What inspired you the most to become a painter of wildlife?
It all began at an early age. One of my first memories was sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen, spending the time drawing birds. I guess I had some kind of talent because when I visited my older sister’s school at the age of four with my mother, the teacher were very interested in my drawing skills. I remember I was drawing a train. I was lucky to have an uncle who is an artist. He supported my interest in drawing and painting. He gave me the right artist materials from the beginning and became my first mentor. He also invited me to my first exhibition with some artists from the neighborhood in 1983 when I was 13.
I sold some of my paintings from that exhibition. It continued like that during school attending exhibitions, recieving some commissions and spending a lot of time in the forest and swamps. I grew up on a farm by a lake in the middle of the forest in the southern part of sweden. I think my interest in the wildlife was very natural due to my living environment.
“Later when I moved to the coast, the shorebirds became a natural part of my inspiration.”Gunnar Tryggmo
After my first journey to Africa the megafauna was included in my paintings. My inspiration seems to come from what I have around and the places I visit. I studied science in high school and after that I decided to focus more on art. I studied art for two years at Sundsgardens college, painting graphic and sculpture.
I’ve shown my art in the Swedish galleries since the eighties. In 2009, I began thinking of an international career and entered the Birds in Art for the first time in 2010. I was honored to get in. In 2010 I received my first invitation to Western Visions at National Museunm of Wildlife Art in Wyoming. I have been in the show since 2011. I’ve meet a number of international artists and a great network of friends in my journeys to United States.
I first noticed your paintings on facebook. How has social media changed the way that you approach your projects?
I did not have Facebook before my first trip to the U.S., but i quickly began to realize it was the perfect way to connect with other artists, collectors and galleries from around the world. My Facebook page is much better up to date than my official website homepage because It’s so easy to handle. Easy to see when something happens, exhibitions etc. Social media is fast. You can, for example, show the progress of a painting from idea sketch step by step to the final artwork in real time.
Gunnar, your artwork is so beautiful. Your subjects include wildlife such as birds and mammals. What is your favorite subject that gives you the most satisfaction to paint.
My favorite subject over time has been Capericaillies and their life and the scenery in the old forest. The fieldwork and studying these birds have always fascinated me. My favorite subject right now and the hardest to master is the big cats. They have a lot of muscles hidden under the soft fur which is hard to sketch and paint.
“I am inspired by nature, in particular animals and birds in their natural environment.”Gunnar Tryggmo
Can you describe your process of painting or how you approach a new work?
It often starts with something I’ve seen. I have it in my mind for a while and then start to work with it. In some cases I have ideas for years. I have a small sketch book with thumbnail sketches of ideas so I don’t forget them. I go back to these now and then to recover ideas.
Sometimes I have sketches and reference photos from that specific moment. It makes it far easier to reach a specific goal. I sketch and then sketch again capturing gestures, composition and different birds positions if there are more than one. These ideas and sketches start at the beginning of the painting.
Sometimes I just paint from start to finish in the open country air. I like to have semi-abstract parts together with realistic parts in my paintings. I think it supports the realistic aspects of the work. The light and movement and sometimes the feeling that the animal is about to disappear makes an artwork interesting.
Your medium includes both watercolor and oil paintings. Which media do you prefer?
Watercolor about 70% and oil 30%. I can’t do everything in only one media. I like them both. I think watercolor likes me more than oil sometimes. I’m faster in watercolor. Watercolor is expensive so you need to know what you are doing before you put the brush against the paper. It’s easy to cover a surface fast with watercolor. Oil is more like a discussion between the painter and the canvas. I put some paint on the canvas and it’s possible to manipulate it for quite some time. Then add some more color…
How would someone purchase your works and do you offer prints or reproductions?
Directly from my Studio or from one of the galleries I work with in Sweden. I have one Gallery representative in United kingdom. I offer limited edition prints of some of my watercolors.