Paul Summerfield is a local artist whose work most Canberrans have probably seen and enjoyed over the years. There’s no need to visit galleries to appreciate this artist – his work has been projected onto the National Library for Enlighten and has travelled around town on the outside of a bus for Floriade.
Summerfield also designs the popular Folk Festival posters and merchandise, so if you bought a t-shirt or mug at the Folkie in the last few years, you’re a Paul Summerfield collector.
“The Folk Festival is in the bush capital of Australia, so I use a botanical theme for the artwork each year,” he says. Summerfield also trawls the festival for inspirational characters to use in his art. “Whether it’s someone balancing on their double bass, a busker pushing and playing a piano on wheels or one of the many magical characters that can be seen around the festival.”
This digital artist works on nature themes or organic, quirky cityscapes drawn in intricate detail. All his work is created on a small laptop screen, even the enormous 2018 Floriade bus wrap. “I just zoom in for the detail,” he says. “The digital format that I work in is very adaptable for things like bus and car wraps, and vinyl wall murals.”
Large wall murals by Paul Summerfield have been installed at the Canberra Hospital, and at Garran Primary school for their 50th anniversary. The astonishing detail in these pieces means that visitors will find hidden creatures and floral surprises every time they have another look.
The layered approach to imagery in this artist’s work goes back to the time he spent learning 3D animation at the Academy of Interactive Education in Watson. “I loved using the animation tools, and especially creating textures,” he says. “I also like the way animation tells a story. Storytelling has always been the inspiration for my work too.”
A series of House Portraits illustrating the precious objects from individual families has proved very popular for Summerfield. Each house portrait records the story of a Canberra household, through an intricate drawing of their home, enriched with local birdlife, well-loved trees and plants, important family talismans, toys, trinkets and pets.
Summerfield is planning an exhibition of about 20 House Portraits this year but will have to convince the proud owners to lend back their personalised artworks for the show.
In recent years he has held a number of solo exhibitions of his work at the Front Gallery in Lyneham. In 2017, his work was also displayed at the Victorian State Library after he took out third prize in the Redbubble Create Art History Competition with his work Fantastic Botanical.
“They supplied images for us to use from rare books hundreds of years old and out of copyright, but classic images,” he explains.
Summerfield was inspired by the historic nature drawings and incorporated some of the original botanical motifs into a new artwork. “This work was made in a few nights, it just happened,” he says.
Other works can take weeks or months to complete, depending on the size and the level of detail. This prolific artist creates all his work at his small Gorman Arts Centre studio.
The compact studio is in the city, but the artwork produced there is now all over town on buses and buildings, festival posters and mugs, Redbubble t-shirts and bags, and framed on Canberra lounge-room walls.