bibby seated multi paintings

Meet Bibby….From Marketer to Entrepreneur to Full-Time Successful Artist!

It’s all come full circle for artist Bibby Gignilliat. Chrissie recently met the successful collage artist in her beautiful art studio located in an old ship-building warehouse a stone’s throw from San Francisco Bay. Her high-ceiling, light-filled studio, where she paints and teaches, is filled with her large, dynamic, colorful collage pieces which incorporate layers of paint as well as found objects and pieces from her childhood. The more you study and learn about each piece the more you fall in love with them. So how does a woman go from a career in marketing to running her own cooking business to being a successful artist later in life? Bibby tells Chrissie her story below. Plus don’t miss her Fab5 suggestions of artists who teach workshops (online and in person) for people of all levels, as well as sell wonderful art, and 5 books to help spark your creativity!

Tell me a bit about your career path to becoming an artist:

I painted at age 10 and loved it and won a few awards. And then I had a critical teacher and became a perfectionist and stopped painting. In my career I did many other things, from being a computer programmer to being an adventure travel bike tour leader with Backroads, where I worked in marketing for many years. I also worked in marketing at Williams Sonoma and was trying to figure out what I wanted to do because I wasn’t really happy the whole time I was doing that. I wanted to do something more creative. I joined an “Artist Way” group, a 12-week course designed to help people unlock their capacity for creativity. And Julia Cameron says in her book, The Artist Way, that if you really want to know what you should do in life, look at what you loved as a child. And what I loved as a child was painting. So I started exploring that with a career strategist.

So at 36 I decided to go to culinary school and then for 20 years I ran a hands-on cooking party and corporate team-building business where we brought groups together under the universal language of food. I taught cooking and worked on a few cooking shows, but then ultimately started doing mobile cooking events where we would go to people’s homes or rented venues and basically bring the party to you. My company was called Parties That Cook.

We did a lot of corporate team building for large companies like Google and that kind of thing. Our largest event was 400 people, but on average there were about 30 people, and it was used for team building. I did that for 20 years and was starting to feel like I was ready to do something else. I love creating businesses, but I don’t like running the day-to-day. And I was ready to figure out other things.

I knew I wanted to start something different and painting was still in the back of my mind, although I hadn’t really painted in all those years. So I did two things. I took an art class with a man who’s in the ICB building here in Sausalito named Nicholas Wilton. And I was literally the worst one in the class. But I had determination, so I decided to get a studio space in the building. I got a space that was a hundred square feet and I felt like an imposter. I didn’t even want to leave my studio because I didn’t feel like I was really an artist yet.

 

But after taking one class you got a studio space, which is amazing. 

That’s kind of my personality. I just go for things. Eventually, I found the right teacher for me. Not that Nicholas was the wrong teacher, it’s just that, I needed to paint with paper. So I found a collage artist that I really resonated with, and I started to get a lot better. And six months after having the space, I did my first Open Studio and sold eight paintings. Wow. I felt like I was on the right track.

 

Had you done collage before then? 

No, but as a younger child, I always liked making things out of paper –  making montages and things like that. So it again was connected to something I loved as a child. Fast forward, after a few years I got a larger studio space, and then after a few more years I got an even larger space and started teaching out of my studio. In the interim, in 2017 I decided to sell my cooking business and focus on art full-time. I started painting in 2014, and sold my business in 2017. And then in 2018 got this larger studio where I was teaching. During Covid I lost most of my income, which was about 50/50 selling art and teaching. I decided to launch an online class in 2020, and it was a huge hit. I have had about 1400 people from around the world who took the class. I recently added another class to that offering, and have continued to make my work larger, and teach more and more classes.

Now I’m making a living as a full-time artist! It has come full circle back to Julia Cameron saying that if you really want to know what you should do in life, look at what you loved as a child!

 

How are your classes offered? 

I have online and in-person classes. I do my online classes through a platform called Podia and then I teach a mixed media class out of my studio almost every month. Recently I started teaching a ‘totem’ class both in person and on the platform. The totems are 72” by 9” by 3” pillar pieces. I’ve been doing those for five years and they’re super popular and they sell well. People are always intrigued by them because they’re sort of a unique shape. I kept getting requests to teach a totem class, and so I finally just listened and did it!

 

For someone who doesn’t know what type of art you create, how do you explain what it is that you do?

I’ll tell you the process first and then I’ll tell you a little bit about what it means. Almost all of my work is made by laying down a solid layer of collage and then coming in with a mason tool called a trowel and applying paint. And then I sand it with an orbital sander. And then I usually start my design. And the design can be aspects of found materials.  I use a lot of found materials.

When I was young, I was a scavenger and I would go garbage-picking! I was constantly looking for cool things as I’d walk home from school. And that’s exactly what I’m doing today. I’m always looking, whether I’m in a restaurant stealing a menu or like recently when I was in Mexico City and I saw these incredible scraps on a boarded up building and tore them down, loaded them into my suitcase and brought them home to incorporate into my work. Or, even wrapping paper…. instead of throwing it out, I’ll incorporate it into my work. During Covid, because I was so distraught by all the Amazon packaging, I started bringing in cardboard and padded envelopes because when you open them up they have a really cool interior once you take the padding apart. I can then incorporate it into my artwork.

And then in terms of what my art means on a bigger scale… I’ve been on this spiritual journey for the last 10 years of my life. When I was leaving my company, in addition to starting to explore art, I also got a vocational master’s in energy medicine at the Academy of Intuition Medicine. That class was sort of like peeling back the layers of societal and family programming. And there’s so much, especially for women, programming that we come in contact with. And also, I came from a family with a lot of programming. And so it’s like peeling back the layers, which are symbolic in my work of getting down to the pure essence of who I really am.

So in a way, my work is a landscape of my psyche.. And there are so many spiritual practices that I’ve had to apply in my work. For example, the paintings are a dance between my intuition and my analyzer. And the more I can just sort of let it flow through me without any attachment, the better the work is.

Michael Singer in his book The Untethered Soul talks about that there are rocks in the river and we grab onto the rocks, but by doing so we block the flow. That’s the attachment. So painting is a way that I learn and grow because I’ve had to surrender and let go of control… and I can be kind of controlling. So painting allows me to let go of control and just surrender to the flow. And so it’s sort of a mirror for my life.

You incorporate a lot of material items from your childhood in your works as well? You had kept all of these items like letters, sheet music, and more?

Yes. Incorporating these items is part of a way of connecting, of self-learning, and of self-love – connecting with the younger self and loving her. It was my mom’s choice to keep all these items because I was quite young, but she kept almost everything. And I’ve incorporated a lot of those pieces into my work. Like a letter from camp is in my self-portrait, and it says, ‘Dear Mom and Dad, how are you? I don’t have much to say, so I’m gonna go now’!  Obviously I was forced to write from camp! I had quite a vivid imagination and was always coming up with stories of various things, creatures, and animals. And so it was really delightful to find all those items and to sort of learn about myself as a young child.

When you start a piece of art, do you know at all where you’re going? 

I have kind of an idea of what I want to express, but it’s usually quite loose and I just let it unfold. Sometimes I’m delightfully surprised and other times it doesn’t turn out. But the beauty is that mistakes are portals of discovery, or as Rick Rubin says, they are fuel. And so it just fuels the next thing and then eventually something good comes out of it.

Do you know ahead of time what found pieces you’re going to incorporate or do you decide as you go? 

It’s a little bit of both. When I went to Mexico City, I took home a huge pile of scraps. I left clothes there so that I could fill a carry-on suitcase with those scraps. I knew they were a goldmine and I wanted to come home and make a specific series out of them. I ended up making 14 pieces out of the foraged items in that little suitcase, turning them into a whole body of work.

And then I had another series I made with scraps from San Francisco. So when I see those kinds of scraps, I know that there’s a whole series coming!

 

Have your style and your works evolved over time, or have you always had your signature style?

When I first started painting, people could not believe how quickly I improved. And I feel that the more I let go of programming, and as I did a lot of healing, my work just got better and better. Sometimes I’ll do a post that shows how my work has evolved along the way. And it’s really fun to see because it’s gotten better and better.

And you’re always learning? 

Yes. I basically have given myself my own master’s in painting because I keep taking classes. One thing I’ve started to do just recently is to keep a sketchbook with me. And that sketchbook has inspired two different paintings in two different series. Because of some of the shapes that I drew in the sketchbook, I decided I wanted to explore them on a larger scale. One of them came up when I was on an airplane sketching and the other one I was just sitting in my TV room sketching.

I’m going to Spain for a self-imposed art residency starting on Monday. And I want to explore drawing more because I’m a little afraid of drawing.  I want to experiment with it while I’m there for a couple of weeks, sharing a studio in Barcelona with a Spanish artist. I’m going to try drawing on canvas and we’ll just see!

 

Where are your pieces sold?

I sell out of my studio in Sausalito, through Open Studios, via Instagram where I have a big presence, and I have a gallery in Portland, Maine that I’ve had for about two years. A lot of people from New York and Boston have second homes in that area, and that increased during Covid. The work is quite popular for those second homes.

I just sold one on Saturday night from Instagram. And we had Open Studios in Marin this past weekend which went great. My work is in a few interior design showrooms and I also sell directly to interior designers for their clients.

 

It’s wonderful and inspirational that you can make a living after jumping into this later in life. What do you attribute that success to?

Yes, it’s been super wonderful. I come from a marketing background. I used to do all the PR and marketing for Backroads for four years, so I learned from Tom Hale, who I think is a genius. And also worked at Williams Sonoma where I learned a lot about branding. And then I had my own company, which I ran for 20 years and had to market and build it. So I am very familiar with marketing. I think that that’s what differentiates me from other artists who want to create art, but don’t want to do the business part. I always say to them that if you want to be a successful artist, you have to learn to like the business side, or get somebody to do it if you don’t like it. It’s like if you want to be healthy, you have to run or get some kind of exercise! You just have to do it!

How do you feel when you sell a piece and that part of you goes off into someone else’s life or home? 

I’ve been pretty non-attached about it. A lot of people will say, ‘didn’t you make a copy of it’? And I say, no. It’s all unique and I’m okay with letting it go. I haven’t really had that yet. However the self portrait I did might be a little harder to let go of! And I also have one painting that’s in my home that I’m willing to sell, but it includes all the family wallpaper from all the different rooms in my house growing up. Wow. My mom saved all that as well, so I incorporated it into a painting.

Tell me about the ICB building that you currently have your studio in.

It’s pretty unusual.  It was an old ship-building space, and it has been an art space for about 55 years. There are 180 artists in it, at all different levels and styles of art. There’s so much comradery in the building. It allows for an exchange of ideas and resources.

You can’t get that when you’re working out of your home. And it’s really helped the artists’ careers because they’re getting noticed. So many people are coming through with Open Studios and we have tons of interior designers coming through. We’re developing a concierge service where an interior designer can reach out and say, for instance, that they are looking for an abstract landscape and the concierge can recommend people in the building that would fit that bill.

 

Are you planning to paint for the rest of your life?

I’m definitely painting the rest of my life. I think as I age I’ll probably focus more and more on painting, and a bit less on teaching. But you never know. I do feel like teaching is my way of serving and I think it’s important to serve. So we’ll see!

 

Thinking of exploring your creative side and dipping your toe into creating art? Bibby has Fab5 suggestions of how to do so, via workshops and inspirational books. 

Here are 5 artists who offer classes for all levels (and they also have beautiful art too):

Bibby Gignilliat

Rachel Davis

Karen Meadows

Andrew Faulkner

Margot Hartford

 

And here are 5 books to help ignite your creativity:

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

The Creative Act by Rick Rubin

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative By Austin Kleon

 

Discover more about Bibby’s art and classes at www.BibbyArt.com

Follow Bibby on Instagram at bibby@bibbyart.com 

1 thought on “Meet Bibby….From Marketer to Entrepreneur to Full-Time Successful Artist!”

  1. So inspirational! It’s never too late to try something new! And I love what Bibby said about the more you let go of the programming you can grow in other ways and discover more about yourself. Thanks Chrissie and Bibby!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Picture of Joanne & Chrissie

Joanne & Chrissie

Chrissie and Joanne love discovering, curating and creating. They developed FabList as a place to share their favorite finds with you.

Join Our Community!

Share your email with us and we’ll share our fab finds with you every week(ish).

Most Popular Categories

Our Favorite Lists

Join Our Community!

Share your email with us and we’ll share our fab finds with you every week(ish).

Picture of Joanne & Chrissie

Joanne & Chrissie

Chrissie and Joanne love discovering, curating and creating. They developed FabList as a place to share their favorite finds with you.

1 thought on “Meet Bibby….From Marketer to Entrepreneur to Full-Time Successful Artist!”

  1. So inspirational! It’s never too late to try something new! And I love what Bibby said about the more you let go of the programming you can grow in other ways and discover more about yourself. Thanks Chrissie and Bibby!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Sign Up to Receive the FabList Newsletter Every Week(ish)!

We do the deep dive and let you know what’s new and noteworthy.