Calm? Relaxed? Inspired? How does the sea make you feel? It’s no surprise that the soothing effect of the sea makes it one of the most sought after artworks. Jacquie O’Neill, the founder of Cornwall Studios, is a member of the Ladies Surf Club in Polzeath and the rolling storm swells, crystal-clear coves and passion for surfing have played a fundamental role in her pieces. Working from her studio in Cornwall, the scent of the sea filters into each colourful drawing - so you can always have a piece of the ocean with you.
What made you decide to start Cornwall Studios, and what's the inspiration behind it?
Cornwall Studios was born through the first Lockdown in 2020, my regular illustration commissions had slowed down so I had time on my hands and I found myself looking for ways to express the emotions I was experiencing from not being able to spend time in the ocean. It was the perfect opportunity to try new mediums and subjects. I have always been predominantly a digital artist, but when I picked up a paint brush again, something cracked open and spilled out - rediscovering paint, pencils, paper and canvas re-awoke that love of getting messy in the medium, and creating art just for the feeling it ignites within! I shared my new artwork on Instagram and instantly got people asking to buy prints. It’s been a whirlwind ever since, and I love it!
What did you do before creating Cornwall Studios?
My creative career started in the late 90’s when I did a Master’s Degree (MSc) in Creative Technology (Got a distinction - woohoo!!) and as I finished University I was commissioned by the BBC to draw an interactive map for their website, many more exciting commissions followed and I have now been a freelance commercial illustrator for the last 20 years.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I’m usually inspired by feelings - I’m ultimately trying to capture on paper the feeling of an experience, be that riding a wave or a cold water swim under a crescent moon! The ocean pulls me the strongest, but a babbling brook or a tranquil lake half way up a mountain can elicit a beautiful response too! If I can successfully translate that feeling into a visual format, then hopefully a second glance at the image can transport you to the moment in a similar way that a smell can. This has never been more true than when I released Crescent Moon Swim on ‘Blue Monday’ this January - it struck a chord with cold water swimmers everywhere - I had so many amazing messages from people who found the image really resonated with them, it has been to this day, my most popular print.
What have been the biggest challenges/achievements, or your favourite story on your journey so far?
My biggest challenge is time, I have so many ideas and things I want to do and the days just keep whizzing by! My biggest achievement is letting go of perfection and allowing the happy accidents to take me in new directions. I don’t really have a favourite story, just lots of treasured moments when a customer has messaged to tell me they love what they have bought or commissioned and how much it has meant to them - those moments are golden!
How would you describe Cornwall Studios in three words?
Connected - from capturing an experience or a memory, to the response of seeing, giving and receiving my artwork, everything I create is inspired by feelings.
Conscious - from the start I have strived to make my products as plastic free and as environmentally conscious as possible.
Happy - everything about my business makes me happy! From the pictures I have drawn to the people I have been commissioned by, or collaborated with, I feel so lucky to do this everyday!
What is your connection to Cornwall?
I was born in a small seaside town in the North and I have discovered that if you enter the world next to the ocean, you never want to be too far away from it for too long! It pulls you back without you knowing!
But why Cornwall? Probably, like many people who have moved to Cornwall, I holidayed here for many years as a child. However my husband, who is from the USA and lived in Malibu, California, had never been to Cornwall before. I brought him on a holiday in 2004 and I quote “I’m so excited there are beaches as awesome as this in England, we need to live here!!" He was literally blown away by the beauty of the Cornish Coast and from that moment forward we were on a mission to move to Cornwall.
We came house hunting on Valentine’s weekend in 2006 and the guest house we stayed in was for sale, we put in an offer and had moved in by May 2006. A year later in the Spring of 2007, our youngest daughter was born at home in true Cornish style! Although I will always love North Yorkshire, Cornwall is home!
Do you have a special spot in Cornwall that inspires you?
Ahhhh, Polzeath is my happy place!! It’s not just the beach and ocean, it’s the community I have found there through the Ladies Surf Club and the local business owners! I love to see how it changes over the year from the empty cold waves we surf in winter to the warmer months when the beach is teeming with people!
What's next / any exciting plans?
I’ve just taken delivery of a large format printer, so expect bigger prints soon, together with an offering of framed prints and many new artworks for surfers, Stand Up Paddle Boarders and Open Water Swimmers. I’m also working on a t-shirt line with designs that will appeal to active outdoor and water people!
Shop Cornwall Studios Art here.