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Aberdeen illustrator brings stories to life through her ethical art

Story to tell: Gabrielle Reith's fascination with Aberdeen's rich history is brought to life in her eye catching artwork.

Never without her tiny notebook and pencil, Gabrielle Reith’s husband is convinced she has hypergraphia.

Drawing from dusk until dawn – and all the hours in between – Gabrielle certainly has all the character traits of the condition where people have an intense desire to write or draw.

“I’m always working and sketching,” said Gabrielle from Aberdeen.

“My husband thinks I’ve hypergraphia which is an addiction to drawing because I’m always drawing.

“I always have a little tiny sketch book in my bag or in my pocket wherever I go so that if I get inspired I can jot it down or sketch it out.”

Work of art: Gabrielle’s beautiful illustrations are in demand.

Ethical and renewable designs

Inspired by her children, the family’s 21-year-old black cat and Aberdeen’s rich heritage, Gabrielle has spent the last 15 years bringing her creativity to life through Small Stories Scotland.

From pen and ink drawings and wooden brooches to clothing and cards, Gabrielle’s handmade ethical and renewable designs has amassed fans from all over the world.

“My Doric and Aberdeen range are very popular,” said Gabrielle.

“People from Aberdeen live all over the world so it’s always quite exciting when something goes to Thailand or Australia, America, all over.”

Global success: Gabrielle’s wooden snow globes are perfect for hanging on the Christmas tree.

Artistic genes

Creativity certainly runs in Gabrielle’s DNA as her mum Patricia is an artist while her dad Alexander is an architect.

“I was really encouraged by my mum and dad, they’ve been a huge inspiration behind what I’ve chosen to do” said Gabrielle.

Gabrielle really came into her own as an artist at Gray’s School of Art where she studied for an Honours degree in drawing and painting.

“My degree show went really well and on the back of that I got offered lots of exhibitions so I just carried on with all of that,” said Gabrielle.

Badge of honour: Customers can’t get enough of Gabrielle’s striking pin badges.

Oil painting

Although Gabrielle fell in love with oil painting, a new creative chapter began when she fell pregnant.

“I had been working as a fine art painter for years and then I just changed when I was pregnant,” said Gabrielle.

“With oil painting you’re I was using chemicals like white spirits so I just started to think about how it might impact me being pregnant.”

Turning her hand to print making and illustrations instead, Small Stories Scotland was born 15 years ago at the same time as her daughter Poppy.

Say it with art: Gabrielle has a colourful collection of cards suitable for all occasions.

“My pieces are inspired by family life so the stories my children tell me and the stories I tell them as well as traditional stories, so the art of story-telling has inspired my whole business,” said Gabrielle.

“It’s all as ethical as possible, so everything I make is from renewable sources.

“I just want to be as careful about those things as possible, it’s important to me.”

The cat’s whiskers

The family’s 21-year-old cat called Link has also inspired her designs.

“People are still very superstitious about black cats, they either love them or hate them so we wanted to celebrate our cat by inventing a fictional club for black cat owners,” said Gabrielle.

“She’s appeared in various things and the kids draw her as well so she’s a big part of the family.”

Purr-fect partnership: Gabrielle’s cat Link features in her designs.

“The silver city”

Looking at Gabrielle’s beautiful artwork is like looking through a window into her soul as her love for Aberdeen shines through.

“For Aberdeen, there was an old saying ‘the silver city by the golden sands’ which used to be on all the tourist posters and on all of the trains during the Glasgow Fair when the Glaswegians used to come up here for holidays,” said Gabrielle.

“I just thought it was such a beautiful saying so I wanted to bring that back so I created a whole range that celebrates the heritage of the city and the future of the city.

“We’ve got a lot to offer in Aberdeen.”

History in the making: Aberdeen’s rich heritage shines through in Gabrielle’s pieces.

Provost Skene’s House

Her art for bringing the beauty of Aberdeen to life can also be admired at the newly refurbished Provost Skene’s House.

“My drawing is up on all the signage in the museum and I’ve created a range of goods for them to have in the shop as well,” said Gabrielle.

“When I was a kid, we used to visit it all the time so working on that was spectacular, it was absolutely brilliant.”

Spreading her wings: The hanging bird decorations add a splash of colour to any setting.

Building work

Building illustrations is also where Gabrielle comes into her own as an artist.

“I haven’t sold my building illustrations yet, it’s an ongoing project that it growing arms and legs,” said Gabrielle.

“I’ve been speaking to the art gallery about having an exhibition of my drawings of the city in the gallery and I also make the illustrations into a book about the city and hopefully give people civic pride and get them out looking at the city.”

In the pink: Gabrielle loves illustrating Aberdeen landmarks.

Gabrielle, who lives with her husband Phil Thompson and her two children Poppy, 15, and Vaughan, 10, has also been in talks with Visit Scotland about various projects and is working on portraits of eminent Aberdonians which she hopes to turn into a book.

To check out Small Stories Scotland go to the website, Instagram, Facebook or Etsy pages.