WHY DOES THE WORK OF AN ARTIST CHANGE OVER THE YEARS?

I am asked quite frequently why my work has changed a lot over the years. Given that next year I will. have been a professional artist for fifty years, this is a good time to write about this subject.

Just as we develop ourselves and become more of who we really are, our artistic voice does the same. With every life experience we change and grow – which in turn is mirrored in our art.

Teachers influence – plus our patrons and the demands of our audience. All of this along with the general socioeconomics, political and cultural climate that we find ourselves in have a play in the way we view the world and consequently are artistic voice.

It’s so important not to judge an artist on one painting or one exhibition. Learning about the life of an artist will help to understand their journey and changes in their work.

The next two photographs show where my journey as an artist began. I was sixteen years old when I received a scholarship to the Medway College of Arts in Rochester Kent. It is now under the umbrella of the University of the Creative Arts.

I was very fortunate to go there when the college was still at the old East Gate location, (shown here) rather than the new campus between Rochester and Chatham.

The Entrance to Medway College of Art in Rochester Kent (now part of University of the Creative Arts)

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Charles Dickens’ Swiss Chalet writing house in the grounds of East Gate. I have very happy memories of sitting in the little garden in front of the chalet with my fellow art students.

After art school I left for the United States where I lived and worked for twenty-eight years until I returned to the UK/Europe on 1993.

By 1975 (the year my daughter was born and my son was eight years old) I had my first solo exhibition at the Chester County Arts Association in West Chester, Pa. At the same time I was represented by Newman Galleries of Philadelphia who carried my ‘wildlife’ work.

First exhibition at The Chester Country Arts Association – November 1975

Even then I realised that I was not interested in taking the conventional path of getting galleries and having exhibitions. From the get go I wanted to explore my creativity in different ways and allow it to mirror my life journey.

After quite a few years of selling through galleries and exhibiting, I spent several summers with artist friends painting on Isle au Haut an island off the coast of Maine – part of Acadia National Park.

It was on this Island that I had an incredible awakening to the fact that all of life is interconnected. I knew then that I was the rock and the rock was me….at the time it was profound and has been the basis of so much of my painting and writing over the years.

One of the first large paintings of rock formations on Isle au Haut. Along with large canvases I was also producing many watercolours of these beautiful rocks. .

I would take these sketches and paintings back to my studio in West Chester where I would incorporate the human form.

This painting is about the moment we humans turn our backs on one another. We might stay connected for years, but the backs have been turned.

There are numerous paintings in this series, most of them in private collections. I continue to work on this theme up until this day.

One of the more recent paintings in this series. Note as the series has evolved and my life changed swans and hummingbirds have been added….Everything is interconnected….

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Around 1984 Bonnie Paul an art consultant came into my life and suggested that I take on mural commissions which was a great way to make income. This was the beginning of our working together on many mural projects.

Here I am with my daughter Christie in front of the mural for The Philadelphia Heart Institute. These jobs were all about making income which would give me the freedom to paint what I wanted to paint. The spec for this painting – was Fairmount Park with the city of Philadelphia in the background.

Around the same time I purchased an old carriage house on Prescott Alley in West Chester Pa….It had no heat and running water but was a fantastic work space. Unbeknownst to me an architect Carl Massara was renovating an old building at the end of Prescott Alley at great cost. He was having trouble renting the space and asked if I would lend my creativity to the building….He gave me carte blanch.

I painted this mural plus I designed and built three large hanging mobiles. The bottom line is that after a large opening reception…all spaces in the building were rented out. Job done.

My friend `Patricia Strawbridge in front of the large mural I painted. Once again the theme was all about interconnections.

A detail from the large mural. oil on panel

Three kinetic hanging mobiles I designed and built for the building.

From the mid eighties until I returned to the UK/Europe in 1993 I produced a large series of still life paintings featuring quilts. These paintings are in private and corporate collections.

Symbolic autobiographical still life. – oil on canvas

Large oil on canvas self portrait. – note it is in my autobiographical still life.

Throughout the years my watercolours have been with me. After returning to the UK/Europe I began painting watercolour portraits – and can safely say that I have left a paper trail of portraits around Europe and in the States where I have returned many times to work.

In the UK/Europe I continued to paint murals….work on a project for children based on Christeve the Cat….and teach in many different countries.

So what about the hummingbirds?

I began incorporating them into some of my large paintings about forty years ago. They symbolise the ‘unseen’ energy and magic in the world. I believe that they are with me wherever I go.

Like everything else the hummingbirds are not separate….but interconnected with all the other work I have done and will do.

Remember never to judge an artist on one painting, one exhibition or for that matter one series of paintings………

I almost forgot to mention that I am writing a book entitled ‘Born with a Silver Egg Cup’

More can be read on FB

The Art of Listening…….

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand – they listen with the intent to reply”. Roy Bennett.

My dear friend Claudia, actress and theatre director listening. – charcoal

I watched a superb episode of ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ this week featuring Dame Judi Dench.

I have always enjoyed her as an amazing actress but what struck me during this programme was the way she listened so intently to whoever was speaking to her. She not only listened but also made constant eye contact.

Aged 86, I was struck with how beautiful she continues to be. So much of her beauty comes from her ability to be present for others using both her listening skills and her eyes to communicate.

My friend Charlotte fully present and listening…..

Tony is a therapist which means his life is all about listening to others. He and I have been good friends for a long time. It occurred to me after watching Dame Judi Dench, that one of the reasons Tony and I continue to be such good friends is because he is such a good listener.

I know how frustrating it is to be in the company of those who keep interrupting and so to have a friend like Tony is very special..

I am also fully aware that I don’t always listen as well as I should….but I work on it. When I find myself wanting to jump into the conversation so that I can be heard, I step back and stay quiet for a while. Not only does this give the conversation an opportunity to flow, but I inevitably end up learning something.

Tony – The Listener – oil on canvas

“Listen with your eyes as well as your ears” – Graham Speechley

In this portrait of my friend Fran – she is listening to the unseen energy surrounding her….Sometimes we don’t need someone talking with us to listen intently.

‘One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say’. Bryant H McGill

Patricia – French actress and such a wonderful listener.

I am a teacher and am very aware of how much is missed by not listening.

I would also suggest that putting aside all distractions – i.e. mobile phones is a very good first step to effective listening.

I hope you get to see the Dame Judi Dench – Who Do You Think You Are episode. It’s wonderful..

LIVING WITHOUT A CAR……

In 1993, when I returned home to the UK after living in the USA for twenty eight years – I decided to stop driving for good.

I don’t like fragmentation in my life. I find it interferes with my thinking process and consequently my creativity. It’s all that stopping and starting…..

Those following my blog will note that I have travelled extensively, but it was always to a destination where I could remove myself from the madding crowd. A place where a car was not necessary to function.

Overlooking the Usk Valley in Wales where the Brecon Beacons and the Black Mountains meet. watercolour/gouache

In 1993 I moved to Crickhowell in Wales – a small market town in the Usk Valley – a place where I could walk to the butcher, baker and candle stick maker as well as pubs and coffee shops. The magnificent surrounding countryside along with the local people gave me all the inspiration I could ever wish for. As soon as I was introduced to the place by my cousin I knew that it would work for me. It was a place where I would not need a car.

The high street in Crickhowell –

Along with many other shortages currently in the UK there is a petrol shortage. I wont go into the politics and reasons behind this, but rather what it brings to the forefront.

As people fight on the forecourts of petrol stations and others fill any container they can find…it is clear that for most people the concept of not driving isn’t even part of the equation. It has also pointed out how much better off people are who have electric cars.

Back to sanity.

A sketch of the Crickhowell Bridge and behind it St Edmund’s Church which sits in the heart of the town. watercolour and Tombow Pen.

I lived and worked in Crickhowell for twelve years. When I needed a car to get to the train station at Abergavenny I simply called a taxi. Extremely convenient and far less expensive than keeping a car on the roads.

One of the many watercolour portraits I painted of the local people. After living with my cousin and family for six months, I rented my first small flat on the High Street from Anne Trott. Over the years I painted her several times including a large oil on canvas.

Anne Trott – Crickhowell

What I have learned over the years is that society doesn’t make it easy for people to live without a car. Public transportation in some areas is superb….but in many areas it is not good. As an environmentalist I have been banging on about this for years. To get people out of their cars we need to change our whole way of living.

My second home in Crickhowell – the cottage at number 11 Mill Street. A very special place. I was able to walk from the cottage to all the shops and everything else. All my needs were met and I had no car.

There have been times, including this past weekend when I have been driven by a friend. I fully appreciate this, but it is always a reminder to me that cars are not my favourite form of getting around. I prefer public transportation and my walking legs……

Walking in the beautiful Usk Valley – watercolour/gouache

The effect on my body and mind of living without a car in a place where all my needs could be met was extraordinary. I was at peace….and very fit. The priorities of life were made clear.

Consequently, my days were not fragmented…but rather there was a gentle rhythm to them.

A photograph from this past weekend from one of my favourite painting places. Curlews is owned by good friends, and for me it is always a good place to get away from the madding crowd and to be reminded of just how beautiful our world is.

Curlews is just outside of Crickhowell way up high overlooking the Usk Valley – looking up towards Brecon.

On the way up to Curlews we passed John’s house whose portrait I painted a few weeks ago. John Addis is very well known in Crickhowell and his family go back a long way. He has produced some beautiful books with old photographs of the area…

and then a little further up we passed Gwynn’s house. I painted this watercolour sketch about 20 years ago.

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I have painted/sketched so many of the people of Crickhowell….As I said earlier, along with the magnificent landscape and people there is a constant source of inspiration. All without a car………

Like the rest of the world, even a place like Crickhowell and the Brecon Beacons is changing. There is a lot more traffic about than when I first went there in 1993. Thank goodness it is part of the Brecon Beacon National Park which does give some protection.

And hopefully we are all recognising that we do need to change our ways. That there is only so much space…and with mental illness growing in leaps and bounds we need to look at a more rhythmic and gentle life….in my opinion one away from cars.

I fully appreciate that for many living without a car is nigh impossible….but we can at least begin to look at different ways of living and being.

I no longer live in Crickhowell but I do live in a place where again I can walk to the butcher baker and candlestick maker……I have no car.:)

Enjoy a lovely weekend.

A dog’s life – far from the madding crowd………..

The above illustrates perfectly the difference between the thinking of a dog and that of a human being. The animal’s thoughts are simple and focused in each moment.

The humans thoughts are invariably scattered, constantly jumping from one thing to another. Along with many different thoughts come an array of emotions. Happiness, fear, anxiety, worry – all the things that feed the pesky little Chattering Monkeys that inhabit our minds.

‘Tiny’ belongs to my nephew. At this early stage in Tiny’s development he was all over the place – motivated primarily by food and play. With development Tiny has learned to focus….and again be present in the moment and thus a loving companion.

By the way, the Chattering Monkeys are the pesky little demons that fill our heads with reasons why we should not, and cannot do something! They are the Yin to our Yang……

Maybe as you begin to read this blog, they are shouting out, ‘You don’t have time for this, and it’s all nonsense anyway……..:)

What I say is IGNORE the monkeys and focus on what it is that you choose to do. Don’t allow them to sidetrack you.

This is dear little Maggie...totally loyal, loving and happy to be living in each and every moment. All she needs and wants is reciprocated love.

This is Bumble. Bumble was much like the dog in my first illustration. Loyal, loving and such a wonderful companion. When I think of Bumble….the word ‘Trust’ comes to mind.

Like all animals, her beautiful mind wasn’t filled with worries about the news, or how much money she had, or how successful she might be. She was focused on her next meal…and being with the people she loved and trusted.

It’s interesting that the word ‘Trust’ keeps coming up when I refer to dogs.

How sad it is that with so many of our human kind…it is often the word ‘mistrust and doubt’ that comes to mind. I wonder if that has to do with our not being present in the same way that animals are? If we are not present and our minds are constantly scattered – is it any wonder that our trustworthiness might be questioned?

This is dear little Phoebe. Phoebe belonged to a very good. friend. Sadly they are now both dead but the joy they brought to one another was immense. I remember very well when Phoebe was at the end of her life, she continued to show such love, loyalty and affection to Jose.

I have always loved animals – in many ways preferring their company to humans….and once again it all comes down to the ‘trust’ word. In their uncomplicated and loving way they give and teach us so much.

I met Jessie in Brussels about fourteen years ago. I was dog, cat and chicken sitting for an artist friend and at the same time working in her studio every day. It was a blissful summer.

When my friend Suzy left she warned me that Jessie most likely wouldn’t make it and that the vet was on alert in the event of severe illness or her death.

In the evenings Jessie would sit with me as I watched tv or read a book….she always sat with her back to me….just like in this sketch. I was there for the summer, and by the time Suzy returned home Jessie and I had completely bonded and as Suzy said she looked ten years younger. Jessie lived for another six months…..I will always remember her with great affection.

In this commissioned painting, we can see the devotion and calm emanating between this man and his dog.

It demonstrates a moment of pure love, trust and calm.

“Petting, scratching, and cuddling a dog could be as soothing to the mind and heart as deep meditation and almost as good for the soul as prayer.” Dean Koontz.

All these images are watercolours. Over the years I have painted/sketched more dogs and cats than I can possibly remember. I love every one of them:)

Learning from our memories…..

Ten years ago I attended an Adlerian summer school.

In one of the sessions we were asked to write about and illustrate ‘Our Earliest Childhood Memory’.

The Adlerians believe that our earliest childhood memories indicate what our path in life might be.

The above illustration represents me at three years old in front of the cobbler’s shop in Dovercourt Essex mesmerised by a small colourful carousel

When my Mother and I lived there at the end of the war, my Mother would take me into the little town of Dovercourt where I would see the magical carousel in the cobbler’s window……

One day I escaped from our garden and found my way to the cobbler’s shop. Eventually the police and my frantic mother found me gazing at the little carousel. I was clearly fascinated with the colour.

I suppose its true to say that I have been escaping all of my life, and my love of colour has lead me in my work. So maybe my earliest childhood memory was prophetic?

When a baby is born into a peaceful world with loving parents – their world is a kaleidoscope of colour and shapes, and their young minds filled with wonder. However, we all know this is not the case for so many, particularly in our world today.

Babies born into war torn turmoil and horror assimilate it all. Babies born into homes where there is nothing but a tv droning on or parents glued to iPhones and other devices…take it all in. Babies born into angry homes…with loud voices take it all in so that eventually it becomes their norm!

Thank goodness this beautiful little girl has just been born into a gentle loving home…..

Our positive and negative memories teach us so much.

We all need to make room in our overcrowded 21st century minds to remember what we have learned from our parents, grandparents, teachers and the many others whose lives have brushed against our own. This is invaluable information.

Quite a few years ago I organised a ‘memory wall’ in my bedroom. The more I look at this wall and study the different people within it, I learn so much. It seems that as the years pass by the photographs tell me more and more.

When we flip through pictures in our phones….it’s all too fragmented. Like the baby, we need time to assimilate what it is we are seeing. We need time to learn from the pictures.

Part of my ‘memory wall’

Climate change is not some far off event – it’s NOW.

When children come to the end of their formative years, at around seven, the narrow definition that the culture they were born into will have taken hold in their fertile minds.

This means that we must all encourage creative thinking NOW so that those who inherit the mess we and previous generations have made can work towards better and different ways of being.

Memory will remind us of the importance of community ….rather than the fragmented electronic madness that has been imposed upon so many.

Memory will show us humanity at war and humanity in peace….Memory will show us communities that served one another……. Memory will teach us so much

I am taking time out until mid September….time to think and reflect plus paint a portrait or two.

Janet 🙂

My New Private Passion – KNITTING…..Why Not?

Yes, in between painting and writing, I am now knitting…….

I mentioned some time ago that a new community centre has opened just a three minute walk from where I live. The Inspired HUB. http://www.theinspiredhub.co.uk

Through THE HUB, I am meeting lots of new and interesting people – one of them being Kit who is a real knitter/artist. Kit has turned me on to playing with knitting needles. Who would have thought:)

Clearly the hummingbirds are spinning their unseen magic – once again proving the point that all we have to do is be prepared and open to all possibilities. – watercolour

At this point in my knitting career I am only making scarves (the beanie hat you see is made by another knitter who can turn corners – something I am yet to master:). However, watch this space…..a beanie is in the making.

watercolour

I am loving all the colours…which is no surprise, but it’s also something to do with the rhythm of knitting and seeing whatever it is I am making ( a scarf of course) grow right in front of my eyes. Almost as satisfying as watching paint flow and blend.

Kit started a ‘Knit and Natter’ group at the HUB on Thursday afternoons….and so I thought why not??? pourquoi pas???? and I am very glad I was open to the possibilities of knitting and nattering with people I might otherwise never have met..

I highly recommend this to anyone. Either joining a group or starting a new one…again Why not indeed?

A magical hummingbird drinking from the sweet nectar of life. – watercolour

Given that the school holidays have just started this would be a wonderful thing for children of all ages to do….WHY NOT INDEED?

Have a lovely weekend.

Janet 🙂

WE CAN CHOOSE…………..

We can choose to be stuck in negative energy or we can choose to take a walk in the great outdoors – where we can breath fresh air and enjoy nature’s bounty. Doing this is pretty much guaranteed to change our mood and attitude.

Summer tree – watercolour/gouache

watercolour/gouache – Brecon Monmouthshire canal – autumn

We can choose to turn off the constantly depressing and repetitive news or we can choose to put on some beautiful and uplifting music.

watercolour/gouache

We can choose to be a couch potato or not!

We can choose to smile:) at those we encounter or not

We can choose to say thank you or not……..

We can walk in the ethereal glow of sun beams through trees….

Listening to water running over a weir can be soothing and mood changing.

No matter what our circumstances we can make choices. There is no question that it is easier for some than others, but even the smallest choice can change our day and the way we feel.

The Brecon Monmouthshire Canal…where I have walked many many times. watercolour/gouache

As we enter summer….it is time to hone our observational skills and choose to delight in Mother Nature’s bounty and ignite our creative energy.

watercolour/gouache – Brecon Beacons – Wales

On Wednesday I am giving a workshop at the HUB http://www.theinspiredhub.co.uk We will be focusing on painting trees using watercolour and gouache.

May your creative juices flow:)

REFLECTIONS

I have reached that stage in life where I find myself reflecting. Not dwelling on the past, but reflecting on my life experiences and those who have shared them with me. Reflecting on who I am and what I stand for.

One of the wonderful things about ageing is the freedom that comes with it. Gone are the self conscious worries that seem to follow us when we are young. Instead there is a real understanding of how precious every single day is. And of course an understanding of the need to use the time we have wisely.

I believe that we all harbour a well of creativity within, and that it is never too late to explore that part of ourselves. Never too late to late to find unexpected joys in our lives…..

Sometimes in observing visual reflections like those that I am showing here. Photographs I took of the little harbour in Kinsale, Country Cork. We see the infinite possibilities in the world…..we can grasp that the surface rarely shows us what’s really going on. As we look down into a reflection, it seems to go on for ever….which I believe is how life is.

My first love is portrait painting. It never ceases to excite and amaze me when I get beneath the veneer of my subject. Sometimes it might be someone I have known for many years, but in painting them I see so much more…..

Like deep reflections, when we get beneath the veneer of a fellow human, we see so much more and in doing so understand the infinite possibilities that are beneath each one of us….

During this past year….not only have I had time to reflect, but also an opportunity to see new possibilities.

One thing that has come home very clearly is that wellness is the complete integration of body, mind and spirit. The recognition that everything we do and indeed think affects our state of well-being. Given that everything and everyone is interconnected…our state of being also affects those around us…..and visa versa. It is an infinite spiral, much like looking down into a reflection.

Next time you stand by a river bank – look down into the reflections…..they go on for ever.

Janet 🙂

PURE LOVE for the Bank Holiday Weekend….

Pure love is so often expressed between animal and human.

If you need to relax and dream beautiful thoughts – find an animal that needs lots of love and they will return it to you.

watercolour

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened”. Anatole France.

Robby- watercolour

Petting, scratching, and cuddling a dog or a cat can be as soothing to the mind and heart as deep meditation.

Christeve – watercolour

“Our perfect companions never have fewer than four feet”. Colette

Phoebe

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”. Mahatma Gandhi

Christeve with a magical hummingbird. watercolour

Little Maggie..- watercolour/gouache

Tiny as a puppy – (but not longer Tiny:). watercolour

One of my cats sitting in a sun spot…..waiting to be loved.

Enjoy the weekend and remember to communicate with the animals and of course birds of the world.

Janet 🙂

How we label ourselves and others…..

I was having a conversation recently with a vibrant, energetic and interesting woman. I asked her if she would be a portrait model for a small group I was about to work with. She said she would love nothing more. She then went onto say that as a child everyone referred to her as being ‘shy’. No matter what she did or wanted to do..parents would step in and say – ‘you do realise that Carrole is very shy’. Carrole had been labeled……

Watercolour of my friend Charlotte…who was always considered to be the life and soul of the party. As I look at this portrait many years after it was painted, I see ‘introspection and a depth ‘- two traits not necessarily associated with Charlotte. Two traits that didn’t fit in with her label. The problem with labels is that they cannot capture the complexity of the human spirit.

Being labeled often happens when we are very young….even during our first three formative years, and so often that label sticks for life. A label can shape our identity and dictate our future!

This is Quintin (watercolour) – a dear little boy I met in Brittany France in 1995. He was very sad during this moment in time because his mother and father had just divorced. He and I spent a lovely day together. I haven’t seen him since I painted this portrait. and so I wonder what labels have been put on him?

In this (watercolour/gouache) portrait of Christie I have added two hummingbirds. Hummingbirds symbolise for me the ‘unseen magic’ that surrounds us all. Of course for the magic to work, it must be acknowledged and believed….and Christie always has believed in it. Christie is my daughter and so it’s difficult to be objective, but I feel this portrait speaks of her.

This photograph of me with my new born baby Jarrod was taken in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida in 1966. During my life, I have been labeled many things, but at this time In the States I was labeled a ‘foreigner’ and ‘alien’. Jarrod was labeled an American citizen.

The thing is that during life we grow, evolve and change…..and so what happens when we are still stuck with the same labels that we were given at an earlier time – particularly if those same labels hold us back throughout our lives.

watercolour Madame Nottale – an exceptional human being…who later in life stripped away the labels and found herself.

Madame Nottale had been a mother of eight children, a wife, a nurse and someone who could always be counted on to give and care for others. In her late eighties she was put in a nursing home where she found her true self. She painted and wrote every day for the last few years of her life and to the amazement of her children and everyone else, incredible poems flowed from her….and so many paintings that the walls in her room were covered – top to bottom.

From one of my recent posts. ‘It is never to late’. It is never to late to get rid of labels that hold us back.

By the way it’s not just humans that are given labels. Animals are also labeled….Adorable, cute, gorgeous or what???:)

Janet 🙂