Art from Jo W- Inspo Exclusive
i had the privilege of coming across jo’s art a couple of months ago. and then i had the even greater privilege of hearing from her heart a couple of weeks ago. and i am so excited to share both with you today. jo’s story reminds me that the best things happen out of passion & organic growth, with dedication & hard work in one’s bones. she knows her roots and credits her father for many of her artistic tendencies. her art is mesmerizing in its purity and refreshing in its fluidity.
my husband works with jo’s husband and was struck by his kindness, savviness, and intelligence. i always find it interesting to meet the wife of such a man, so often you see the other half of that wonderful combination- 2 individuals, making one another better as they adventure through life. and jo proves that to be absolutely true. she radiates calmness, joy, and God-given talent. and her story of switching careers and flexing her creative muscle will inspire many. i know it. please, enjoy reading and perusing her art. without further adieu….
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and about your art?
I am married to Jonny and we live north of Brighton in West Sussex with our scruffy cat Archie! We moved here in 2009 from London and love the countryside and the quiet here – no streetlights, no traffic noise – the only sound we hear in the morning is the racehorses cantering up the lane after their exercise run on the local fields – quite different from the noise of planes coming into Heathrow! Before we moved I spent 25 years working in the finance industry – managing relationships and clients – a hectic and sometimes stressful job but empowering and stimulating. However I was thinking of making a lifestyle change to explore my more creative side (which I knew was there somewhere!) and in early 2009, after lots of discussions with Jonny, I resigned from my job and took some time out to decide what to do.
I have always loved gardens and decided to take a short course on the rules of design. I learned a huge amount in the first two years, studying while also managing our garden at home, where we are lucky to have a small woodland and many mature oak, beech and pine trees. In the hard winters of 2009 and 2010 the snow covered landscape was breathtaking, while in the spring, wild daffodils followed by bluebells blanket the woodland and are truly beautiful to see. We took many photographs of the garden throughout the seasons and they inspired me to try painting. My father dabbled in pastels, pen and ink and charcoal and I knew it was in the genes! And from the start, I loved it. The challenge of capturing the light and colours was so exciting! I went to see the David Hockney exhibition at the Royal Academy in early 2013 – huge paintings of woods and trees, one of the best exhibitions I have ever seen – it gave me the courage to experiment with larger canvases and a wider range of colours. At first I experimented with a variety of mediums – acrylic, watercolour, pastel – but loved oils best and now paint with them exclusively.
What empowered you to go from merely dabbling in art to becoming a full-fledged artist?
Early in 2012 I met a very ‘business minded’ sculptor through my art classes (we also sing in a choir together!) and when I started to develop a style of my own and had completed a number of works, she invited me to exhibit at her studio and a larger exhibition as part of a local ‘Art Trail’ – I sold a few pieces and it all snowballed from there! Selling a couple of paintings encouraged me to do more – and my ‘business head’ told me that if I was going to do this I wanted to do it properly – so I use a professional photographer to photograph my work, and a specialist framing company (who work for galleries and museums) for all my framing. My website is simple but effective and contains loads of images of my work. Hence, I moved quite quickly from ‘dabbling’ to being a more serious artist.
I also enjoy exhibiting and talking about my work to potential buyers (after all, I did the same thing for 25 years in the finance industry) – I have met some brilliant artists and have sold paintings to lovely people! Over the last three years I have exhibited in Sussex and Kent with other artists as well as having a solo exhibition last year. I have three exhibitions planned for 2015 and am also talking to one or two galleries about displaying my work – quite a new experience for me!
What are some things you’ve had to overcome in pursuing your passion?
The biggest thing I’ve had to overcome is self criticism – its easy to find fault in your own work and ignore the good parts. Also, art is such a personal expression of who you are but not everyone will like it and you need to develop a bit of a thick skin sometimes! Working on my own is quite a new experience for me too as I have always worked in a team with lots of people around me. That is why it is good to meet other artists through exhibitions – that networking thing again!
Have you had to deal with any critics?
Yes, see answer to the last question – I’m my own worst critic – and I’ve done exhibitions where I haven’t sold anything which can be demoralizing – but all artists experience it. I do sometimes use what to some observers might seem like unusual colours and people occasionally look puzzled when they see trees painted in shades of orange for example – but art is a very personal thing. If it prompts emotion, positive or negative, I think a painting is a success!
What would you describe as your proudest moment around your art? and biggest challenge?
I think my proudest moment was my first exhibition which was in a local stately home as part of a group of local artists – I was in a marquee with borrowed (quite scruffy) display boards which we transformed into something really smart, just using our imagination and some black paper! I sold several prints which was such a thrill – and to see my work on display was fantastic! As for my biggest challenge – forcing myself to try new things – challenging myself really. It would be easy to keep doing the same ‘safe’ thing but I need to keep developing my style and try different subjects.
It sounds like your family had an influence on your art, can you describe that?
My father studied art at night school for three years after the second world war (he was in the merchant navy) and was a very competent pastel, pen and ink and charcoal artist. He only painted as a hobby (he was a teacher) but he loved art and there were lots of art books around the house and he was always painting or drawing when he had some spare time. My mother is a great art lover too (she was awarded her Bachelor of Arts degree in History of Art aged 74) and we went to loads of art exhibitions when I was at school. My father died some years ago before I started painting but I think he would have been proud of me.
What are some words you would share with someone who would like to take their art to the next level?
I would say have confidence in yourself and persevere – and grasp any opportunities with both hands. Join local art groups where you can network with other artists – get yourself known by participating in local art trails or open studios weekends, learn the ropes. Restaurants, pubs, even theatres and cinemas will put art works on display and tend to charge very little. The art world is no different from any other in that you have to meet people and take advantage of opportunities which are offered to you. That is what I did and continue to do.