Monthly Archives: June 2011

Take five with… Anthony Jones, painter

The Artworks blog today ‘takes five’ with the artist Anthony Jones, one of the newest members of Artworks. Anthony often works in series, switching from figurative to abstract, choosing the medium, method & style most suited to the theories and ideas that underpin the project. Anthony originally trained as a graphic designer, working successfully in that field for many years before deciding to pursue a fine art degree at Salford University. As the Artworkstake five’ series goes, we begin by asking some simple questions.

Could you sum up your art in just five words:
It’s informed, colourful, dynamic, controlled and well-crafted.

Do you have a favourite colour – and what’s the reasoning behind it?
The colour blue. It offers most things I want in my life… security, serenity, light, excitement, scholarship, spiritual fulfilment – amongst other ‘qualities’.

Anthony Jones, Trane’s Theme, oil on canvas

What is the oddest thing someone has said in response to seeing your art?
“If I did something like that in our living room, you’d thing I was mad wouldn’t ya…” Husband to wife as they were walking past the mural I painted in an Arts centre foyer, ‘Brontosaurus Boogie Woogie’.

Anthony Jones, Brontosaurus Boogie Woogie, 2.5m x 8m (mural)

Which living artist do you most admire and why?
Bridget Riley. There is beauty in her work, colourful, organised yet wild!

Bridget Riley, Archaean, 1981, oil on canvas © Bridget Riley (collection TATE)

I also admire the work of Patrick Heron. Although he was asthmatic, which I am, and his wife passed away in about 1980 (mine died in 2001) his writings, intellect and sense of colour are fundamental to many of the views I share on creativity.

Patrick Heron, Yellow Painting: October 1958 May/June 1959, oil on canvas © Estate of Patrick Heron (collection TATE)

Heron’s work in the 1950s, 60s and 70s influenced my own sense of design, colour and composition for ever. I also liked his sense of pride in British Art of the first and second generation St Ives painters against American cultural imperialism of the 1950s. He dressed, in later years in similar colours as he painted with! I have also visited Eagles Nest, Patrick Heron’s house in Cornwall.

Patrick Heron – studio, 1964. Photograph © Estate of Jorge Lewinski

Share something unusual you’ve learnt from looking at the work of other artists.
Look closely, especially at the edges.

How do you generate or develop ideas for your own art?
They generate me, they are a response to something I see, hear or smell or read. So, how do come about or decide on the titles for your work? I think they should be fairly direct and simpler rather than obscure or pretentious. If the title becomes too burdensome or long-winded, then it’s arguable that it should be part of the artwork itself. If artworks are guns, then the titles could be classed as their triggers, waiting to be pulled by the viewer.

Anthony Jones, The flagellation of Christ, 24″ x 36″,  oil on canvas

Could you describe your studio space set-up.
I have a small studio at Cuckoo Farm Studios, Colchester. It has two windows, one at each end, a sink with cold water, easel, the usual usual stuff…

What’s the purpose of drawing for you as an artist?
It’s the graphic materialisation of an idea, and an exercise in developing how to look and possibly record.

What single piece of advice would you give to an aspiring or young artist?
Learn how to draw well.

And, if you had to choose between using a pen or a pencil to draw with – which one and why?
Pencil. I am used to it, it’s versatile, it can can be delicate or it can be bold.

Which famous artwork would you most like to own, if money & space was not an issue?
Gwen John’s ‘Teapot on a tabletop‘, a small oil in Manchester Art Gallery, or ‘Cottage in a Cornfield‘ by John Constable or ‘Birth of Venus‘ by Sandro Botticelli.

Sandro Botticelli, The Birth of Venus, c. 1486, Uffizi Gallery, Florence

Could you tell us about a work of art (contemporary or historical) that you don’t like – and why?
Anything by Bryan Wynter (a contemporary of Patrick Heron), it disturbs me too much, like a bad dream I used to have.

Bryan Wynter, Seedtime, oil on canvas, 1958-9 © Estate of Bryan Wynter (collection TATE)

Why do you need to make art?
It is essential to my personal well-being.

What do you think is the role of an artist in contemporary society?
To reflect and interpret.

A fantasy question to round off this ‘take five’ – which artist would you invite to dinner and what question/s would you ask them?
John Coltrane, Jazz Saxophonist: “Do you know any Beethoven?

A great question to conclude with, thank you for taking time out for the Artworks blog! To read more about Anthony’s work, head on over to his Artworks artist profile page, or see more of his various art projects on his own website:

Take five with… printmaker Janet French

This week, the Artworks blog has a ‘take five’ chat with artist printmaker Janet French. Janet’s artistic process & practice is concerned with nature and the environment:

‘My work explores the fragile symbiotic relationship between man and the natural environment. I work in tune with nature to create work that is testimony to my interaction with materials, conditions, seasons and weather.’

Janet French, Fagus Diptych – Part One, 62cm x 62cm

Nature, landscape and the environment seems to be a strong theme in much contemporary art. In your own work, you use natural materials such as beech leaves to create handmade paper which you then use to print on.

Are there any contemporary artists that you particularly admire?
Environmental artists like Chris Drury, Richard Long and David Nash most interest me because I share the desire to work with the available materials in the environment.

Chris Drury, Mushroom Circle, 1995 © Chris Drury
How do you generate or develop ideas for your own art?
My ideas often come from unexpected sources. A few years ago I joined a group of London artists in an exhibition in Bethnal Green. The common theme among the group was ‘earth’ and I decided to look at satellite images to see what earth could be seen in the area of the gallery. This sparked a continuing fascination with aerial views. Other ideas simmer away for years, occasionally rising to the surface but never quite resolving in to finished work.

Janet French,  Bethnal Green, 54cm x 56cm

Could you describe your art studio?
My studio space is a converted garage. It is full of bags and buckets of leaves and fibres in various stages of papermaking production. I have a small table top printing press which is good for small work and for working through ideas. For larger work I go to Gainsborough’s House Print Workshop which has a wonderful range of printing presses. I like to plan a piece of work and make the paper in my studio at home and then produce the finished print at Gainsborough’s House.

What do you listen to while working in your studio?
Turning the radio on to Radio 4 is part of the ritual I go through as soon as I enter my studio, along with lights, heater, overall etc. Whether or not it stays on depends on what I’m doing. If I’m preparing paper or clearing up ink I like to listen but as soon as I’m doing something creative I turn the radio off. In a typical day I never seem to hear a whole programme.

What time in the day are you at your most creative?  
I am always up early and most creative in the morning. If I get off to a good start early, I can keep going until about 5pm but I can never work in the evening.

What’s in your current sketchbook?  
My present sketchbook has become a great unwieldy heap of drawings, photos and notes on scraps of paper, all of which relate to my present obsession of light seen through trees.

If you had to choose between using a pen or a pencil to draw with – which one and why?  
I prefer pen to pencil and particularly like water soluble ink pens with watercolour paper. I like to draw quickly, add some water, and when it is dry work back into the drawing with pen.

What do you think is the role of an artist in contemporary society?
One of the by-products of creativity is the ability to see things in a different way and to present new ideas in a way that no one has seen before, as well as highlighting beauty and the expression of human emotions. In some cases, artists are in a position to reach multitudes of people by using their status to bring attention to a worthwhile cause or environmental issue. For example, Richard Long’s Africa Mud Maps, which Long has made for auctions and whose proceeds have contributed to aid for the developing world.

Richard Long, Africa Footprints 1986 © Richard long (collection TATE)

One of the most interesting things that artists can do is spur public conversation and in future I may find that I am able to draw attention to endangered species or threatened habitat through my own work. I am currently working on a collaborative print project with another printmaker Emma Buckmaster, and our aim is to produce a series of tree portrait etchings on related leaves.

Janet French, Into the Light, mixed media on beech leaves, 34cm x 32cm

Thank you Janet for sharing a little of your creative world with the Artworks blog!

Janet French has a BA (Hons) in Fine Art from Colchester School of Art. In addition to Artworks, Janet is currently Joint Chairperson of Gainsborough’s House Print Workshop, and is a member of the Essex Art Society and the collaborative artist group Nine Artists.

Originally from London, Janet French has lived in Essex for twenty five years. You can read more about Janet’s environmental artworks on her Artworks artist page and on her personal website.