I grew up in the Isle of Wight, which may explain why I love to paint boats, but I’ve lived in various other parts of the UK before moving to Wales, nearly ten years ago. Part of the attraction of living in Wales is the wonderful mountain scenery but I’ve painted the local Meadows more than anything else, and I think this is because I also loved the flat landscape of parts of Norfolk, where I lived previously.
1.When did you begin to be interested in Art?
I grew up with four much older sisters and two older brothers and most of them drew and painted to some extent. So some of my earliest memories are of one of my sisters, who was a schoolteacher, teaching me to read and drawing little pictures to illustrate the letters of the alphabet. Drawing just seemed to be the natural thing to do in my family, though I can’t remember either of my parents drawing.
2. Has anyone in particular encouraged you?
Yes, in fact my mother always encouraged me to draw on any scraps of paper that were to hand. Although there was very little spare money around in such a large family, she bought me some little books that I still have today, one about the Impressionists and one about Renoir.
My art teacher at the boarding school I attended from 11 – 18 was also very encouraging, though I got my second lowest mark for Art in the exams we took at 16 – I hated drawing balls of string and wilting philadelphus flowers pinned to our drawing boards on a hot summer’s afternoon!
No, I’m afraid my mother’s encouragement didn’t stretch that far! I very much wanted to train to be a ‘commercial artist’ but my parents believed that Art Schools were full of ‘Beatniks’ (this was the early Sixties!) so I did a degree in Modern Languages instead.
I’ve been to various Adult Education classes but the only ones I really benefited from were the Life Drawing class and the Art and Design class at Wensum Lodge, when we lived in Norwich. Even then, it was more the encouraging, free atmosphere, with expert advice on hand, that taught me more than the formal parts of the lessons.
Probably the most important thing is not to worry about my art! I used to fret about whether I was doing it right – because I hadn’t had the Art School training. A neighbour who had trained at the Slade and later taught Art, got sick of me pestering her with questions and told me ‘there ain’t no knitting pattern, gel!’ – she also held some of my watercolour landscapes under a running tap and much improved them!!!!
5. Who is your favourite artist and why?
I’ve loved Cezanne’s work http://www.paul-cezanne.org/ since I was quite young, difficult to say why but it just seemed ‘right’.
More recently I’ve developed a liking for Paul Klee http://www.worldgallery.co.uk/gallery/Paul-Klee-1.html?affiliate_id=3000&keyword=Klee&gclid=CJLqiuTNn6wCFRRc4QodGDCR-g, C.R. Mackintosh http://www.worldgallery.co.uk/gallery/Rennie-Mackintosh-1.html?affiliate_id=3000&keyword=Mackintosh&gclid=CIr_ztbQn6wCFYEZ4QodOzpc_ Q Gaugin http://www.myartprints.co.uk/a/paul-gauguin.html/&pid=UK999?gclid=CJyf7vXOn6wCFRRc4QodGDCR-g and Degas http://www.myartprints.co.uk/a/edgar-degas.html&mpos=1003 and when it comes to illustrators, Quentin Blake http://www.quentinblake.com/ and Ezra Jack Keats http://www.ezra-jack-keats.org/ have to be my favourites. On the other hand, there are far too many artists and illustrators whose work I enjoy to give a full list but I find myself still very much drawn to the Impressionists – maybe something to do with those little books my mother bought me when I was still a child?
I try to but it doesn’t always work! Sometimes the need to paint or creating a design overwhelms me and I take time out when I should be doing other things but it also happens the other way around with tedious chores crowding out my painting time.
Roughly how much time do you spend painting? Nowhere near as much as I would like! I’m often lucky if I can get an afternoon a week – and that’s at the expense of having a social life!
When I paint my soft pastel paintings, I work very fast, usually completing one in the time it takes to play a CD – about 45 mins. If I go on longer, I tend to ruin what I’ve done.
But I’ve had to adapt to working more slowly and meticulously for some of my greeting card designs. For one thing, there’s usually a lot more small-scale detail than in my pastel paintings. But also, there are considerations like waiting for the paint to dry!
For my own use, soft pastels or oil pastels, both of which I love using because there’s no mixing or changing paintbrushes involved, all of which tends to interrupt my ‘flow’. Recently I’ve enjoyed making ‘painted paper collages’ as greeting card designs. But I am tremendously attracted to other people’s watercolour paintings, especially if they’ve succeeded in achieving a transparent, fluid effect.
I seem to have painted a lot of landscapes and flowers but it’s more the composition of shapes and colours that attracts me so that could be anything at all, if the composition seems to ‘sit right’ for me.
I rarely, if ever, paint ‘en plein air’ these days; my scary encounter with some deer who crept up behind me and tried to eat my watercolour tubes really put me off! So a digital camera has become my sketchbook these days. On the other hand, I do a lot of greeting card designs from my imagination, just using reference photos on the internet to check things like anatomy occasionally, particularly if animals are involved. It’s so easy to think that we all know exactly what a squirrel, for instance, looks like, but when it comes down to it, I need reminders of things like the shape of its head, the position of its ears and so on. Maybe this is because I don’t have a very good visual memory.
I have sold my original pastel paintings and prints through solo exhibitions in the past. But I think the Art Teacher who told me that I’m a designer rather than a fine artist was right – I’m far more interested in designing greeting cards and using my designs on other products these days. So I sell my greeting cards through Greeting Card Universe, http://www.greetingcarduniverse.com/judyscardstore CardGnome http://www.cardgnome.com/shops/flutterby-designs and, more recently, SendaSmile, http://flutterbydesigns.sendasmile.com/ as well as Zazzle. http://www.zazzle.co.uk/helikettle* I also sell my greeting cards in local shops but getting a price for the printing that makes sense is difficult so I don’t spend too much time on that. A few of my pastel paintings are available as prints on Red Bubble http://www.redbubble.com/people/helikettle/portfolio and Fine Art America. http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/judy-adamson.html
12.How do you feel about parting with your originals when someone buys them?
I hate it and feel compelled to make sure that my painting is going to ‘a good home’!
I have occasionally tried to paint things specifically for a friend, such as a painting of their house. But I didn’t enjoy it much. On the other hand, I sometimes find it useful to have a ‘Design Brief’ as a starting point for a greeting card design. How I interpret that brief is sufficient freedom for me and I’m glad of the parameters the brief gives as it gives me something to focus on.
Or where do you foresee your artistic journey taking you? I would really love to see my greeting cards sold widely in shops, I don’t have enough time to embark on self-publishing in anything but a very small way, which doesn’t make much sense financially. So the only route open to me would be if a publisher licensed some of my designs. In 2009 I had a ‘near miss’, with the publisher pulling out because of the economic downturn, after several months of keen interest,. I’m planning to create some new designs to submit to publishers after Christmas, not expecting too much as it’s such a highly competitive business and publishers themselves are feeling the pinch. But even if I don’t succeed, I look upon this as a way to keep my designing up to a high standard.