I’ve always been fascinated by portraits. When I was a little girl we had an old book of black and white photos of Hogarth’s paintings. I loved those pictures, especially the portrait of the servants.
Some friends and relatives of mine had family portraits in their houses and I’d gaze at these in wonder. These paintings were often just part of the furniture to their owners but to me they were extraordinary feats of skill and conveyors of history. I’d wonder about the process of producing oil portraits. How could the sitter keep still for so long? How could an artist convey so much information with just a flick of their brush? Later on other artists including Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, Daumier, Matisse, Vuillard and Doris Zinkeisen enchanted me.
My twin sister Helen and I seemed always to be drawing at home, even from very early childhood. It was simply what we liked to do when we weren’t reading. Helen later contracted multiple sclerosis and this portrait of her – with memory photos in its background – is the first thing I’d try to save if we had a fire at home!
Way back in the late 1960s I trained at the Ruskin School of Art in Oxford. The training was very formal, with the first year spent drawing from the casts at the Ashmolean Museum. After that, we painted in oils using just three primary colours. We later moved on to still life and painting from life. Some history of art was also taught. The whole system appealed to me as I understood it and appreciated its honesty and consistency. It was a system which favoured integrity but was suspicious of spontaneity. I’ve since learned to let go a little and be more exploratory. Nowadays the school has a marketing angle. Marketing was very far from our thoughts in those days.
After twelve years in administrative work I trained to be an art teacher at the then Leicester Polytechnic. It was a wonderful course and what stayed with me more than anything else was the need for learners not just to be able to develop skills in producing their art but also to be able to talk about their art and the art of other artists. I taught art and other subjects for twenty-five years.
I now work in our sunroom at home, though I occasionally paint in sitters’ houses. It’s a lovely room to work in but ideally I’d have light flowing in from just one side to show contrast on the sitters’ faces.
I’ve exhibited widely over the years, particularly in Leicester, but highlights for me were the two solo exhibitions I held at the Leicester New Walk Museum – where I painted more than thirty portraits of members of the diverse faiths of Leicester – and having a self-portrait accepted for the National Portrait Gallery Award show.
In the future I hope to continue painting commissions, memory pictures and what ever I fancy. I feel extremely lucky that I now have the time to chase Hogarth and the others!
To see more of my work, please visit my website: www.claireelizabethjacksonportraits.co.uk
For all enquiries and commissions please email me: email@example.com