Jane Hope is an Oxford based artist who took up art as a child, and has painted ever since. Growing up in Wiltshire, she was encouraged by her mother, who shared her love of art. After studying Theology and Philosophy at university, she worked as a neighbourhood Community Worker in Coventry, a Development Worker for Oxfordshire Mind, and brought up tow sons, one of whom is now also a painter. She now has a studio at the bottom of her garden, and is able to devote more of her time to painting. She is a member of the Oxford Art Society, and you can read more about her life, and see more of her work, on her website here.
What piece of art by another artist (from past or present) has been most significant to you in your own life and work?
It is difficult to single out one piece of art, because there are many, and I don’t think we are always aware that we are being influenced. Much of it is subtle, subconscious and gradual. However I remember two significant pieces from school, one in the corridor, one in a classroom. I looked at them often and they got under my skin. One was Wood on the Downs by Paul Nash, and the other was Harvest Landscape by Van Gogh. I love trees, especially in the winter, and have used the patterns they make in many of my pictures. In Van Gogh’s painting it is the light and the sense of great distance that has stayed with me.
Who would you recommend as an underrated artist?
Underrated might not be the right word, because he is highly rated by those who know him. I think the Welsh Artist Kyffin Williams is brilliant. I love the boldness and simplicity of his work. He seems to know exactly what he wants to say and says it. He works with a palette knife too, which I like to do. Two other artists working at the moment are Andrew Gifford and Susan Isaac, both of whom produce strong impasto pieces.
Do you have any recommendations for art history books or authors?
I am not very good at this! I studied Art History for A level in 1963 and have not done much since. There are of course some interesting Art History programmes on TV and some of the best are by Andrew Graham Dixon. He has written a biography of Caravaggio called ‘A Life Sacred and Profane’ and gave a very interesting talk on this in Oxford a couple of years ago.
A slightly different aspect of Art History comes in Victoria Finlay’s books on colour and the history of pigments. ‘Colour. A Natural History’ and ‘The Brilliant History of Colour in Art’.
Is there a movement or period you have been most interested in or fascinated by?
When I was studying at school the chiaroscuro work by Rembrandt, Caravaggio, and George de la Tour, fascinated me, but it is the Impressionist movement that is probably the most exciting. The way they capture the moment with such a free use of paint is very inspiring. I was also always excited by Cezanne’s brush strokes and his use of colour.
Impressionism continues today in the many artists who work en plein air, painting on the streets in all weathers. For instance there is Ken Howard, Peter Brown, Fred Cumming, and others (including my son Benjamin Hope!).
Incidentally a major exhibition is coming up soon:
CAPTURING THE MOMENT
27 Plein air artists.
October 16th -20th.
You studied theology and philosophy at University, do you feel that this has had an impact on your work?
The short answer is no! I studied these subjects because I found them interesting, but my art work is in no way conceptual or intellectual. It is never based on ideas but always springs from what I see. The only thing I would say is that Philosophy taught me clarity of thought, which may help in the problem solving that painting demands.
There is a strong sense of place in all of your works; is this something you specifically strive for, or is it something that naturally finds its way into your creations?
I always work very instinctively, so I don’t strive for a sense of place. I mainly strive to put down what has formed as a picture in my head. Most days of my life I see things that make a picture. Sometimes I paint en plein air, but my usual way of working is to make sketches of what has made an impact in my mind, and to work from these in the studio.
I have a bedroom in the loft of my house that looks towards Boars Hill. In June 2016 I decided to paint this view at least once a week for a whole year. I took paints, boards, brushes, and easel up to the bedroom and produced 75 paintings of the view in different weather, at different times, and from different angles. It was a very exciting project and quite a change from my usual way of working.
You exhibit with the Oxford Art Society; what role do you think such groups play in supporting artists?
Oxford Art Society is primarily an exhibiting society, so the first role it plays is to give us the opportunity to exhibit in a gallery with good artists, and to sell. It is also a very friendly community of artists, and members have the choice of how much or how little they get involved. Helping with the two annual exhibitions is a great way to get to know other artists and to discover the wide range of styles and working methods there are. It is challenging and stimulating to look at the work of other artists and to learn and grow. I value the OAS hugely and enjoy being a member.
You work in a variety of media, and each has its own special qualities. How do you feel that each choice of tool or material responds to the subject you choose to depict with it?
When I see something I have to paint, I usually see it in one of the mediums I use, (oil or chalk pastel). Once I have done one version, say in oil, others grow from it and I might develop it in pastel, and then back again to oil. I often see strong shapes in landscapes which translate into the bold sweeps of impasto laid down with a palette knife. At other times I might want to create more intricate patterns through winter trees, which works well with pastels. I enjoy changing from one medium to another and it is good to follow the way the medium takes me. It is great fun to scribble with pastel after having used brushes on a canvas – and vice versa.
One of your frequent subjects is the Still Life. This genre has been a constant source of debate, and explored by artists for many reasons across the centuries, from the great Dutch artists to Cezanne, and beyond. What draws you to it?
I am drawn to Still Life in the way I am drawn to every subject. I see it and love it and have to paint it! I have an allotment, and a big apple tree in the garden. I walk past the onions I have harvested, or pick up the windfall apples, and see how beautiful they are. I have to paint them.
The other thing about painting Still Life is that it is a really good discipline. It is an excellent way to practice eye to hand techniques, and to think about composition. I have to look very carefully and constantly at the objects I am painting. The subject draws me in and many colours become apparent. I have to decide then how much detail to reproduce, and how much to leave out. It is completely absorbing.