Jo-Anne Clarke – Horse Artist Interview

Small horse wearing striped pyjamasName
Jo-Anne Clarke

Website & Places you can find my work online

Where I am
Based in the North of England

Tell us a little about you, what is your background & where do you come from?
When I was a young girl, I wanted to be a teacher with music, art and English as my main subjects. Sadly, due to family circumstances, I was unable to follow through with this. My painting and development did slow down for quite a while when I was young because I had my family to care for after my father died, but it was impossible for me to stop entirely. I think when people have a desire within, it has to come out!

When did you first start drawing and painting?
I was painting as soon as I could hold a brush… Mostly my mother’s face with poster paints when she fell asleep in the afternoons, and of course the kitchen table, my clothes, the floor and sometimes on the paper that my Mum gave to me.

I was quiet, but made a huge mess with my creations, and my mum encouraged me to be expressive with my paint, which led to mayhem in our house!

Early Call

You paint more than just horses, what is your favorite subject?
I have to say that I really love painting horses, but enjoy wildlife and portraiture as well. There is beauty in so many things, and as an artist, it is our job to do our subjects justice. I get quite giddy when I paint sometimes because I really love it when I get a bit right. I love the light on a horse’s coat and the gleam and expression in their eyes, I love the translucence of people’s skin and how it can look so radiant and beautiful, and despite general opinion that we are less attractive when we grow older, I don’t think that is true at all.

There is tremendous beauty in the world, and we should look properly, instead of glancing at things. If we look more closely and learn to appreciate things as they truly are, we can celebrate.

You are also artistic using a variety of mediums, is there one you prefer?
I love oils and pastels, and I can be incredibly clumsy with watercolour. I think most artists enjoy exploring all kinds of mediums, and I could say that I miss not being able to do any sculpture etc. I don’t have the finance or space to install a kiln and proper work space for that kind of thing. I love the gentle texture and immediacy of pastels and the incredible intensity of colour that you get with a good quality pastel, and I love being able to blend and create both texture and reflected light with oil paint.

Portrait of a female Kingfisher

I am sometimes impatient (she laughs), which is why I have so many paintings on the go at once, and I suppose it is also another reason that I enjoy using pastels. I get an instant result with pastels, which gives me great pleasure. Though I don’t enjoy watching my paints dry, I do love seeing oil paintings develop on the easel.

Who are your main artistic influences?
I have a huge respect for many artists, but I have to say that the wildlife artist Eric Wilson has given me great confidence in myself. I love looking at his work and if I was rich, I would ask him to paint me a Cheetah family! His big cats are quite breath taking, and the most beautiful that I have seen painted.

I love the Old Masters of classical painting such as Rembrant, David and Holbein, who produced some stunning pieces. We have to remember that in Henry the VIII’s time, they did not have the luxurious brushes and paints that we use today, and if you look at the detail of Holbein’s work, you can see how utterly outstanding it is.

There are so many fine artists that I would need a ream of paper to write about them all. I love good work, and I really dislike work by anyone who makes an excuse for not applying effort.

I don’t want people to misunderstand what I have just said either and interpret my statement meaning that I have no appreciation for modern art because I do. I think that I find random scribbles that have been defined as art a good influence because they spur me on to try harder to try and recreate the natural beauty of nature with my pastels and oil paints. Hmmm… quite a big question that I could ramble and ponder about for hours!

Portrait of Dansili

Do you (or did you) have an animal that is the muse behind your work?
I don’t think that I did when I decided that painting animals and people gave me the greatest pleasure. These days, I can express my appreciation and love of horses, wildlife and people and each piece has its own special meaning to me.

Do you have any secret rituals you do to help you get in the zone for your art?
I don’t really have any secret formula to get into the zone. I do feel very fortunate in that I love to paint and am quite happy to get covered in pastel dust and paint every day! When I am working, I prefer classical music in the background. I think that it helps me to concentrate, otherwise I might start singing – which is not always good. I also like quite a variety of music, so Classic FM for me. Gosh, I remember the first time that I used Royal Sovereign pastel card. I was so nervous that I had to work in silence and it actually took me a couple of hours to put a stroke of colour onto the card! I just stared at it, wondering how on earth I could paint on something that was like fine sandpaper. It took me months to be able to get back to listening to music and also took me quite a while to get my easel set up properly.

Squirrel Nutkin

I used to work with my card flat on the table, but that is the wrong way to go really. I think I found comfort in being able to put the paper at a peculiar angle to work. Many artists do not start out by painting every day. In reality, it does not, or perhaps should not work like that.

I think that if you are really happy painting, then it is not a chore to do it every day. It poses no mental challenge to paint each day simply because you enjoy it so much.

I know that many people are good artists and they find it hard to keep going. My advice would be to paint lots of different things and paint each day to find out if it truly makes you happy to do this. Being tired is the only thing that tends to affect me in a negative way. Even if I am struggling to paint a particular thing, I treat it as a challenge and a lesson. I chip away at the problem until I solve it, and then I try to improve. There is always room for that.

Across the Plains

Is there a particular place that brings you inspiration?
Anywhere in the countryside, and in any country. I prefer a more temperate climate. I am too old to go haring about in the heat.

What effect do you think the Internet will have on art in the future?
I actually like the Internet. I get to see other fine artists work, which is fabulous. I cannot always get about or have the funds to do anything anyway, and the Internet brings us all closer together.

It has a good place in our lives if we use it well. I can shop for everything that I need, but feel very sad that there are no longer lovely little towns and villages full of interesting little shops.

The Internet has, and will continue to change how we source things for ourselves. The only thing that seems to be growing are delivery businesses as more and more shops close.

Yes… on a negative note, I think that more galleries will close as everyone’s belt is made to pull in tighter. It is a bit of a nightmare. It takes vast amounts of time that should be spent painting to keep your site updated, and all sorts of things like that, but we are all learning to live in a very challenging environment these days and art can give us both beauty and depict the difficulty in the world. Art is present everywhere, and there is ‘shed loads’ of the stuff on the Internet and all kinds of art from fine art to doodles and art that makes you question etc.

Digital art is prominent, and I have to say that I am not really a fan. It is because you get folks messing about with photographs and then calling themselves artists, which I find a bit of an insult really. Digital art is quick and easy to produce if you have something like Adobe, but it is not high quality craftsmanship, which is what all fine artists can be proud of.

Portrait of Aqlaam

I am proud that I can produce something of high quality by hand, that will last for hundreds of years and that people know that I have spent hours and hours creating it, and years and years continually trying to improve.

Has it had an effect on yours?
Yes in terms of helping me to show people all over the place what I do. It is great to be able to put a portfolio on the web for the world to have a look at. I have to learn how to use the rest of the tools that are on there to sell my work. I have a bit of a dilemma really – paint or update my site and my ability to use the software? There are only so many hours in a day and one small pair of hands. I will get quicker!!!

Which one is your personal favorite piece?
I don’t really have a favourite piece, but I am really pleased with one of the paintings that I did recently, which is a portrait of a horse called Aqlaam. People who saw it all said “Oh… that’s like George Stubbs’, which was an enormous compliment and made me grin for about a week.

Would you ever sell it?
Of course.

What else are you passionate about?
Gosh… so many things. Glorious nature. Telling people off who persist in dumping rubbish in the countryside instead of taking it to the tip to be processed… good food and conversation… letting people know that they are truly worth their salt… literature… cooking… music… singing… riding… writing… so many things really.

Living life to my full capacity. We should all try to do this.

Small horse wearing striped pyjamas

Working on anything new?
Every day! I will be at Aldon in October, and want a new body of work for the show. I produce small prints from my original paintings so that they are accessible. If anyone has any preferences as to what they would like to see, I would love to hear from them. I will be painting some british wildlife and some birds – I particularly enjoy painting raptors – horses of course and hope to put in some modern work too. I am in the process of developing some ideas, but won’t exhibit almost finished ideas.

I have done this sort of thing in the past and made a right old hash of things. When I am happy with the style for the ink and watercolour work I will show it. I have managed to fluff the paintings so far. I have been working on ideas for little clay horses, but have to use the coloured oven fired stuff. It may take a while for this. Oh yes… I will be painting some dogs for the show, and letting people know that I do paint from photographs, and I need a new poster… new greeting cards and on and on!

More to Come

Thanks to Jo-Anne for answering the interview and sharing more about her writing. Be sure to check out her art site periodically for updates about her latest works.

Also stay tuned for more interviews with horse artists, photographers & authors. Are you a horse artist or do you know an equine artist you’d like to see featured? Add your name and website in the comments below or drop me a note to get involved.

One Comment on “Jo-Anne Clarke – Horse Artist Interview

  1. ChwaraeTeg

    Dansili, the bay horse head has the WOW factor for me. The artist shows how much character the horse has ,. Fabulous.
    Thank-you for sharing :)

Comments are closed.