Jayne Stokes has exhibited in the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition for two years running (2015 and 2016). She sees herself as an explorer who documents the world around her in paint. She is fascinated by our relationship with images, to which we often attach great emotional value, and which she frequently takes as a starting point for a painting. In a world in which photography reigns supreme, Jayne champions the belief that ‘the medium of painting affords the opportunity to add something more than a photograph can provide, such as a heightened sense of place, an atmosphere or insight.’
You say that ‘painting can express profound insights denied by photography or the digital image’. Firstly, can you explain what these insights are and how they are expressed; and secondly, in a world that is becoming increasingly digital, what do you think the future of painting, in particular watercolour painting, looks like?
I think we have an increasingly transient relationship with the landscape around us and the places we visit. Like many other people, I take endless snapshots on my digital camera of the journeys I make and the places I visit. I think that sometimes from behind the digital lens of the camera or phone we lose the connection that we have with nature when we experience it hands on.
Painting is a tool which enables me to study the landscape in more depth. When I take a photograph it is a fleeting moment over in less than a second; a single miniature watercolour painting can take me hours or sometimes days to create. In a painting I can capture textures and colours that cannot be experienced in the photograph. It has more physical and emotional depth assisted by the magic that paint provides as layer upon layer of watercolour is added and manipulated.
I believe that no matter how many digital advancements are made, we will never stop humans painting. It is the physical act of painting that is important. The emotion that is involved in creating an artwork cannot be achieved when creating an image on a flat computer screen. In watercolour painting it is often the tiny mistakes that I make when I can’t control the paint that end up being the most interesting aspects of the work.
However, I think the use of digital images and technology can be useful tools for the artist and they play an important role in informing my own work and providing valuable source material.
I think that watercolour has a future. How can landscape painting be finished as a genre when the world around us is constantly changing? It is the job of an artist to reflect these changes.
One of the techniques that you use involves a combination of collaging and water- based paint. Tell us a little more about this.
In some of my paintings I combine the use of collage and watercolour. I sometimes cut or tear a fragment from a photograph and use this as the starting point. I also like the effect that layering watercolour paint and paper can achieve.
Tell us a little about Wanderlust, the painting selected for the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition 2016 Exhibition.
Wanderlust is my largest watercolour painting to date. In February 2016 I began a project to create 100 paintings in 100 days, documenting a series of journeys I made throughout Scotland and abroad. This would be a visual map to show the variations in colour, form and texture experienced in a changing landscape.
Each individual painting was subsequently shaped by burning the edges of the paper and then float mounted in a sequence, showing the transition from one scene to the next. My aim was to present the pieces as if they were artefacts or relics showing the passage of time.
What would say is the value of competitions like the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition to artists like yourself?
Competitions like the Sunday Times Watercolour Prize offer artists the chance to have their work exhibited in a central London gallery and to be judged by esteemed artists, collectors and critics. This gave me a sense of real achievement, when you realise that your work has been selected from hundreds and that someone has seen the merit in what you do. You have communicated something worthwhile.
What advice would you give to an artist who is just beginning to experiment with watercolour?
- Don’t feel afraid to take risks with the medium.
- Be brave and bold.
- Use good quality watercolour paints as they will make all the difference.
Which watercolourists (past or present) do you admire and why?
Turner never fails to inspire me – I look at his watercolour paintings every few weeks. His work never ages with time; they still seem so exciting and contemporary even today. Also the work of John Sell Cotman, particularly his piece A Ploughed Field: this must be one of my all time favourite watercolour paintings.
Define watercolour, or describe what it means to you, in one word.
Jayne is currently working towards a solo exhibition at the Open Eye Gallery, Edinburgh, opening May 2018. The exhibition will feature watercolour paintings that act as a documentation of all of the journeys that Jayne has made throughout the course of year. For more information, visit http://www.openeyegallery.co.uk