‘World Famous on ArterNet Art’ — Jo Payne — is our Featured Guest Artist
I’ve loved Jo Payne’s coastal landscapes from the moment I saw them on Instagram. (Being the beach person that I am) So it’s a real pleasure to have her here with us today on ‘World Famous on ArterNet Art’
A painter of coastal landscapes — Jo Payne is a self taught artist, working from her home studio on the North Devon coast in the UK.
Jo uses a variety of mediums to express elements absorbed from her surroundings. She uses these to create atmospheric paintings which focus on huge skies, wide open spaces and the constant play between light and shadow.
ArterNet Art: Hi Jo, thanks so much for your time today. We artists, love these rare insights into other artists lives. Reading their stories helps us with our own daily challenges — to know others have had their trials and have succeeded, is very uplifting.
The culture of our company here at ArterNet Art — ANA, is to put a human face to all our members and guest artists. Part of our approach is to give our artist members the opportunity to meet recognised artists — to learn more about how they became the well-known artist we see today.
So without further ado: Jo, Can you give our readers an idea of your route to becoming an artist?
Jo: Well, I wasn’t expecting it, to be honest, and it still all seems rather miraculous to me. I have no training in art, and although I did a little at school, studied history of art (mainly so that I could go on the school trip to Paris) and enjoyed a brief period of painting in my early twenties after an artist boyfriend gave me some of his old oil paints, I didn’t actually become a practising artist until well into my forties.
This happened after I came to live on the North Devon coast in 2012. Moving here was very much like falling in love. With the constant presence of the sea and the great big skies and wide open spaces, the sheer magnificence of my new surroundings simply swept me away and I couldn’t get enough of it.
I dug out some of my old art materials and decided to see what would happen if I started painting again, and it wasn’t long before I was absolutely hooked! My new coastal environment had worked some kind of magic in me and I soon became obsessed with painting it, trying to express the essence of what it was that utterly thrilled me, those ever changing skies, the glimpses of light, the reflections on the beaches.
I set about trying to learn everything I could about painting, about the materials, how they worked, all the different processes, reading many helpful books and learning skills from watching demo videos online.
When I felt bold enough to share some of my art with the world, I created a Facebook page, on impulse calling it SeaPainter, where I started to post some of my paintings.
People began to respond, liking and commenting, which I found greatly encouraging, and an old friend even remarked that I had always wanted to be an artist… which, strangely enough, I had somehow forgotten!
As time went on and I was painting more and more, I became a bit braver and asked in my local beachside café whether they would like some paintings on their walls, and agreed that if any sold I would give them a cut. Much to my delight and surprise people started to buy my paintings! The café owners wanted me to use their café as a venue to take part in a local art trail, and in order to do that I needed to visit a local gallery to pick up the form for the art trail.
The gallery owner asked to see some of my paintings, liked what she saw and said she’d like to show some in her gallery. And suddenly I was exhibiting paintings, having a private view evening and people were buying my work both from the café and from the gallery. I have had a lot of help and encouragement along the way, but these early experiences were what started it all.
ArterNet Art: Well done. Have you had to overcome any difficulties or major hurdles on your journey to becoming the successful, established artist we see today?
Jo: The biggest hurdle was coming to an understanding that I needed to pace myself. At the beginning, my enthusiasm for painting entirely took me over and I would work at it for several hours a day, ignoring aches, pains, hunger, thirst…
This eventually resulted in acquiring various injuries from maintaining the same seated position at my table top easel for hours at a time. The day came when I injured my painting arm, and I had to take an enforced break for a couple of months, but even then I found a way to still make art by exploring acrylic inks, the use of which took less of a toll on my body.
I now paint standing up at a large easel.
ArterNet Art: Yes, it is important for artists to practice self care and I’m pleased you shared that with us.
What was it about the medium you’ve chosen that attracted you?
Jo: Typically, I tend to work in phases, depending on my mood and inclination, and different mediums attract me at different times, whether the wonderful blending qualities and creaminess of oils, the fast drying and layering possibilities with acrylics, the extravagance and impact of 24 carat gold leaf, or the intense pigments of oil pastels.
But my subject matter, that endless drive to paint the sea, sky, horizon and landscape, doesn’t change.
ArterNet Art: Do you have a daily routine? Has it always been this way and can you tell our readers how that looks?
Jo: I do. My mornings are spent doing gentle yoga and walking with my dog Bozwell; I don’t go into my studio to actually paint until the afternoons. Getting out into the elements, breathing the air, looking at the sky, soaking up the atmosphere of the day, moving my body, all are good preparation for an afternoon of creativity.
The rhythm of my daily life is yoga, walking, painting, more walking; and all of it with Bozwell by my side. He lies quietly beside me when I do my yoga and even has a bed in my studio. Other jobs like admin, packaging and shipping are fitted in as and when the need arises.
‘Tasting the Salty Air’ Acrylic on canvas (framed 62cm x 53cm)
ArterNet Art: Can you share some techniques and insights into your process from conception to creation
Jo: Depending on which medium I am using, various techniques come into play during each painting. I can string out the process for long periods by moving from one painting to another, according to my whims. Sometimes I get involved in a series I am creating, for example some of my gold leaf series, which follow a very particular process in the making, and I carry on working on them until they are finished, but even within that series I will be moving back and forth between them.
When I am working in oils, I initially start off with a thin underpainting in one colour, like raw umber or burnt sienna, using a traditional notan to establish the values.
This involves lifting paint away from that thin layer in the areas that will be lightest, which also gives me the composition.
Casting Shadows — Step 1
Casting Shadows — Step 2
Casting Shadows — Step 3
‘Casting Shadows’ — Final step
Oil on canvas, 76cm x 50cm
ArterNet Art: How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?
Jo: Near the start I went through a phase of trying too carefully to reproduce scenes from my own photos.
It was a good exercise, and a fine way to start, but those kind of results (paintings that looked a bit like photos) soon seemed a bit pointless, the artistry was missing.
I then allowed myself to become more free, intuitive and expressive, and relied more on my imagination and emotions, often with rousing classical music playing while I painted.
This I still do today; there is nothing like a Beethoven symphony or Vivaldi’s Gloria to get me going! Occasionally I feel a kind of nostalgia for the days when I had less knowledge and many of my paintings had a raw, unpolished and spontaneous feel.
I love that there was a simplicity for me in those days of my either loving a painting or not, without analysing or thinking too much, not questioning myself about composition or any ‘rules’.
Perhaps nowadays more thought goes into my work, sometimes a good thing, sometimes less so. I wouldn’t like to lose the spontaneity in my work. I don’t know how it will evolve in the future, that mystery is one of the pleasures.
I intend to carry on painting what I love and exploring different ways to express that.
ArterNet Art: Is there anything in particular that inspires you to create art?
Jo: The sheer joy of actually doing it! Time spent in my studio with my materials, often listening to music, becoming utterly absorbed and carried away by the process, it’s really the best life I could ever have imagined.
And also of course my surroundings, my life here on the coast and my art practice are inextricably linked.
ArterNet Art: What has been your favourite or most memorable art sale?
Jo: Every sale feels like an absolute honour, the thought that someone loves a painting of mine so much that they are prepared to pay good money for it to hang in their home.
And it is especially satisfying to me when a buyer communicates that a painting has provoked an emotional response in them. I love that those initial feelings and emotional energy that came from me, via the paint, into the canvas, have emerged somehow on the other side when someone receives their own emotional impact when they look at the work, I love those meaningful connections.
One particularly memorable sale was when the buyer told me that her family and friends had clubbed together to buy her the large gold leaf landscape she’d wanted for her 30th birthday — wow, that felt good!
When I packaged it up and sent it to the USA, I was surprised when it arrived back at my own house a week later. Turned out that the way I had packaged it, meant it was one centimetre too big to go into the airport scanning machine, so I had to repackage it and send it again!
Happily it eventually arrived, but those kind of incidents are why it can be nerve-wracking waiting for a painting that someone else now owns, to arrive safely at its destination.
‘Gloria III’ (sold) acrylic and gold leaf on canvas 102cm x 76cm
ArterNet Art: How were you and your business impacted by Covid-19? Has much changed since that time?
Jo: The general air of worldwide worry and concern about the pandemic did affect my painting ability, and for a little while I found it hard to produce anything I was happy with.
Although restrictions had a dire effect on showing work in public, with galleries closed and events cancelled, the internet was the one thing that was still available to us all and I found that my painting sales actually increased that year. I put this down to so many people staying at home with extra time browsing the internet, unable to spend money on holidays and going out, and in such strange times perhaps wanting to appreciate even more the beautiful parts of life.
The yearning for the wide open spaces when we weren’t able to venture far from our homes, I think made paintings of those much longed for outdoor spaces very appealing.
ArterNet Art: Do you have any hobbies, sports or interests other than art?
Jo: I do love my yoga.
ArterNet Art: What plans and goals do you have for the future, both creatively and personal?
Jo: I’m not much of a one for long term plans and goals to be honest, preferring to stay in the present and go with the flow. But, having found the thing in life that I am meant to be doing, my intention is to keep on doing it and sharing it, to continue learning new skills, and to accept the odd challenge along the way.
ArterNet Art: Going back to when you first started out and knowing what you know now, what would you do differently and what advice would you give to an aspiring new artist?
Jo: I would keep better records of everything, and I would delete photos as I go instead of letting them accumulate to an unmanageable number.
My advice — don’t agonise over a painting, it really doesn’t help. If it’s not going well, either make a bold move, something that will change your direction, or turn your painting to the wall and work on something else. When you go back to it, whether it’s later that day or several weeks later, you will see it with fresh eyes.
Also, be prepared to sacrifice little gems you love for the sake of the overall painting.
And lastly, don’t be afraid to make mistakes! Because that fear is truly a hindrance to creativity. The mistakes (both in life and art) are important because that’s how we learn.
‘Blue Days’, oil on canvas, framed size 62cm x 52 cm
ArterNet Art: Also for our new artists, can you share some tips on how you marketed yourself, when you first started out. What are two or three things you tried that worked amazingly well?
Jo: I have found social media to be a very effective way to be engaged with my audience, especially on Instagram. I absolutely love the communication and engagement on there, and I share so much of my art world, from studio scenes, to works in progress, finished paintings and announcements of, and links to, my latest work or upcoming shows and events. I love the fact it is so far reaching, meaning that even people on the other side of the world can see what I have to offer.
Another thing I did was to get postcards made with one of my paintings on the front and all my details on the back, and I write notes on them to buyers and include some extra ones with every package I send off, as well as having them handy during shows or studio visits. Another useful tool was an app that shows my paintings in interior situations.
ArterNet Art: That’s good advice, Jo.
Do you have any quotes you live by or practice?
Jo: It’s actually one about writing, but for me it applies to the blank canvas as much as to the empty page:
“Don’t get it right, get it written.”
In writing, you need actual words on a page in order to have something to edit into what you want, and I believe the same thing applies with paint, just get some on the canvas and work out what to do with it later!
Spiegel, oil on deep edged canvas (sold), 102cm x 76cm
Thanks again Jo. This was such a good read and we could tell it came straight from your heart. I know our readers will gain some really good insights and tips, which they’ll be able to incorporate into their own art practice.
Discover more about Jo and her work by following her links:
Jo’s website https://www.seapainterstudio.com
Jo’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/seapainter_jo/
Jo’s Etsy shop: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/SeaPainterStudio
And just in case anyone would like to listen to a conversation I had with Margret Petrie on her Authentic Obsessions podcast: https://www.authenticobsessions.com/jo-payne-big-skies-and-the-sea/
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