Lives of the Artists: Alison Jardine


The Painted Tree (2010), Oil on canvas, 40” x 40”

I am a painter of large-scale “natural abstractions” in oils. Color and movement are the two key elements in my art. Color relates to emotions and perception; movement relates to the physical self, natural energy, and vitality.

My nature motif has roots in Jungian psychology, and expresses not the outer world, but rather, inner landscapes. Each of my works, in its own way, contrasts the instinctual/subconscious aspect of humans with the intellectual/thinking nature of consciousness.

This is the tension at the heart of my creativity and vision.

To give an example, my Geometric Trees series combine abstract, geometric forms with the practice/method of painting en plein air–working in natural light. The organic, twisting branches of the trees and the abstract, colored fragments aim to reflect/capture/embody the chaotic harmony between the natural and the abstract.

Above all, I seek to create a passionate sense of beauty in my works . . . I hope my works entice the viewer to see the natural world in a more intense, focused and appreciative way.

When I write about my works, I recognize that I am actually writing about myself. Likewise, as a visual artist: all my works are essentially self-portrait.

Sunshine & Honeysuckle, oil on canvas, 26″ x 28″

I am not interested in painting what has already been done before. And what is considered to be the “best” contemporary art doesn’t faze me. Likewise, the conventional aspects of traditional genres, such as landscape painting, fail to inspire. What all this means is–for better or worse–I am committed to a personal artistic expression. My own.

Labels in art, as in life, are divisive, misleading, and ultimately inaccurate. How could any word, phrase, or theory convey the ineffable mystery of life itself?

Art is essentially about self-expression, and every self is different.

I doubt many artists would feel motivated to continue creating art without the natural drive to express themselves and their visions. I know I couldn’t create artwork that didn’t intrinsically express my inner self.

Al Fresco: Between the Water and the Sky (2010), 72″ x 48″, oil on canvas

Art, especially painting, is in my family’s blood. My father painted as a hobby his whole life, and my elder siblings were always involved in art. Tubes of paint, bits of old posters, canvases, art books, and volumes on the Masters, filled the house I grew up in. I found this environment incredibly stimulating. Art shocks and intrigues me, and my first viewing of certain works are among the most memorable, intense experiences in my life.

When I paint I am conscious of entering an inner world that isn’t bound by physical limitations. I feel an intimate relation to the universe, an inexplicable connection to the greater cosmos.

I’ve always had a clear sense of what I want my art to be. I remember rebelling against what my art-school teachers deemed exemplary and important. Perhaps they expected us to imitate certain models, to adopt certain techniques and styles. It got me into a bit of trouble resisting this academic methodology. Suffice it to say, I’ve learned to be much more open-minded since those days . . .

Snowstorm (2010), 36″ x 36″ Oil on canvas

I have always loved oil paints. I remember when I was about nine years old, I picked up some old tubes lying around the house and painted a picture of a jug and some fruit.

Oil paints allow me to work flexibly – boldly, with single strokes of alla prima colour; or transparently through glazing and layering; or by applying and removing layers for different effects. The depth of color in oil paints continues to astonish me. I work with a limited number of colors and mix all the intermediate tones that I need. I stretch and prepare my own canvasses.

The surface on which one paints determines the range of effects a painter can achieve with her work. I certainly like the craftsmanship involved in working with my hands. Oils are also incredibly changeable—mutable–adaptable. By experimenting with oils, altering the medium and so on, I’ve learned how to use oil paints to attain a set of desired results. I frequently combine turpentine, damaar varnish and stand oil; or alkyd mediums; or walnut oil or linseed.

Currently, I’m intrigued by traditional glazing and layering techniques. This involves hiding what has already been made under subsequent layers. Or conversely, it involves exposing and enhancing specific elements of the work. I often use siccative mediums to cut down the drying time.

The very techniques I adopt in oil painting serve to express my ideas and emotions just as much as the paint that goes on the canvas.

Primavera (2010), 46″ x 40″ Oil on canvas

I paint full-time, from around 8am until 3pm, when my twin girls get back from school. I am lucky enough to have a home studio, and this means I can basically paint whenever I like. I paint in the evenings if I can’t sleep, or at dawn–inspired by the beauty of the early hours, one of my favorite times of day.

In the past, I had a studio that took an hour to get to during heavy traffic. Today I walk a few steps and I’m in my studio . . . I have a large, wood-floored north-facing room in which I paint. I also have an adjoining room where I stretch my canvasses.

Being an artist is about more than just making art. I spend countless hours marketing, promoting, establishing accounts, planning my finances, and many other things.

In my view, an artist must be everything unto herself: self-sufficient and self-driven.

Art involves constant networking and taking advantage of the new technologies social media has to offer. Self-branding and self-promotion is how artists become known and their artworks become visible to the public. Don’t wait to be discovered . . .

So I spend a good portion of my time on the internet, interacting with other artists on social media sites, and exploring the sheer volume of art online. But I try to keep at least one foot in the “real world”. . . meeting people involved in my local arts community, seeing gallery shows, visiting art fairs, and just enjoying the simple things life has to offer outside the Google Search bar.

Alison Jardine on The Escape Into Life Arts Store

Alison Jardine’s Website

Alison Jardine on Twitter

This autobiography is part of the Escape into Life Lives of the Artists project.