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Calm Before the Storm | Elaine Jones

This week we look back at an interview from the archive with Bristol based artist Elaine Jones, in which she reflects on the impact a trip to Tresco, Isles of Scilly had on her practice, finding particular inspiration in the drama of the shifting weather patterns on the island.

Elaine has attracted an impressive following in the South West for her distinctive and ethereal landscapes that transport the viewer to remote, often uninhabited places with wild and extreme climates. Since graduating from Loughborough University 16 years ago, Elaine has journeyed around the world finding inspiration in diversity and contrasts, from the jungle terrain of Central America to the glaciers of the Arctic. Whilst Elaine's oil paint compositions evoke the feel of a particular location, they are not direct representations but rather organic abstractions that seem to evolve and change depending on her surrounding environment and the ever changing light.


Seaspray at Dawn | 100x70cm

Your work is often inspired by far away places. Tell us about your latest trip.

I went to Tresco, one of the Isles of Scilly off the south coast of England, with a few other artists from Jamaica Street Studios. We got a tiny little plane over from Newquay, which took 20 minutes, and it looked like the Caribbean from above! It’s a private island with big tropical gardens full of rare trees that were given to the owners as gifts. Great inspiration for my paintings to see it all from the sky.

What inspired you about the landscape?

The impact of the changing weather on it was really dramatic. Each day was different. We had quite a warm day, which was really mild and everything was calm, and we had a really, really stormy day where the rain was horizontal. We sat watching storms quite a lot actually. There were some of the biggest waves I’ve seen; some completely covered us. We took a lot of pictures to work from later.

How about the work that emerged from your visit?

I did lots of sketching there, and then a series of paintings when I got home. I guess some of my paintings from that trip are a bit raw compared to my past work, because of the weather. I like to have contrast in my work, and those paintings show something a little bit wilder.

My paintings in the studio aren’t literal translations of places I’ve been. They’re more of a memory. My paintings don’t always end up resembling the location. The take time to develop. They start off with a mood from a particular day, from the sky and its colours, and then the painting becomes its own thing. I quite like that, I don’t ever know what the finished result will be.

Elaine on Tresco

Crashing Waves at Tresco | 80x80cm

What draws you to such secluded landscapes?

It just happens. It really suits me. I choose to live in the city, but I do find isolated places appealing and my work seems to be draw towards that, like when I went to the Arctic. I think it’s something to do with the purity of colour. I couldn’t live so remotely myself, but I’m fascinated by it.

Back in the studio, what’s your working routine like? When do you work best?

I work on a 9-5 routine now because I have to work round childcare, but I didn’t used to. I am quite motivated and disciplined, so I like to go in and work for the whole day. But you do have times when you’re not inspired and it’s not working, and if I can see I’m not going to be productive I just go and do something else rather than ruin what I’ve done. Usually I go to the library and research instead.

Now you’re set on your style, do you still experiment with different materials?

Oil paints work for me because they don’t dry too quickly and I can move them around and make them thinner and thicker. So I tend to stick with those.

I do all my drawings on location and, also take watercolours with me when I travel but I kind of draw with them. My watercolours seem to be a different style to what I do in the studio, but I quite like that.

Tresco Study in Blue

What’s the most surprising work of art you’ve ever created?

I did weird things when I was younger, like with my first Mini – it had been sitting in my parent’s garden forever after I wrote it off. It was really rusty and so I cut it up and started hanging it from a tree! If I’d had some welding skills it probably would have been better, but I was just kicking it and hacking bits off. Tying a rope round bits and hanging them up. It looked ridiculous, but I was trying to make a sculpture. Then I made a painting from it – a big abstract – and sold it straight away actually. The title of the painting was the car registration.

Where do you want to explore next?

I really want to do a lot more travelling. I want to go to Devon, to get the opposite landscape to the arctic – lots of verdant countryside. And also I’d love to go to India, I’ve always wanted to go to.

Quite often it helps just going up to the Downs in Bristol to sketch. Changing location just gives you a different idea. Maybe not immediately, but maybe I’ll just come up with a different shape I hadn’t thought of or a new perspective. I always find something new to add to my work after I’ve been out.

Elaine Sketching on Tresco

First Contemporary will be showing Elaine’s work at the Affordable Art Fair Bristol, 19th-21st September. For more information about the fair and to buy tickets, please visit their website by clicking here. For updates from First Contemporary, please visit our Twitter or Instagram pages.


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