Jacqueline Smith or jax Hence
Me the day we chose to move to Snowdonia
Jacqueline is the name I was christened with but it has always sounded too much to use. I didn't feel “enough” for the name, until I started to exhibit my artwork. At 50 years old, I’m proud to finally be exhibiting. Having graduated from a Fine Art Honours degree, it's about time I got serious about my artwork.
As a child, I would copy images of Disney characters drawing them as large as A1, HUGE to a little 8 year old. Looking back that was quite impressive. I nearly diverted from the path when it came to choosing my O'Levels, ( last year of those) I loved cookery classes and art classes but you could only choose one. Which one? I didn't know what to do but thought, “cooking yeh that will be useful, maybe I’ll be a chef? At the last minute something, my heart maybe, made me change my mind and I went for Art. Thank goodness!
I remember being the only person taking A level art, a very lonely path. Luckily my mum saw how keen I was and let me enrol in a Saturday morning class at the local Art College. I loved it. That was it, there was no going back, I had to push on somehow. As one of five children, it must have been difficult for my parents but again my mum saw how keen I was and persuaded my dad to let me go to university to study fine art. I was only the second person in the history my family to go to university. My older sister, Martine, paved the way for me.
I absolutely loved University. Every day for 3 years being able to play with Art. I can never describe well enough to anyone how fantastic it was to be able to follow my passion for 3 full years. It makes me smile just thinking about it.
Luckily I got into a university which allowed me to experiment even more. My foundation course was a year before this (four years of playing really, hehehe ) The degree course encouraged us to experiment with all art materials, which I loved. Even then I had no particular preference, I loved to create art in any medium that worked for that piece.
I've found the same, living in Snowdonia. Now I look at some of the craggy mountains and feel compelled to use pen or pencil to show the craggy roughness of the rock, as in my pen drawing of Tryfan and Snowdon horseshoe. More recently. I’ve used felted wool to show the textures of the mountains, as in the 'Trfyan over Ogwen'.
But then I see the colour of the earth, the rock, how colours change every season, how the shadows are revealed and hidden again depending on the light that day or height of the sun at different times of year. Every time I travel along the Ogwen Valley I look afresh at all the colours -ferns, grass, Welsh green slate, and the trees with leaves or not depending on the season. My Nant Ffrancon Valley images show the bright colours I see when I pass through the valley either by car, foot or bike, I love to exaggerate the coloures in my manipulated photographic images.
I focused on photography at university, spending hours every day in the darkroom, (this was the days before digital photography). I played with the light and dark in every image. I focused at the time on people, faces and bodies in the studio and in real life.
After university like many graduates I needed to make money to live, I wasn't strong enough to just “be an artist” as I dreamed. I worked for a while until I became inspired by friends who were teachers. I could inspire others to love art just as I did when I was a child. My passion was ignited again.
I became an art teacher moving very quickly into drama teaching too. I always thought of it as creating art with our bodies instead of paint or pencil. I spent 20 years teaching art and drama, becoming head of department for both. All the time, I was still working on my own artwork. It helped that I was always experimenting, finding ways to bring more excitement into the art classroom, it helped me to experiment with my own work.
After 20 years teaching, I lost my passion and way. Things changed too much. The creativity was being squeezed out of every classroom. Instead, constant checking, testing and results were more important.
I left teaching not knowing what I was going to do, but telling everyone I wanted to focus on my own artwork.
Life moved as it does and within a year I had moved to Snowdonia with my husband and started running a B&B. I was passionate about our new lifestyle and even more so, about the mountains. I realised I had been holidaying in the mountains for years. Why don’t I live in the mountains?
Coming to Snowdonia was like a wakeup call for my creativity. Everything around me made me smile, caught my attention. Everywhere I went I saw colour, shapes, shadows, light and dark. It overwhelmed me for the first two years - it was so beautiful, I didn't know how I wanted to express it in Art. I took photos everywhere I went. We explored coasts, mountains and lakes. I amassed an amazing amount of beautiful photographs but still didn't know what to do with them. I shared lovely views with friends on Facebook. Everywhere I looked I was in awe.
Slowly in 2019, I began to draw again starting with pen drawings. The rocks were shouting out for me to show the texture and roughness. I revelled in these intricate detailed pen drawings. The squiggly lines seems to bring the mountains alive on the paper for me. It was a meditative process. Each time I began a drawing time passed quickly. I often had to unfold myself slowly from my desk with a stiff back and shoulders but smiling at what I had been able to create.
It was great timing as Artworks2 was just opening in Betws y coed and was advertising for artists to join them. Nervous, I jumped in.
First, I exhibited my pen drawings then started playing with adding stormy pastel skies, another medium I love.
I started playing with all my photographs from the past four years manipulating them digitally to create those amazing colours that I saw but somehow couldn't capture just with a lens. I wanted to exaggerate them. My bright manipulated photographic images you can see in Artworks2 were born. I loved them and, happily, so do lots of visitors to the gallery.
Last winter, now my creativity was alive, I started with needle felting. In yet another lockdown in Wales, I had more time to play with and explore my imagination with yet another new medium and I loved it. The feel of the wool, the colours that people dyed them, the texture it created in an image. I found an amazing website https://hairydogcrafts.com , Maria blends the most beautiful fibres and even creates special ones if I ask nicely. I have a Welsh slate blend we created together which I am excited about starting using. I don't know if the image will work, but I never do. I have to trust in the process and just experiment. If it doesn’t, I'll try something else. That’s how it goes with art - you keep experimenting.
I’ll keep you up to date on my experiments and the process if you are interested. I’m also going to try wet felting next it looks fun. I’ll get back to some pastel work too as I love the feel of pastel and smudging all those colours together and just getting really messy. As my husband says when I show him my messy pastely hands with a big grin on my face, I’m a big kid.