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By Cherrie, Jun 28 2017 09:51PM

'Born of frustration' is unusual. It’s one of a few paintings I’ve assigned a title to before I started creating it. And it's one of a small number of pieces where I can clearly recall how I was feeling when I painted it..

The name comes from the title of a single released in 1992 by UK band James. I’ve listened to it many times and have also heard it played live on a number of occasions.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016. I’d had a long, hard day at work, concluding with an evening meeting. I was tired and at 8.54pm the last thing I felt like doing was painting. However, ten days earlier I’d embarked on a challenge I’d set myself to paint 30 paintings in 30 days. Day 11 felt a little too soon to abandon it.

So, with little enthusiasm, I climbed the stairs to my studio. Having decided on a title that chimed with how I felt about having to produce a painting that evening, I choose several different blues and a contrasting pistachio. I set to work with little real thought about what I wanted to create, I just wanted to get it done and get to bed. After applying paint with palette knives to an already prepared piece of board, I flicked and flung paint at it, dispersing some of my pent up aggravation in the process. On this occasion I didn't have any difficulty in knowing when to stop. Day 11 of 30 completed and off to bed.

15 months later .....

When I learnt that 'Born of frustration' had been pre-selected for the 2017 Society of Women Artists Annual Exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London my excitement was short-lived, as I realised I need to get it to London the day after we returned from a week’s holiday in Cornwall and just days before the opening of my latest exhibition.

I thought I’d found the perfect solution - an art courier service collecting work for the Mall Galleries from artists in a car park in Penzance the very week we were in Cornwall. What could possibly go wrong?

So there we were in the agree spot at the harbour car park 15 minutes before handover time. We eagerly searched for a white van displaying the name of the courier service. And we were still there, with the painting, an hour later, having failed to make effective contact with the couriers due to a blue tooth malfunction their end!

Emails ensued and I was informed that three other artists had successfully handed over their paintings at the agreed time in the harbour car park - I was the only no show!

Who knows what really happened to that van? After much angst and ruling out several other options, including abandoning the idea of the painting ever making it to London, we made a detour on our way home and dropped the, by now, aptly named ‘Born of frustration’ off at the courier owner’s house in Paignton.

And guess what? It was worth all the effort and frustration as it was selected for inclusion in the Mall Galleries exhibition, which opens next week (4 July 2017).

Born of frustration | acrylic on board | Photo Jade Edwards
Born of frustration | acrylic on board | Photo Jade Edwards

By Cherrie, Dec 2 2015 10:29PM

Dressed in a vibrant kingfisher top, mustard scarf, jeans, cappuccino cardi-coat and her characteristic orange lipstick, Jane Brook is running late for our meeting. I’m at her Worcester studio to talk about colour and how it’s changed her life from working in accountancy and wanting to fade into the background, to the successful business woman, accomplished public speaker and inspiring mum she is today.

Discovering Jane’s favourite colour seems a good place to start. She says, “It’s got to be one from the autumn spectrum because I look so good in them. The colour I like and am associated with most is orange.”

I first met Jane in 2011 when I sought her help to choose a colour for my wedding dress. She’s a colour analyst and personal stylist for House of Colour. The company’s mission statement is to help people ‘look fabulous and radiate confidence in the colours and shapes that suit them best’. For Jane, it’s really about giving people confidence and making them feel better about themselves. “So much of the way we feel about ourselves comes from not liking how we look.”

Colour analysis entails identifying which seasonally categorised palette of colours works best for a person’s skin tone and eye colour. Jane admits that when she went to have her own colours analysed she thought it would be a load of rubbish. But it turned out to be life-changing.

Hundreds of Jane’s clients can testify to the impact of colour on the way people look and feel. Jane tells me, “If you’re in somewhere drab you’re likely to feel drab. From personal experience, you’ve read my story, colour has affected the way I felt. When I wear colour I feel better and people react to me better.” She thinks everyone should wear some colour, so what’s her advice for people who don’t know where to begin? “True red is the one colour that will suit most skin tones. Whatever colour you choose, start small with something like a scarf, tie or handkerchief.”

Has colour always been important to Jane? “Gosh that’s an interesting question. I used to wear a lot of colour when I was younger.” Like me, Jane grew up in the ‘80s. We recall the vivid blue eye shadow and shirts that matched your shoes and belt. After the birth of her daughters, Emma and Milly, and her subsequent divorce Jane lost confidence. “I was in a place of low self-esteem. You think the bigger you are you need to wear dark colours to disguise that. I didn’t know what suited me. I wanted to hide away and not be seen.” She still liked colour, but didn’t wear it much.

After Jane’s colour analysis things began to change. She bought a cheap t-shirt in a colour that suited her. As soon as she wore it people started saying how good she looked. She says, “I gradually changed my wardrobe so I only wore autumn colours. What I noticed was that I felt better and people gave me more compliments.”

Around the same time, Jane’s employer halved her working hours. Her 11 year old daughter, Emma, said, “You hate your job anyway Mum. Why don’t you do something you’d enjoy?” Jane applied for a franchise with House of Colour. “I went into it with no background. Never looked at it with a business plan. I just wanted to make a difference to people, the way it’s made a difference to me. I have never looked back.”

Jane works with both individuals and businesses. I remark that people in corporate environments often wear a lot of black and white. Jane explains wearing a very dark colour with a very light colour gives people more authority. She suggests navy, olive green or dark brown as alternatives to black and introducing colour through jewellery or a more vibrant top. “In a business environment adding some colour will give the impression that you are more confident, you’re better at your job because you’re willing to be visible. Be a peacock in a land of penguins.”

Our conversation moves onto art. Jane enjoys having artwork around and has several pieces by the late Govinder Nazran. At the moment she’s interested in owning work by artists who she knows and whose exhibitions she’s seen. “For me it’s about stuff that I like, not necessarily about investing in stuff. It’s about being surrounded by beautiful things that give me pleasure when I look at them.”

Like colour, Jane thinks artwork can change the way you feel by evoking memories and associations. She clearly recalls the day she bought a Govinder sculpture from a gallery in Birmingham, right down to the minutiae of buying a teabag tin in Selfridges. I ask Jane what she likes about one of my paintings that she owns. “I’m very tactile. I like that’s it got that look of texture and depth to it, it really appeals to me rather than something that’s flat. And every time you look at it you see you see something different. “

As well collecting artwork, Jane’s acquired several awards, which are displayed in her studio. She’s now number eight in the House of Colour star stylist rankings. She must be very proud of all her achievements. “My girls see me doing something that I clearly love and that you don’t have to do a nine to five job to be successful. The difference it’s made to their confidence and the things that they now believe they can achieve. That’s the thing I’m most proud of. I’ve changed my life, nobody’s come along and done it for me. I’ve done it for myself.”

Our time is up, but I’ve got one last question, “If I turned up unexpectedly at your house on a Wednesday evening are you sure I wouldn’t find you wearing baggy, black clothes?” She laughs. Her gym trousers are the only item of black clothing she owns. “You’ would probably find me in my olive green pyjamas and still wearing my lipstick.”

You can find out more about Jane on her website

Jane with her daughters Milly and Emma
Jane with her daughters Milly and Emma
House of Colour palettes
House of Colour palettes
Jane enjoying my painting, Tread lightly
Jane enjoying my painting, Tread lightly

By Cherrie, Nov 16 2015 11:33PM

Looking back, I think the roots of how I got into art lie in my childhood, which was both creative and colour-filled. Despite growing up in the ‘70s I don’t remember much brown, beige or avocado in our home. But I do still clearly recall many of the colours from my early years:

• At aged two and a bit, the bright yellow peeler my Mum was using to peel an orange not long after my brother was born.

• The little red painted wooden wheelbarrow I helped my Dad to transport manure from our front drive up the path to the back garden.

• A pair of purple flared trousers I often wore to Sunday School

• The emerald green pedal racing car my brother and I played with.

I showed an early flair for drawing. One of my first pictures that attracted praise was a heron drawn in felt tip pen on shiny paper that Dad had brought home from work. We didn’t have a TV when we were growing up so had to find other ways to entertain ourselves. Whether it was colouring, copying Sad Sam pictures, painting by numbers with those ridiculously small pots of oil paint, making candles or performing home-grown plays with my friends in our front room, I usually had some sort of creative project on the go.

I studied art at school and created several unusual pieces. There was ‘Pollution’, a painting and collage featuring computers, bits of litter and cigarette butts I’d picked up from the street. ‘Metamorphosis’ was a somewhat lurid construction made out of an old sock and ‘Rise and fall’ was a snakes(!) and ladders board created with paint and PVA glue mixes. Alas, I received little encouragement from my art teacher and after leaving school didn’t pursue art any further.

After university, frequent holidays to Cornwall reawakened my interest and inspired me to start painting so I went to evening classes at the local college. It grew from there really. I’ve continue to do short courses at the St Ives School of Painting and Newlyn School of Art.

My paintings are typically characterised by rich colours and strong textures, sometimes I find composition a little more challenging! I enjoy the freedom that comes with painting and the exciting possibilities that a blank canvas or board presents when I embark on a new painting. Sometimes I begin a new piece with a clear idea in mind, at other times colour is the starting point, and everything else flows from there. There are strong references to geology and the natural environment in some of my work.

I think creating art is as much about having the confidence to just give it a go than necessarily having all the technical skills or a formal art education. People often tell me they could never paint and that I’m really clever to be able to create what I do. I disagree and challenge them to give it a try. What’s the worst that can happen? They don’t like what they paint, throw it away and never pick up a paint brush again. On the other hand, they may feel the excitement that I felt as a child when opening a new tin of beautiful crayons or a bumper pack of felt tip pens in every colour, and end up becoming an accomplished artist.

When I first started painting I expected to create work I was pleased with every time and was disheartened when I didn’t. I soon realised that it’s as much about the creative process, or perhaps more, than it is about the end result. For every painting I’m happy to frame and put on the wall or share with others, there are several in the discard pile.

I’ve also learnt that knowing when to stop is vital. In many respects I’m a bit of a perfectionist, but that doesn’t sit comfortably with my style of artwork. It’s so very easy to overwork a painting and I often do. Frequent cups of tea are essential, providing a moment to take a breath, step away from the canvas and reassess.

Me with my wheelbarrow transporting manure
Me with my wheelbarrow transporting manure