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Behind the Brushstrokes: A Conversation with painter Jenni Stuart

Updated: Jun 30

My second conversation in this series is with Bristol based abstract painter Jenni Stuart. Brought up in West Cornwall with a Fine Art degree from Bath Spa University, Jenni possesses a strong desire to convey her thoughts and emotions in a creative way. Having dyslexic tendencies, her mind works in a particularly visual way with colour and texture central to her work. Her abstracted landscape paintings are an outlet for self expression and have their origins in Jenni’s love of light, the outdoors, the sea and her Cornish upbringing.

Her work often takes the viewer right back to her personal roots and childhood experiences. Memories in colour, trips away, family time and conversation are transformed into bold colourful pieces full of texture, pattern and joy.  Her bright contemporary paintings will bring a touch of happiness to any home.

Read on to find out more about what is going on behind the brushstrokes!

What sparks your initial ideas for a piece? Is it a feeling, an image, or something else entirely?

Not always, I can start off really very abstract and build on the shapes that I have laid down as I went through the piece though patterns and colours based on things I’m thinking about as I go.


Do you have a specific routine or ritual to get into a creative headspace?

I simply grab the time I can. I have two children that are four years old and five years old. The youngest is at home with me two days a week so the beginning of the week is mine to paint and I do my best to be quite structured about this to protect the time. I am looking forward to September when they both will be in school and the week will be a bit different for me.


Do you have a plan for a piece before you start, or do you allow it to develop organically?

I never plan anything, sometimes I have ideas, I am starting to think about working in a project based way to make the most of my time. Not planning has lead to many mistakes but also many discoveries, in my practice and my use of materials and colours. 

What's your biggest "happy accident" that turned out amazing in a piece?

To be honest, the ones that work out, they are all happy accidents with the way which I approach the work. But there are ones that have better feelings than others and help me leap forward into direction that I embrace. I only started painting two years ago, so I’m still finding my feet.

Do you have any lucky tools or materials you can't work without?

I enjoy using acrylic simply because it gives me that fast dry time. On top I like to use oil bars to sort of draw with. Those materials are my staple in my studio.


What's the most challenging part of your artistic process?

Time - I just don’t get enough of it but I feel so lucky to be able to call this 'my job' so there is a balance in those feelings. Everyone always wants more.


Is there a hidden meaning or symbolism in your work that viewers might miss at first glance?

Not always, but I want to make work that people can time and time again look at and feel value in its presence. My work is highly textured and the surface is really hard to photograph and show the viewer by Instagram, but there’s a lot of depth to the work in a physical sense.

In terms of symbolism, I’m often thinking about family and things that I’ve been to during the day week months years and I feel that the paintings are my life. I do struggle with words at times and so therefore having an output, individual sense is a huge relief and I feel like sometimes I have quite physical connections with the pieces. 

What piece of yours are you most proud of, and why?

I think there are times different ones representative of different goals that you achieve. The first one that I worked with with Emily holds a lot of pride for me and it now lives in Cornwall. People purchasing your work, investing in you are trusting in your process and that means a great deal.


If you could have your art evoke one specific emotion in a viewer, what would it be?

Feedback has always been one of 'joy and happiness', collectors are always surprised at how much the colours in the painting change and get in touch to update me after they have hung it.

Who are your artistic heroes, and how have they influenced your work?

This is a really hard one because a lot of the names are Cornish names of artists and some of those were luckily pictures that we had hanging on the house. My parents collected a lot of art from auction houses in Penzance so we always enjoyed going with them to the auctions. My artistic heroes include Alfred Wallis, Gill Watkiss, Henri Matisse, Jessica Cooper and James Rosenquist.

Does your art ever surprise you with where it ends up taking you?

It’s not about where my art has taken me, but the stories that are told and the messages that I get from people. I often have messages about people visiting friends and realising they have my work on their walls too.


If you weren’t an artist, what would you be doing?

I was a teacher for 13 years. I always love the relationships I had with the children really well, there was a lot of joy in the classroom. But what would I be doing now? Definitely something creative. 


What are your ‘must have’ snacks and drinks when in the studio?

I rarely snack in the studio. A coffee is always a must though.


What's the best piece of artistic advice you've ever received?

Make mistakes!

You are hosting a dinner party and have invited 3 other artists (living or dead), who would be on the guest list?

This is such a tough one...  

Real Hackney Dave, I think he’d be a laugh and bring a lot of what I need to the table which is not to care so much about what others think!

Lou Buck, not an artist but art writer and broadcaster, I hope it is allowed! She has a magic way with words. Sometimes being dyslexic I cannot take in information especially when a lot is said but her words are easy to digest. She has a way of explaining and being concise I always love listening to her.

Third but not last... I'd bring my fellow Emily Hadley artist buddy along... Polly Luce. Being artist mothers it's lovely to have that fellow artist to link with. She has been doing so incredibly well I am so proud! Go Polly!

Thank you so much for giving up your time to answer these questions Jenni!

Jenni is taking part in Women in Abstraction at the Atkinson Gallery, Millfield from 11th Sept to 10th October. In the meantime, please head here to see more of Jenni's work or here to follow her on Instagram.

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