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Josephine Baker

History & Background.

Strangely, it's only recently that I've become interested in art and comparing my background to the other artists, I find myself in the unique category of having no qualifications in art and having spent my working life stuck in a bank!

It was our three children that inspired me to draw and create. I found myself, as most parents do, taking an incredible amount of photographs and from some of my favourites I would draw a pencil portrait. This led to commissions from friends and family who would see them upon our walls. I became hooked on sketching and drawing and started to become engrossed in the artwork in children's books as I read the children stories at night. I loved in particular the loosest, suggestive sort of work, simple characters in beautiful watercolour worlds. I went on to create my own concept for this market, 'Misty Nooks', based on a girl called 'Josephine' and her toy unicorn named 'Misty' (I always wanted a unicorn as a little girl!).

Art though is a different world from illustration and it was my husband who nudged me in this direction. We'd just decorated our lounge and there was a big gap on the main wall. My husband suggested I do a piece of art depicting the family, but not a portrait. He ‘encouraged' me further when he bought me two sets of pastels from the children for my birthday! Straight away I felt excited by the set of grey pastels; my husband knew I loved black and white photographs. I used to add a splash of watercolour over our black and white prints and I used to find the ones where I just added a touch of blue to be the most striking. So I came up with a hippo-like character (obviously in grey!) and made it bright eyed and with blue 'markings'. And so the original 'Loving Family' (but with 5 of us) was created and I knew then that this was what I'd always wanted to do.

Ideas & Inspirations.

My family are my inspiration. It's a cliché I know, but at this early stage, of course they are. Little moments in a day, something that we've done, something one of us has said that's made us laugh or think about, a facial reaction to a situation. Now, when one of the children says “do you remember when…” and we reminisce about a forgotten moment, I have to write it down, as a lovely little idea might come from it.

I think I create images that capture those lovely, little everyday moments that make us smile but we inevitably forget. But also they're about hope. Everyone has times when they're feeling 'grey' but that ever present touch of blue will remind us that there is always that chink of hope, a reminder that happiness will always come back.

From Palette to Picture.

I've found that when I've done a sketch of an idea, the looseness and carefree honesty with which I've created it, most of the time, cannot be beaten. I'll always try and recreate a sketch of an idea 'properly', but nearly all of the time it just doesn't work and I'll end up referring to the original sketch. It might only be a slight difference, but sometimes that can have an enormous effect.

I create my images working from light to dark layers of grey, smudging after each application of shadow. When the balance is right, I'll usually add an extra thumb print or two by rubbing pastel into my thumb and applying in a carefully chosen spot. I'll then put the eyes in. I did my eyes this way as I was trying to remain true to my original first sketch. I was initially unsure as they were so unusual, but the look grew on me and I very quickly felt that they worked. I save the colour bits until last, again, trying to add as much as I can with my fingers to give it that soft, loose finish.

My images at the moment are very simple and obvious, from a distance, but I find myself drawn to some parts upon closer inspection. An aggressive thumb print or a trailing smudge mark where perhaps a song I'm listening to has had an uplifting effect on me, or I was thinking about a little moment, these things affect the way a smudge finishes and they become almost mini works of art within the work of art!

A day in the Life of...

When I've finally gotten the children ready and dropped off at school, I'll usually either go for a short run or a swim in the local pool, depending on the weather!

It's rare that I get to spend a good, constant amount of time on an image as my husband works away quite a lot and by the time I've sat down to work, I'm aware that I won't have long before I'm picking the children up from school. It's a frustrating way of working, but I'm usually happy with the finished results and that is what's important.

After taxi-ing the children to a whole host of after school clubs, or lessons in ballet, violin or piano, we'll all get home and sit down to dinner, where I'll show everyone where I've got to with my latest picture and their 'unbiased' (I like to think) opinion is usually “It's great Mum!”

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