Jean Pritchard was recently awarded the British Wildlife Award (sponsored by Jackson’s) for her oil painting of ‘Barn Owl on a wall’ at the Association of Animal Artists Annual Competition. The Association of Animal Artists offers opportunities and support to animal artists who have already attained a level of expertise and experience, whether as amateurs or professionals and who wish to promote and exhibit their artwork and further progress their skills. The annual exhibition is currently on until 13th May at Castle Park Arts Centre in Cheshire. As a member of the AAA, we wanted to find out more about Jean’s practice and her fascination with owls.
Christine: The artwork that won the British Wildlife Category was painted in oils, do you work in other mediums as well?
Jean: My first love is watercolours as I was trained as an illustrator in watercolours. It took me a long time to pick up any oils but my late uncle T. Leslie Hawkes who was a Lake district painter gave me a box of oil paints he had picked up from a second hand shop. I put them in the cupboard for years and it wasn’t until he had died that I first tried them. Then I was hooked. I have tried acrylics but at the moment they are not for me.
Christine: Which medium do you find you are most drawn to?
Jean: At the moment I am doing all my work in oils as I totally enjoy the medium. But I teach watercolours so I am keeping up with those too.
Christine: What do you find most rewarding about teaching?
Jean: The thing I find most rewarding about teaching is when my students get their work framed, as I really know they are pleased with what they have done. If i go to someones house for something and they have hung all their pieces it makes me feel really proud of them. You can tell by someones face if they are pleased with it. My classes are very relaxed and they feel like art clubs. we also all go out for xmas dinner every year which gets all the classes together.
Christine: Do you find that your classes and tuition inspires your own work?
Jean: I find that my classes keep me painting when I don’t have time to get to it. they are great for experimenting and also for discussing life!
Christine: You paint a lot of owls, what is it about them that means that you keep wanting to paint them?
Jean: There’s nothing like seeing your first barn owl in the wild and that’s what hooked me. I was walking through the fields where I live many years ago and came to a barn when all of a sudden a barn owl flew out. It was like time stood still. It was magnificent and I will never forget it. I have an association with the World Owl Trust especially when they were up at Muncaster Castle and they sell my prints on their website with part of the fee going to the World Owl trust. I have a good friend who works with the trust and he often lets me photograph his barn owl. If I do a workshop on painting barn owls he often comes with his owls and does a talk. I am trying to branch out to other things but now and again i get drawn back to painting a barn Owl….I just can’t keep away.
Christine: Your paintings have a sense of softness and texture to them, is there a certain method you use to achieve this?
Jean: I have developed my own oil style I feel. With being a watercolorist primarily, I feel that my style in oils also has a watercolour feel to it. I’m not so keen on the harshness of some oil styles so that’s why I developed my own. My oils are very thin and built up in thin layers almost like glazes.
Christine: You take on commissions alongside your own practice, do you find commissions harder or easier to accomplish?
Jean: I tend to do a lot of commissions of dogs which I enjoy but I am slowly building up a reputation for doing them in oils and doing them my way with compositions a little bit different for where I am based. I love it when the client says ‘I will leave it to you. you know what you are doing’ otherwise it’s hard doing a painting that you know would look much better in another way.
Christine: What advice do you have to anyone thinking about entering into a competition or joining a society for the first time?
Jean: Art societies are brilliant and a great source if you are just starting out. With being based where I am we are really ‘out’ of it a bit so its a way of keeping up with everything. I’ve only entered a couple of competitions as I never thought I was good enough. I was a finalist in 2015 in the David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the Year and had a piece of work at the Mall Galleries which was fabulous. Seeing all the other artists who I have admired for so long was absolutely brilliant. The British Wildlife Award sponsored by Jacksons at the Association of Animal Artists exhibition has been a real wow factor too as I have received a lot of positive feedback which is great for an artist. Personally I would say enter all the competitions….as you never know!
Christine: What are you working on at the moment?
Jean: At the moment I am working on a Snow Leopard , and….I have to say it…..a Barn Owl! I have also got a couple of Japanese Shiba Inu’s in production, as well as all my classes.
Christine: Where can we see more of your work online and in the flesh?
Jean: I exhibit with the Barrow Society of Artists, the Association of Animal Artists and what was the National Exhibition of Wildlife Art. I also have work on display at Home Images in Barrow in Furness. You can also view my work via my Facebook page and my website
The image at the top is the winning image for the British Wildlife Category Award at the Association of Animal Artists Annual Exhibition – ‘Barn on a Wall’, Oil Painting by Jean Pritchard.