In the second of our series, A Day in the Studio, we took a behind the scenes look into Elaine Jones’ studio at Jamaica Street Artists, Bristol, to discover how she creates her beautiful abstract landscapes.
Photographs courtesy of Alice Hendy
Your work is often based on your travels, tell us about a particularly inspiring trip or location.
I think the Arctic will always be the most dramatic place that I have been to. It had such an impact on me because the light and the sense of space was so different to anything that I have experienced before. I loved the way everything would sparkle with sunlight one minute making the ice a brilliant turquoise. A moment later the sky would fill up a stormy mauve/grey, an incredible backdrop to the frozen sea. I think that these pictures were a turning point in my painting and ever since I have been drawn towards vast expanses of wild nature.
How do you bring your travels back into the studio? Is the process of painting a way of getting back to the places you’ve visited?
I do sometimes work from sketches and photographs, often to help with new compositional ideas. More often though I work from memory and I use the inspiration from a certain place just as a starting point. I like my paintings to take on their own life. To me they are very abstract and quite often the paint dictates the direction the painting is going in.
I often produce work in a series and I usually have 4 or 5 paintings on the go at any one time. This is because I work in layers and I need to leave things to dry, but I also think that it helps keep work fresh. If I get stuck I often leave the painting for a while; it is incredible how turning it away from the wall and leaving it for a day or two can change how you see it.
I also hang my paintings on different walls so that I can view them in different lights. Turning pictures upside down can make you think about them in a different way. If you have spent many hours working on a piece it is often hard to tell if it is finished, I usually wait until the next day to decide. Some paintings can come together really quickly, whilst others can take months to complete.
Your paintings often evoke a feeling of calm and tranquility, is this something that has always been present in your work?
My paintings have become much more minimal over the years, they were often more complicated. When I first graduated from university I spent many months experimenting with collage and placing computer circuits and welded car parts onto my work. Over the years though I have become much more attracted to simplicity.
I am very emotional about my work, and when it is going well I feel very connected to the paint. If people connect with this then that is great, I like my work to be honest.
What are you working on currently?
At the moment, I am drawn towards a more subtle and perhaps warmer palette. I am really enjoying experimenting with greys and ochres, this is a bit of a challenge for me because I think I am known for much brighter and vibrant colours. I am actually working through some old sketches and photographs from a residency that I did in the Dolomites/Italy a few years ago. It is sometimes interesting to look back at things with new ideas and a new approach, especially old drawings as they are quite different to how I draw now. I find that adding these strange marks to my paintings can add a new dimension to my work.