Award-winning Derbyshire artist Jenny Aitken shares her artistic journey

How long have you been painting?

I’ve been painting since I was very young, as my grandad was an oil painter. My parents were both artistic too, so were very encouraging all through my life. I started exhibiting soon after I graduated in Art and Art History in 1998 and haven’t looked back since! I love my job.

Great British Life: Oystercatchers (oil on 30 x 40cm board) Photo: Jenny AitkenOystercatchers (oil on 30 x 40cm board) Photo: Jenny Aitken

What gives you the most joy?

I’m in love with the way light transforms the world around us. Everything is just a collection of shapes and colours. To get those colours down in paint and create an illusion of light, depth and movement is a constant challenge. A subject I return to is Oystercatchers, wading along the shore in strong light – a perfect mix of action and atmospheric lighting.

Drawing and painting is an escape for me. It is a comfort, a way of interpreting the world and gaining a sense of control. It’s also a route to connection with others.

I wrote a book, Painting into the Light, which will be published in March 2024. In the closing paragraph I described why I do what I do: I strive to communicate the beauty I see, in this brief life, in the hope that you and I will find connection in a shared way of seeing.

Are there any parts of Derbyshire/Peak District you particularly enjoy painting?

There’s so much choice! I love the bluebells in Clough Woods in spring, the gorse and heathers on the edges in summer, the autumn colour at Longshaw; and the shape of the land at Castleton, Mam Tor and Chrome Hill in winter, sharpened by snow and frost.

I also love the landscape of Padley Gorge and Grinlow Woods in Buxton, the subject of After the Rain.

Do you have a favourite style/method when painting?

I paint in oils, and my style is, I suppose, a contemporary impressionism. It has developed through studio work and painting direct from the landscape, en plein air: which requires speed, when trying to capture a lighting effect. I think my specialism in photography at university influenced my style, as does my interest in fantasy literature and illustration. I love a sense of a story within a painting.

Great British Life: Sundown from Harwich Quay (oil on 50 x 40cm board) Photo: Jenny AitkenSundown from Harwich Quay (oil on 50 x 40cm board) Photo: Jenny Aitken

Which painting are you most proud of and why?

Sundown from Harwich Quay recently won the Baltic Exchange prize – a major award at this year’s Royal Society of Marine Artists exhibition. I’m pretty proud of that! I also became a member of the society in 2023. Each new painting usually has something that pushed or challenged me. I find great satisfaction in that. A large part of what drives me is the ambition to become a better painter.

JENNY AITKEN: Oil painter,, @jennyaitkenart (Instagram and Facebook)