Meet Gillingham artist Janet Darley
- Credit: Archant
Bold, stylised yet atmospheric depictions of Kent scenery characterise the work of Gillingham artist Janet Darley
Janet Darley has been living and teaching art in Kent for 40 years. Her studio is an art space and dining room/conservatory at her home in Gillingham. She is happy to be in the countryside and has never wished to live or work in London.
Educated at Chatham Grammar School for Girls, Janet then went on to Medway College of Art and subsequently gained a teaching diploma from Christchurch at the Medway Campus.
Currently she teaches a group at home, but also works for Kent County Council Adult Education. Her teaching, however, takes her into primary and secondary schools and at the time of our speaking together, she had been working on sculpture, which she also practices.
For October, Janet had been working on a theme of inclusion for Black History Month at Brompton Academy.
Janet says she paints “because I have to. It’s like a compulsion really. If I don’t paint on one day, I don’t feel mentally right.” There is no routine to her painting because of her workshop commitments, but she is so keen that she may be found in her dressing gown, ‘just doing a little bit.’ She can work for up to six hours a day, but at eight hours, she comments, “you might spoil it”.
Generally Janet works on two pieces at a time, usually 40 x 50 cm watercolour paper, landscapes, seascapes, flowers and natural forms. Sometimes when she is teaching, she might do smaller works, even postcards.
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The process of getting the work on paper begins with a sketch, often en plein air, or she may work from photographs taken by her husband.
There is underpainting to begin, in plain watercolour and then Janet will work in gouache on top, using contrasting colours against each other so that some parts of the landscape come forward and some recede.
Her technique is very effective, as on a close inspection, the works are made up of flat stretches of the colour. “I’m quite a perfectionist. Towards the end I get my husband to photograph the work and look at on the computer.
“Some parts are detailed and have to be scrutinised. But there are the larger areas which are flat. The watercolour and gouache are very versatile and not many people use this, so you are ahead of the game and it creates a bit of interest.”
Janet is always on the lookout for subject matter. “We might go to Seasalter and I’ll see how something might look. I go walking. I have to see it, I could never paint what I haven’t seen. Something might just grab me and it could be quite ordinary but the way the shadows form might make me see how it would look in a painting.
A work can take up to a month, possibly 90 hours, as Janet paints every day, starting from two or three postcard-size sketches, “just to get the feel.”
What is Janet’s most exciting work? “Probably ‘The Sheppey Crossing from Iwade Village.’ I use the crossing to go to work and one day I spotted a tree-lined country lane in autumn colours; it’s a lovely image and makes me think of the day I saw the colours there.
“I also like Towards North, which The Sunday Times sold for me last year. Often I like them more when they’re gone, although hopefully the one I am doing now is my best thing.”
Robert Delaunay has said that “colour alone is both form and subject,” with which Janet agrees, “because things don’t have a grey line around them. I tend to discourage drawing a line around items in a work.”
If she were to work in just one colour, it would be Prussian blue, because “if you were doing a tonal study, you get a lot of tonal difference.” I add that Prussian blue had been discovered by accident by a German chemist Diesbach in the early 18th century.
It paved the way for economy on blues which had previously been composed of the very expensive ultramarine, made from lapis lazuli, and sourced ‘beyond the seas.’
With art heroes such as Picasso, Hockney, Van Gogh, the Impressionists and Tracey Emin, Janet says she prefers the brighter tints of these to the Old Masters.
Her advice to a young artist is to “experiment until you come up with something you like and that is unique. Experiment with all the media available to you.”
Important words from one who has spent her life teaching and painting.
Get in touch
Janet is hoping to exhibit in the Threadneedle Prize at the Mall Galleries, London, but anyone wishing to see her works in Kent can see these at the Stables Gallery, Hall Place and Gardens, Bourne Road, Bexley DA5 1PQ from 9 January to 7 February 2016. Janet’s works are also on show until 2 January 2016 at St Julian’s Club, Underriver, Sevenoaks TN15 0RX.
For more information about Janet Darley, visit: www.jandarleyabstractart.moonfruit.com or www.janetdarleycontemporaryartist.com. To get in touch, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07966 167840 or 01634 577307 for an appointment.