Artist Jane Cannon’s Kentish landscapes
- Credit: Archant
Charting change in rural Kent, Jane Cannon is inspired by the landscape around her. Words by: Diana Crampton. Pictures by Manu Palomeque
Jane Cannon has lived in Kent most of her life and is now based near West Malling in the heart of fruit-growing country; the landscape and agricultural workings are themes for her art.
“I am completely at home in the country, the more rural and peaceful a place, the happier I am,” she says. While acknowledging the excitement of London and enjoying visits there, she has never wished to live in the metropolis.
Jane went to Medway College of Design in Chatham and subsequently got a degree from Falmouth School of Art, now the University of Cornwall. Armed with a PGCE from Leicester Polytechnic, she has taught on and off since then, to adults and in schools.
She worked for five years with the RSPB as a field teacher, based on the Isle of Grain, where her work included pond dipping, which fed into her interest in the natural world.
Jane is primarily a landscape artist and says: “I love the variety and the vernacular architecture, the patterns in the landscape from fruit growing. I search out glimpses of Kent’s rural past in the orchards and hop gardens, but I am also aware that landscape is not immune to change, so I have also included things like polytunnels.”
Jane’s studio is in her garden (a “fantastic, slightly scruffy, working space)” and from here she produces work which has been exhibited widely throughout the county, in Gillingham, Bexleyheath, Maidstone and you can see her at group shows such as the Kent Painters’ Group.
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Jane’s chosen medium is mostly oil at the moment and she wants to do plein air pieces too. “Oil is perfect for covering the canvas or board as quickly as possible and it also allows you to scrape away mistakes. It’s an easier medium for mixing tones; I have struggled with acrylic as the paint tone changes as it dries. I also love charcoal and am experimenting with chalk pastel.”
Jane works on canvas for the larger pieces and board for sketches, a gesso board which she primes herself, almost always with white. “I like areas where you can paint thinly and let the white show through, but sometimes you can get a tone which is too dark.”
She works on different sizes: a recent commission was 2m10 x 1m. “Sometimes seeing a landscape in front of you, it seems right to paint it large.”
Jane is fascinated by clouds. “They change all the time, so I do quick oil washes to capture this and I am aware of the sun. I try to depict the translucent nature of clouds through overlay, washes or glazes of thin paint. Most of all it’s as much about looking carefully, and discerning the subtle changes of colour and tone.”
Does Jane have a ritual for preparing for new projects? “I am not terribly organised, I’m forgetful, so I write ‘to-do’ lists and I do a lot of thinking in the early hours of the morning,” she admits.
There is no concentration on just one piece, rather Jane will work on several at a time “to spot and swap”, so her studio if full of lots of unfinished pieces. “I might keep a piece until the next year to finish, for example when there is a cherry blossom.”
I ask what she feels is the most exciting work she has created. “That’s tricky. I think it is usually the one I am about to do. I still feel I am striving to achieve, but that keeps you motivated.
“In the spring I enjoy painting cherry orchards, but I have also recently been painting on Romney Marsh, which is exciting for the flat landscape and enables me to concentrate on the wonderful light there.”
Jane’s advice to a young student is “make the most of art college by doing the most you possibly can; be endlessly curious and if possible don’t be too cynical. You need honesty and sincerity in your work, that’s what you should strive for. Art gives you so much more in your life to be aware of.”
Get in touch
There is a small exhibition in Plaxtol at the Roughway Farm Oast, from 21-28 January 2017: ring Jane for the details on 01732 842533. Studio visits are also welcome by appointment.