Meet Buxton artist Louise Janetta

Louise Jannetta putting the finishing touches to a textured painting of a woodland scene

Louise Jannetta putting the finishing touches to a textured painting of a woodland scene - Credit: Archant

Mike Smith meets Buxton artist Louise Jannetta

Shimmering Birch (textured oils on canvas)

Shimmering Birch (textured oils on canvas) - Credit: Archant

The Louise Jannetta Gallery in Buxton is a dazzling kaleidoscope of works of art, both completed and in progress. Each finished painting is the result of many weeks, often months, of painstaking mark-making, involving the preliminary creation of an image in relief by the intricate and delicate placement on the canvas of narrow threads and tiny pieces of fabric, followed by multiple applications of oil paint, with each layer being allowed to dry before the next layer is added.

Reacting to my appreciation of a painting called ‘Shimmering Birch’, Louise said: ‘The silver birch holds onto the summer by clinging onto its yellow and ochre leaves, which capture and reflect the autumn sunlight as it moves through the woodland. Because my picture has been created in relief, the glazed and raised surfaces of the individual leaf forms in the painting appear to shimmer as the light changes and moves across the picture.’

True to Louise’s word, as the sunlight came in through the window of her studio and fell onto the picture that had caught my eye, the painting took on a life of its own, imitating nature in the most convincing way, with the play of light on the textured surface of the picture mirroring the effect of light moving through the woods.

The trees and the woodland near Louise’s home in Buxton are a constant source of inspiration for her. Much as Monet painted over 30 versions of the façade of Rouen Cathedral, with each version capturing the appearance of the building in a different atmospheric condition, she returns to the woodlands for inspiration in different seasons and at different times of day. After making sketches and taking photographs in situ, she uses these as references when she begins patiently building up her multi-layered pictures in the studio.

Dancing Colours (original dry point intaglio plate, metal foiled card and oils)

Dancing Colours (original dry point intaglio plate, metal foiled card and oils) - Credit: Archant

This approach leads to some wonderful results. A picture called ‘Autumn Glory’ depicts copper beech trees in all their autumnal splendour, with the gloss of the oil paint allowing each raised leaf to cast its own shadow, whilst another picture convincingly recreates the experience of kicking up autumn leaves as you walk through a woodland floor. One of her paintings captures the way that the colours of a grey sky are echoed in the woodland undergrowth and a picture called ‘A Thousand Words’ is a haunting image that cleverly achieves its effect by being entirely white.

It is obvious from these examples that the techniques that Louise uses have allowed her to create images that represent the many ways in which trees and woodlands show their beauty. Identifying further reasons for employing her time-consuming methods, Louise said: ‘Woods and trees are often used to represent women as the givers of life and to signify the conduit between the underworld and the heavens. I like to think that the painstaking techniques I use and the lacelike structure of my woodland pictures emphasize the intricate nature of craftwork and the often undervalued work traditionally done by women, including motherhood.’

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Louise learned to work in a patient and meticulous way in the two decades that she spent in her father’s business as a restorer of antique chairs, where she came to appreciate the need to use the best materials available – a valuable lesson that she has carried over into her work as an artist. When deciding to join the family business, Louise had rejected the offer of a place at St Martin’s School of Art, even though she had just completed a foundation course at Colchester School of Art, where she was taught printmaking by Richard Bawden, son of the well-known artist Edward Bawden.

The showroom of her father’s restoration business included a display of paintings by many of the leading East Anglian artists, including Edward Bawden. Louise also exhibited some of her own work and found it was well received by customers. For the last seven years, since leaving the restoration business, she has been creating and exhibiting her work at her studio-gallery in Buxton. Throughout that time she has been developing new techniques and extending the range of her subject matter. Determined to create her own forms of expression, she largely ignores current fashions in the art world but manages nevertheless to produce work that appeals to a wide audience.

A Thousand Words (paper and threads on watercolour paper)

A Thousand Words (paper and threads on watercolour paper) - Credit: Archant

As well as making images created by applying oil paint and glazes to pictures made up of thin threads and tiny fabric fragments, Louise has perfected the technique of intaglio printing. This involves making incisions into the surface of a metal plate in order to leave sunken areas to which ink can be applied. A particularly eye-catching result of this technique is a dazzling picture called ‘Dancing Colours’ in which the colours in a woodland scene almost dance before the eyes. Louise has also learned to make ‘mixed paper’ images in which various papers and threads absorb paint to different degrees.

In addition to her pictures of trees and woodland, Louise has created a wide variety of other pictures. These include ‘April’, a beautiful and penetrating portrait of a young woman, and a landscape painting where river, road and rail compete for space in a narrow Derbyshire dale. She has also painted a series of paintings inspired by the streetscapes of Buxton, not only those that are well-known, such as the Georgian terraces of Hall Bank, but also the lesser-known streets of the town, described by Louise as the ‘hidden gems of Buxton’, including the street located immediately behind her studio.

Nor is Louise’s work confined to representational images: one shimmering mixed-media picture called ‘Fisherman’s Trophy’ is based on the imagined surface of a mermaid’s tail, whilst another work is a watercolour entitled ‘Earth Circles’ in which rhythmical wave patterns suggest movement in much the same way as a sense of dynamism is conveyed in Bridget Riley’s ‘Op-art’ paintings.

An unexpected recent addition to her portfolio is a series of sculptures in which androgynous figures are used to represent the various influences, facilitators and constraints that play a part in our development as human beings. As this work shows, Louise is always brimming with new ideas. She says, ‘I have no problems with inspiration, only with finding the time to put my ideas into practice.’

April (oils on canvas)

April (oils on canvas) - Credit: Archant

In fact, driven by her inexhaustible need to create, Louise devotes a huge amount of time to her art. Despite the painstaking methods she uses, her output is prolific, allowing her to follow her own whims, fulfil commissions and supply the many galleries where her work is exhibited.

Louise is the mother of two teenagers who are still in full-time education, and she herself is about to return to education at the age of 54, having secured a place on a degree course in Fine Art at Manchester Metropolitan University. It is this desire to carry on learning and developing that has made her so successful as an artist who creates images that have as much life as the scenes and ideas they depict.

Louise’s Christmas Exhibition at the Louise Jannetta Gallery and Studio can be visited on Saturdays in November and over the Christmas period between 10am and 4pm and at other times by appointment (24 Dale Road, Buxton, SK17 6NL Email: Tel: 01298 214267 Mobile: 07931 821191). Her work, including limited edition prints, can be viewed on and at the Vermilion Gallery, Knutsford; Fletcher Gate Fine Art, Nottingham; Cloud Gallery, Chichester, Brighton, Worthing and Horsham; St John Gallery, Ashbourne; The Picture House, Padiham and Gallery in the Gardens, Buxton.

River, Road and Rail (oils on canvas)

River, Road and Rail (oils on canvas) - Credit: Archant

Earth Circles (watercolour)

Earth Circles (watercolour) - Credit: Archant

Mindful (sculpture using metal armature and air dry clay)

Mindful (sculpture using metal armature and air dry clay) - Credit: Archant