Jean Haines travelled many roads. She observed the many hues of nature, experienced a variety of cultures and the colours of human emotion. She allowed herself to be tutored and moulded by her own life experience. Then there were mentors, like the lady in China, who would teach Jean so much about brush control. Every aspect of her life contributed to the clarity and vibrancy of her watercolour paintings.
Jean Haines is the recipient of Anthony J Lester Art Critic Award, 2009 and Frank Pullen Award, 2006. Her first book, ‘Colour and Light in Watercolour’, was published in 2010. Her DVD, ‘Amazing Ways with Watercolour’ launched in 2011 has received rich accolades from all over the world.
What inspired you to passionately embrace watercolour as a medium of expression?
I love the freedom of working in watercolour. The pigments interact in an exciting way that no other medium can, creating magical effects that are often impossible to reproduce. It holds a unique quality that thrills me each time I pick up my brush. I feel watercolour does gain not only attention but also admiration although the main belief is that it is the most difficult of mediums to master or control. This, for me, is part of the thrill of working with it. I don’t want to control it. I wish to work with it as my friend.
As a young artist in your formative years were you particularly influenced by anyone’s work?
When I was very young I was given huge crayons to work with by my Grandmother. I was fascinated by the images I could create with them. My tiny child’s hands could hardly hold the large fat sticks of colour but I just wouldn’t put them down. I loved creating and at this time in my life I think the biggest influence on my art was the word ‘escape’. I painted whatever it was I couldn’t have or own. My parents had separated and I was brought up by my elderly Grandparents who had little time for a child. Through my art I had colourful and happy adventures. As an adult, I certainly have a life many would wish for as I now travel all over the world to share my techniques. I continue to meet artists of all levels and I am constantly inspired by them as much as they are inspired by me. Art is a circle of passion that has no end in sight. It continues to grow and consistently will.
The subjects of your paintings are richly diverse. How do you choose a topic to depict on canvas? Is it a more spontaneous process? Are you partial to any particular topic than the others?
In a way, I feel like a butterfly when painting. Flitting from one flower (subject) to another as I find it difficult to stay still for long. My birth sign is Gemini, the sign of the twins. I feel this influences my artistic spirit in who I am and what I choose to paint. I can be caught in capturing the softness of a spring flower and aim to paint it with delicacy in my results but then, in contrast, I can also be carried away with a strong subject that is full of drama. My selection and strength of colours and technique will change accordingly. I paint what I feel like painting, rather than be dictated to by what is the most popular as a selling subject. This means I can be free to paint as and when I want to, putting my heart into my brushstrokes. I paint anything and everything from still life, animals, portraits and landscapes. There is no limit to what I approach as a subject due to my technique which involves working directly with colour as I see it, rather than from preliminary sketch which I never use.
Through your travels to many distant lands, you were privy to many hues of life. How all these experience helped in shaping the artist in you? From your many journeys do you have any fond memory that you would like to share with the readers?
I am so fortunate to have lived in Europe, Asia and the Middle East as well as having the opportunity to travel extensively. Each country I have visited has caught my heart in a different way. I became strongly affected after studying Chinese Brushwork from a master living in China. Then I fell in love with painting portraits whilst living in Dubai. The faces there were full of character and each day I would see someone I just had to capture in my favourite medium. I have many fond memories but I am still in awe of the artists who create the most amazing work with very little training or possession of expensive art equipment, mainly because they cannot afford any. They have always painted with whatever they can and their hearts have led them to beautiful results that leave the viewer in awe. There are many talented artists who will never be discovered which is one of the saddest part of the art world.
Describe your feelings when you are completely one with your work, your artistic creation.
When I paint there will come a time in any given composition when the whole world disappears. At that moment it is just me and my paper with colour flowing freely across it. Sometimes in my creations subjects will appear as if by magic and I find myself mesmerised as to what will happen next. Often with watercolour, there is no knowing exactly what the result will be as it will work, interact and dry leaving incredible patterns. Each one can be a huge blessing in an art piece. I am enthralled by these moments and feel very blessed to live as I do, an artist’s life.
Your cityscapes revolve around Venice. What is the pulse of a city that strikes you most as an artist? Do you have a personal favourite series of all your creations?
I constantly have new favourite landscapes to paint because I am travelling all the time but Venice holds a magic that no other city can. Many artists over the centuries have fallen in love with the atmosphere and architecture there. It is impossible to leave without wanting to return and my series of Venice paintings have become very popular over the years. It was also the subject choice for the cover of my first book ‘How to Paint Colour and Light in Watercolour’. For this reason alone it will always hold a special meaning for me. But last year I visited India for the very first time in my life and I have been touched by the country in a way that I know I never will be again. When I saw the Taj Mahal for the first time tears rolled down my cheeks but I had no idea I was crying. When I looked around me other people had reacted in the same way. This truly is, as a place, beauty on earth that touches the soul. Often without you even knowing it has. This will be my new favourite subject, I know.
You have travelled far and wide and if asked to choose your favourite destination from those myriad places you have visited and revisited what would it be? And of the culinary delicacies that have touched your palate is there one that stands out from the rest?
My favourite place on earth has to be where Spring is beautiful, Summer full of fragrant flowers, Autumn full of Golds and Winters that tempt my brush to use violet more often. I have no one place. My heart is my home.
Favourite food is also a very difficult question to answer because I love all food. Having lived abroad and been invited to so many homes for meals I learned never to be rude and refuse what was offered, knowing that the host may have spent ages preparing the meal. In many countries, it is an honour to be invited as a guest. So I have eaten snake soup, birds nest soup, jellyfish, fruit bat and many more delicacies that once in my life I wouldn’t have dreamt of touching. And surprisingly I enjoyed them.
Watercolour as a medium thrives on the vibrancy of colour that you so successfully incorporate on canvas to recreate the mood. How do you ensure that this joy you receive out of your work remains fresh day in and day out?
If we tried to imagine a world without colour it would seem impossible. Try looking at your favourite scene and seeing it only in black and white. Then imagine you are going to paint it but only in the exact shades that you see. Now place yourself in a room full of thousands of artists all painting exactly the same scene in exactly the same colours. Next, take yourself to an exhibition room, housing all these identical paintings and you now have to walk around and look at them all. Hundreds and thousands of paintings, all looks exactly the same. You would probably become bored very quickly. When I paint I try to avoid selecting the identical colours I see in my subjects. Instead, I opt for vibrant shades as a contrast. My white sheep, for example, become colourfully, rainbow animals. My scenes of Venice have hues of bright orange or gorgeous pink across the buildings. I rarely paint grey or dull colours as they don’t appeal to my nature which is cheerful and bright. So my personality flows into my work.
If you are to advice young minds who are chasing their own dreams in their chosen fields what would that be?
My advice to any young artist is always ‘Be brave enough to be yourself’. Try to share a little part of who you are in your work. If you are someone who loves the bold strong colour, let that be the main part of your compositions. But if you prefer peaceful quiet let your watercolours show the viewer of your finished pieces that you do. When we paint we tell a story but with colour. Not one person could watch an event and describe it in the same way as someone else, and this difference is what makes us unique. Never try to copy or follow where someone else has already been. Have your own adventure in art, inspire and allow others to follow you instead. Be brave and unique!
Jean Haines prefers…
My favourite book? I love reading and I couldn’t be without a book given to me when I lived in France about the life and times of an artist, a magical watercolourist called Madame Blanche Odin. Her way with the medium was incredible, painting flowers that sang with life. This has been the most precious gift in my life apart from an art book given to me by my Chinese mentor which contains all her sketches from when she studied art years ago. It is so beautiful and I treasure it.
My favourite music is Celtic and I play it often in my workshops. I am from Wales originally; the ‘Land of Song’ and I adore singing. I always have and always will.
Find more of her work at her website.