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Jan Scott - Derbyshire Artist

Posted Sunday, July 1, 2007

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Jan Scott: Derbyshire Artist: At Home with Brush - or Trowel!

This summer’s Matlock Live Festival provided a feast of performing arts and entertainment - and an opportunity for a local group of artists to exhibit their work to the public.

One of those featured was Holloway artist Jan Scott, whose well executed and refreshingly colourful silk paintings, inspired by memories of an `illuminated landscape’ following a recent trip to South Africa, were exhibited to wide acclaim.

I was so impressed that I contacted the artist with a request to view more of her work, and subsequently accepted an invitation to her studio - where I was even more impressed, in fact, to coign a modern colloquialism - I was gobsmacked! Some people, it would seem, are born with grace and style, flair and imagination, and an innate creative ability which responds instinctively to the senses whenever and wherever they encounter beauty in the natural world, inspiring them to create works of art.

`Everything she does is imbued with an artist's touch'

Jan Scott is such a person; everything she does is imbued with an artist’s touch, and the landscape of her life is enriched by creative vision, evident not only throughout her work in a variety of painting mediums, but also in the physical landscape of her surrounding environment.

With panoramic views across the Derwent Valley, her home and studio at Holloway sit high on a south-facing wooded hillside surrounded by acres of breathtakingly beautiful terraced gardens, each filled with colourful drifts of flowers; meandering pathways climb upward past terraced lawns, with a summer-house, wildlife pond and exotic shrubs and trees along the way. Jan finds lots of inspiration in this hillside paradise and can often be found any time of year with easel, palette and brushes, completely absorbed in her work somewhere amongst the colourful terraces.

Her home and studio are filled with paintings in a variety of media, ranging from portraits in oil on canvas, landscapes in pastel and oils, and arguably her best work - some excellent life studies in watercolour. “I enjoy the challenge of painting people in watercolour – you can’t cheat and if it doesn’t work first time, you start again. I only work with big brushes and love the fresh translucent washes that watercolour gives.”

All bear ample testimony to the fact that Jan Scott is not only an excellent artist with paintbrush, pen or pallet-knife, but also a professionally trained art teacher and design expert who designs and illustrates everything from books and advertising posters, to film sets – and specializes in garden design!

`Jan's garden is a place where art and nature meet and blend harmoniously together'

Jan’s garden is a place where art and nature meet and blend harmoniously together, in fact many of her studies of the local landscape feature scenes from her garden and especially trees, for which she has a passion.

It comes as no surprise to learn that she is an official Tree Warden within Amber Valley Borough Council, although she modestly points out that the appointment is “on a voluntary basis for the parish council”.

It is also no surprise to learn that Jan is a member of the Society of Industrial Artists & Designers, and a former college lecturer in Graphic Design and Fine Art.

Born in London, the only child of an engineer father who was ` a strong trade unionist’, Jan was brought up in Bracknell, Berkshire, and educated at the Ranelagh School.

“I suppose I was always arty. Being an only child meant spending my childhood in solo pursuits, and painting and drawing came naturally. I was good at painting, and top of the year in art at school, although I never felt that I fitted in to a school with such an academic bias”, said Jan, whose early work was mainly with gouache, pastels, and pen & line drawings.

Nevertheless she left with ten O levels and two A levels, and determinedly negotiated a one-year pre-diploma course in art & graphic design at Maidenhead College, and succeeded in gaining admission to Brighton College of Art.

Brighton Art College in the early seventies was typical of it’s generation, with long-haired hippie students leading semi-bohemian lifestyles – and it proved to be a life-changing experience for Jan; it was here in 1972 that she met Dave Scott, a fellow long-haired art student at Salisbury Art College.

“I know it sounds clichéd & corny, but it was love at first sight, and we got married as soon as we’d left college and both got jobs”, she said.

They became the perfect team. She became a graphic designer and book illustrator at Gordon Associates, just off Oxford Street in London, and within a year they came to Derbyshire.

“Dave got a job as a photographer in the high speed and cine department of Rolls Royce in February of 1974, and we got married in June and moved to Derby, where I became a graphic designer with McConnell’s Advertising Agency, and eventually we bought a small house in Denby Village”.

Jan took time out in 1975 to give birth to daughter Kirree, and two years later, to son John, and after becoming a mother, launched her own career:

“I had built up a portfolio of corporate clients and decided to work from home as a Freelance Graphic Designer”, she told me.

Her clients ranged from Unilever to Nottingham Association of Voluntary Organisations; she designed and illustrated the manager’s manual for the British Shoe Corporation, drew maps as a cartographer for Swanston Graphics, and worked as a freelance graphic designer for P S G, the advertising company for Rolls Royce among many others.

With two young children, Jan had little time for leisure and channelled her creative and artistic energies almost exclusively into her work.

“But eventually, when the children were older and at school, I was able to study for a Cert.Ed. and in 1986 became a college lecturer in Graphic Design & Fine Art at Burton-on-Trent Tech. Dave had left Rolls Royce and was a freelance cameraman working for television on programmes including ‘Heart of the Country’, making advertising and educational films and videos for corporate clients such as The British Tourist Authority and Landrover”.

The Scotts moved to their current home at Holloway in 1987 and in 1991 Jan left teaching to focus her artistic talents on providing art direction and design work for her husbands burgeoning career as a lighting cameraman.

The work is extremely variable, from selecting suitable locations, to designing sets, buying props, dressing models, makeup & stylist work, and even painting the pictures used on set. “It’s ideal because it allows me time to paint and work in my garden between jobs”, explained Jan, who took time out to enter – and win - a national painting competition organised by the Mail on Sunday!

“It was a still-life oil painting of an apple in sunlight on the tree, and the judge liked it so much he offered to buy it, but my husband liked it too, so I gave it to him instead”, she laughed.

Dave Scott has filmed on location all over the world, and his name is frequently seen alongside the word,`Camera’ amongst the credits on our television screens or even on the latest Amber Valley promotional DVD!

“We’ve travelled a lot, said Jan, and although I’m never lacking inspiration for my work, I was particularly inspired in South Africa by the quality of light and the luminosity of the landscape”.

Her latest silk paintings are the fruits of that inspiration. Using brush, her chosen mediums of acrylics and inks on stretched silk, accompanied by a variety of fluids such as gum arabic, add strength of colour and yes – luminosity - to her colourful and inspirational series of landscapes!

Her work has been exhibited in Ilkley, Yorkshire, and locally at Gallery 93 in Derby, Ashbourne, Ingleby, Aitch’s Wine Bar in Bakewell, and at the Little London Gallery in Holloway – and her South Africa inspired silk paintings and life studies are currently on display at the Charisma Gallery in Matlock.

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