Jenny Oldknow, artist in watercolour and oils

rush-2Jenny Oldknow’s cheery grin and girl-next-door kind of attitude has won her legions of fans in the painting world.

Not only are her animal paintings snapped up in galleries across the country but her regular workshops, classes and demonstrations also fill up fast.

It is her natural ability to make everyone feel at ease and the fact other artists can resonate with the way she works that makes her so popular.

She is so much in demand that it is amazing the Belper mum of three young children finds time to do any painting herself, but behind that laid-back exterior is one tough cookie unlikely to give in to a challenge – and she has had her fair share.

Her first child Thomas was born ten years ago with a severe disability.

Jenny, 39, was already pregnant with his sister Daisy when he was diagnosed at just a few months old and she and her husband Steve had to face up to a complete change of lifestyle.

Her job in accounting was given up along with her hobby of riding and her beloved horses so she could become a full time carer.

“It was obviously a shock and a very difficult time but I don’t think I would have taken up painting professionally if I hadn’t been forced to stay at home. I would have still been in an accountants office somewhere,” said Jenny who it seems can turn any situation into a positive.

Encouraged by her family and friends she used the time she had while the children were sleeping to gain a diploma in drawing and painting from the London Art College via distance learning and then exhibited some of her work on the walls of her local pub, followed by a new gallery in the town.

The animal paintings, that capture the character and soul of her subjects, started to sell and gradually she took on more and more commissions to paint people’s pets.

“They are a mixture of realism and abstraction and it’s that unique combination that my customers love,” explained Jenny.

As you can see from the pictures she hones in on the eyes and then allows the watercolour washes to depict the fur and feathers.

With such attention to detail being key to what she does it seems rather cruel that Jenny has now been diagnosed with an early onset form of Macular Degeneration.
“It has been hard to come terms with but I have accepted it now and I am determined to carry on despite the deterioration in my vision.

“The one thing that inspires me is the natural world and living here on the doorstep of the Peak District provides me with plenty of material.

“I have always painted some landscapes but now I am concentrating on new more abstract, less literal work using oils – with particular focus on the sky and the constantly shifting tones and hues,” she said.

For the moment Jenny’s eyesight still allows her to create her pet portraits and they are taking priority but she says she is excited about the path her condition is forcing her to take.

“It is early days and I will be intrigued to see what people think of it but I believe it is time for me to move my work on to the next stage and I am going to enjoy the challenge.”

Jenny’s work can be seen at her Christmas Open Studio event  on November 29 and 30 at 56 Pinewood Road, Belper. She will have paintings, prints, and cards for sale at the now annual event. There will even be mince pies and mulled wine.

For more details about Jenny and her work go to