Jenny Aitken paints on a wave of emotion

jenn_painting_alderneyJenny Aitken is a bright and bubbly woman, brimming, over with passion for life, art and music, but there is also something a little wistful about her.

You can see it in her eyes as soon as she starts talking about the sea. She might be in the room chatting nineteen to the dozen but her soul is somewhere else on the dunes, a cliff side or the beach watching the light reflecting on the water, listening to the crashing of the waves.

The sea is in this artist’s blood and if she could choose to be anywhere it would be on Alderney in the Channel Islands, which she says is her ancestral home.

Her deep love of the coast is strongly reflected in her work and whenever she gets the chance she heads there for inspiration.

That’s not to say that Jenny, 39, doesn’t also cherish her adopted Derbyshire. Her latest work includes scenes from its beautiful rivers, hills and moors and it was here that she gained the confidence to work en plein air.

“I love being outside where ever I am and I love the hills and moors of the Peak District but most of all I have always loved the effects of light on water and each of my paintings is born from strong visual and emotional memories,” she explained

“I am the child of a Forces family so I never really had any firm roots. My father’s family came from Alderney and it was the one place we returned to each year from our travels.

“My best childhood memories revolve around those holidays with sailing, the beach and barbecues. I feel part of the place there – I guess I feel a bit owned by the island.”

Jenny can’t remember a time when she didn’t paint. Both her grandad and great uncle were painters and her mother and father are also artistic.

“I was always encouraged to be creative. I can remember the smell of oil paints from when I was a very small child and knew how to use them long before my peers. My family was one that considered being an artist to be a serious job. There was never any pressure to do anything else.”

Eventually Jenny set off to study fine art at Aberystwyth University and it was there that she met her husband who, with family based in Chesterfield, is the reason she eventually came to this county.

The couple now have two teenage children and a home in Belper, with a sprawling garden and plenty of room for Jenny’s studio.

The second love the artist developed at university was photography and she says it has greatly influenced the way she paints.

“I realise now, looking back, that I was being a difficult young student but I didn’t feel I was learning anything new about painting which is why I was there – so instead I turned to photography,” she said ruefully.

“I am glad I made that decision though because it has really helped me with my composition.

“I have to find exactly the right place to capture the essence of the landscape. What I want is for each painting to tell a story through movement, light and texture.”

It was that tenacity in getting the spot just right that led to Jenny being highly commended in last year’s Buxton Spa Prize competition.

Her stunning painting of the opera house dome from a little known vista in the town won her many plaudits. So popular was the scene that it has been chosen as the cover of this year’s festival brochure.

“I wandered around for ages looking for that view but once I saw it I knew it was the one. The Spa Prize was a very lovely challenge and I had such a lot of fun doing it. I definitely want to take part again.”

Although Jenny considers herself to be pretty much self-taught she says she values the guidance she has gained from talking to other artists. So many people have been encouraging and at different stages helped me explore new ways of working. I am always learning and exploring new ways with paint. That is what I love most about what I do.”

Jenny has a solo exhibition, From River To Sea, at Tarpey Gallery in Castle Donington from April 11-May 16.

For more about her work see http://www.jennyaitkenart.moonfruit.com and for more details about the exhibition go to http://www.tarpeygallery.com

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