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This weeks Featured Artist... JONATHAN SMITH



Jonathan is a self-taught painter based in the Yorkshire Dales. He paints exclusively in oils and focusses on Yorkshire and Northumberland landscapes.

His techniques vary according to subject matter but the fragile beauty of light is of great interest as he feels it can turn everything into something worth seeing.

Describe yourself in 5 sentences... " 1. I am a 48 year old self-taught painter from Yorkshire.

2. I have an intense love of the countryside, born of spending most of my time outdoors with my parents, as a child, and then as a dry-stone waller before turning professional.

3. I love painting but also love study and have taught myself natural history, geology and meteorology and bring all these skills into my work.

4. I am quite determined in what I do and love to learn something new, whether about my craft, about the world or about myself.

5. I live in the small market town of Otley, West Yorkshire and draw much of my inspiration from the local moors and woods. "

What gets your creative juices flowing? / How does inspiration come to you? "Inspiration comes from spending time outdoors, walking and sketching. I tend to visit the same places time and again and so often draw my inspiration from different light effects, time of year and atmospheric changes. When I see a familiar scene in an entirely new way because of some alteration to the effect of reflected light, I am compelled to record it and commit it to canvas. I find that direct contact with nature is the truest and most rewarding source of inspiration. But I also enjoy studying the science of painting including chromatic effects, painting techniques etc and find inspiration from such sources."

Why do you create art? " I have always felt compelled to record what I have seen. My deep love of the natural world means that my art is almost a mental offering to nature, to thank her for all the beauty and joy that she provides to me. I find that painting is a bringing together of all the things that interest me – geology, botany, meteorology etc – and combining them in a creative process that I find both stimulating and deeply satisfying. And frustrating at times! "

What has been the highlight of your career so far? " Strange to say that my highlight is still the first sale that I ever made. I have had several exhibitions, appeared on Sky Landscape Artist of the Year and won some prizes but that first sale was so important. It is so difficult to put your work out there into the public domain and the confidence and elation of the first sale was unforgettable. "

What does your dream studio look like? "My dream studio would be a ground floor, light and airy, facing north with a fantastic view over the Yorkshire dales."

Where would you like your art to take you? "I have no ambition to be a “known” artist in the sense of celebrity, which I find to be a toxic part of modern society. I would like my art to continue to sell so that I can continue to keep developing and studying the art that I love. In a sense, I hope to find a virtuous circle where I can continue to keep improving my art and so keep selling so that I can keep working,"

How does your artwork relate to current issues in the world? " I feel that modern society has become detached from the natural world. We all saw how, during the Covid pandemic, contact with nature became incredibly important for people but that seems to have dwindled away as the pressures of our lives have returned. To me, the last painters that really reflected an understanding of the science of landscape and the love of landscape were the Romantic painters, the Barbizon school, the Russian Itinerants and the Impressionists. Since then art seems to have become introspective and urbanised – this is an important function of art but the landscaped has often been overlooked as an important part of the artistic process. I feel that my work can help people connect with their localities – as I mentioned above, most of my work is taken from local scenes and I want to be able to show people that beauty exists everywhere. I would hope that it might inspire people to go out into the natural world or provide inspiration for those that are disconnected by urbanisation or social issues. This then feeds into an awareness of environmental issues that threaten humanity as a whole. "

Does art always have to have a deeper meaning?

 " I think art, for the artist, should always have a deeper meaning, as it prevents the creation of repetitive, tired art. This deeper meaning can be just a love of the artistic process, or of the subject matter but it must be there. For the viewer of that piece of art, I think that to try and attach ‘higher’ meanings can be off-putting and elitist, and lead to the use of esoteric language that excludes whole sections of society. For me, if someone just enjoys my work that is fine with me. " Who/what inspires you? Why?

 " As I mentioned above, in terms of art I am inspired by the Romantic painters of the 19th century, the French Barbizon school, the Russian Itinerants and the Impressionists. Their devotion to the natural world and their attempts to portray that world on the canvas truly inspire me. This then follows that my major inspiration is nature itself and the endless variations of colour, form and texture that she provides for the painter to pick and choose from. In my personal life, my sources of inspiration are my father – a kind, honest and strong human being – and my wife, without whom no art could proceed from me. These things are also the source of joy in my life. "

How would you like to be remembered? " I don’t really care how I am remembered as it wont mean anything to me anyway. I would rather that I knew I had been as good a father, husband, son and friend as I could be. "

What would you say to your younger self? "If I were to speak to my younger self I would let him know that life is not a neat path that is laid out before him. There will be so many twists, turns, dead ends and forks along the way. It can be difficult to choose the path to take but I truly believe that everything happens for a purpose – not in the sense of an organised religion or overpowering deity – but in the sense that as the pattern of our lives plays out, we can always see that decisions we have made – or even mistakes that we have made – laid the foundation for our next layer of life."

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