I spent a wonderful couple of hours chatting to Jonathan at his home and studio recently. What came across crystal clear, was the passion and empathy he feels for the local landscape. Jonathan grew up in the area and remembers long walks out with his Father, a real nature lover. As a boy, he loved to play out in the mud and swim in The Ray with friends, the estuary he describes as 'the most special place'.
Jonathan and his wife Jeanette, have always lived in the local area. Jeanette is a highly skilled textile artist and of course, an art lover. I discovered that Jonathan and Jeanette had a joint exhibition in Southwold some time ago, her beautiful textiles were displayed in their home alongside Jonathan's paintings. The two raised their family here and now have a host of grandchildren which they have a huge affection for. Jonathan taught for many years at a local secondary school and was in charge of the Arts Faculty. It was a very demanding job but he loved it and particularly the creative side of teaching. It was when he took early retirement to focus on his daily art practice that his work gained strength and he found his true voice as an artist. 'The continuity',' he says, 'the daily connection with the work, is vital'. Over the years his work has changed through experimentation and exploration.
Jonathan talked of his love of Constable and Turner in the early days, but in recent years, the artist Kurt Jackson has really inspired him. He witnessed Jackson's work first hand at an exhibition which really had an effect on Jonathan, he later got to meet and talk to the artist at book signing in Canterbury. Both artists share a love of sketchbooks and Jonathan has many, he showed me a shelf full! Flicking through them, what struck me was the interesting range of marks, some loose and gestural, others controlled which he uses to express the landscape. The sketchbooks he also uses to create ideas for formats and to inform the paintings back in the studio .
Whilst many artists have struggled both creatively and commercially during lock down, Jonathan has found himself busier than ever. He is represented by 14 galleries all over the UK and overseas, including Portugal and soon to be Australia. The gallery in Chelsea, where he has exhibited for many years, has shipped out Jonathan's paintings all over the world from the USA to Japan. In the UK, he has work in Wales, Somerset, Suffolk and Norfolk, however, exhibiting locally is still very important to him. Jonathan has been part of The Two Tree Gallery since it's beginning and he says together with the studio and the estuary it forms 'the perfect triangle'. The gallery provides a link with him and community and is a place where he can sell his work at affordable prices.
I was interested to discover what it's like to be represented by a gallery and Jonathan was very open. He has come to know some of the gallery owners well over the years and they have become, he says 'like friends'. All the galleries do charge commission but that's something he has no problem with; their overheads are huge and they take control of the marketing and shipping of work.
As well as gallery representation, Jonathan also works on private commissions which can take weeks to complete. Clients will visit his studio and the process of planning and talking through the painting he says 'offers a different experience from buying through gallery'. Clients often revisit the studio to see the painting growing and developing.
Most of the canvases in Jonathan's studio at present though are work he is preparing for The Leigh Art Trail which he takes part in every year. This year the trail will be running from 4th - 19th September so not that far away! It gives local art lovers the chance to see Jonathan's larger scale work which he exhibits in Moylan's on Leigh Road. The larger scale paintings allow Jonathan to make freer, more gestural marks, which is something he enjoys. We discussed some of the marks in his paintings and I was fascinated to discover that Jonathan uses everything from sticks to toothbrushes to apply his paint! He loves to experiment with marks and encourages any artists starting out to explore and play with different tools to develop their technique and style.
So what about the future? Jonathan plans to continue the 'wonderful journey of self discovery' that he's on; continuing to paint and sketch from the landscape that means so much.
Congratulations to Jane Seabrook who was the winner in our subscribers giveaway! Jane will be the owner of the beautiful signed print Jonathan is holding at the top of this article.