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Jen Orpin – Artist

Jen was born in the south of England and grew up in the Suburbs of Surrey. She went to Art College to do her art foundation then moved up to Manchester to start her Degree in Fine art in 1993. “I love Manchester so I stayed”. She was lucky enough to join a studio group called Rogue Artists’ Studios in 2000, and has been painting from there with them ever since.

“There are around 85 artists with Rogue and we’re based in a lovely old grade 2 listed Victorian school building on the edge of the city. It’s vast and full of so much character; I love it, it’s my second home.”

How would you define your style?

I am a contemporary landscape painter. My work varies in style and content. I can be as inspired by an urban scene as open countryside. In the last two years I’ve produced work inspired by the west highlands of Scotland, the rundown areas of Gorton in Manchester (where my new studios are located) and the Manchester skyline. I’m currently painting empty motorway landscapes and bridges. I like to continually challenge the way I paint, and different subject matter often forces a change in style. I’m curious to see how a new landscape will stretch me as a painter

What or who is inspiring you right now?

Right now, I’m working on a series of paintings that I started last summer. They are a response to certain car journeys taken now and a response to 70’s childhood nostalgia. As kids we were lifted out of bed early and bundled into the back of the car to avoid the summer holiday rush. The roads are empty, devoid of human presence, even in daylight giving them a feeling of uneasiness. Leaving the edge of the canvas unpainted and my colour palette means that some are reminiscent of old Hipstamatic photos and a time when the summer holidays seemed so hot and endless.

Describe your creative process

My creative process starts with seeing something that moves me, which stays with me; I can almost already imagine it as a painting. I take as many photos as I can back to the studio and sort through each one, cropping and chopping the composition. From here come sketches and then I start preparing my canvas. I will almost always put a ground down to take out the white and then I will grid up in preparation to start to paint. I love using a grid to map out my image; the grids are like my foundations, the architecture of the painting. You can see these grid marks and small crosses as I leave them in as they become a part of my finished piece.

What project of yours has inspired you the most?

This wasn’t so much a project but a small body of work, only 3 paintings, they were included in an exhibition celebrating the 100-year anniversary of women getting the right to vote. I repainted sections of Johannes Vermeer’s famous paintings of women engaged in domestic chores. I replaced the objects of their focus with everyday symbols of female oppression to challenge complacency in regards to the battle for gender equality. It may have ‘come a long way’ but it has much, much further to go.

The Iron Maiden: Housework remains Women’s Work.

Maid in 2008 (the date of the first genetically cultivated blue rose): There is an undeniable and endless pressure on women to improve on or cheat nature

The Looking Glass: a painful and addictive reflection of our (fear of) failure. A constant source of material for negative comparison, which cements low self-esteem and diminishes lust for life. These paintings were sold to a mum of three daughters, she’s going to leave them one each in her will, passing on this important message through the generations.

How do look after yourself mentally and physically?

I try to exercise 3 times a week, I haven’t drunk for a month and I feel great! I have a 2-year-old Patterdale Terrier that keeps me busy! Oh, and my partner is a therapist so that takes care of the mental side of things!

Is there anything in your career that you regret not doing? /regret doing?

I’m not really one for regrets, however, up until 7 years ago I was juggling a full-time job as well as trying to be an artist. There just wasn’t enough time to do both and my art took second place. My regret is that I wished I had given up the full-time job sooner. The last 7 years have afforded me time to develop my practice in ways I never could have before. Time is very precious and I don’t take a minute for granted when I’m in the studio painting.

What makes you nervous?

Going on TV made me the most nervous!

My partner and me are massive fans of the show Sky Arts painting competition and every year she pesters me to apply. The thought has always filled me with dread – so I haven’t. But this year has been all about pushing myself and stepping outside of my comfort zone so I went for it although I didn’t think for a second I’d be accepted. Then three weeks later I got the call inviting me on the show as a contestant. I barely slept leading up to the heat, I was so nervous. Once I started painting, I quickly settled down and actually really enjoyed the whole day. Everyone was lovely and the judges were brilliant. I was chuffed to get on never mind make it into the judge’s top three. It far exceeded my expectations and I’ve had loads of positive comments, new followers on social media and enquiries for commissions as a result.

Oh, and the opening night of a show, every time, no matter how many times you’re in one!

See more of Jen’s work on her instagram @jenorpinpainter & website

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