In the Studio with Jenny Danby

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13In our upcoming Spring Exhibition we will be showing work by Bristol based Artist Jenny Danby, a newcomer at Churchgate Gallery, Porlock. We asked Jenny to tell us more about her work, and the inspiration and influences behind her paintings.


Jenny’s route to becoming an artist was through graphic design, the subject she studied at college. However, the commercial nature of graphics was something she found unappealing, and painting, something she’d always had a passion for, was a greater draw for her.


14“I loved looking at paintings, and still do, it seems to me such an exciting area of human endeavour, deeply personal, incredibly difficult, risky, exposing, intense…..I wanted to be part of that and bought some oil paints.”

Jenny initially began by making studies of objects, painting in a representational way. However, her approach started to develop and change, with more emphasis on colour, tone and space, elements that Jenny sees as “the challenge that draws me on.” and“the most interesting elements of painting”.

15Jenny became more serious about her painting career 5 years ago, when she had her work exhibited in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition for the first time. Since then she has exhibited widely in the UK, and also teaches.

At first glance Jenny’s paintings may look minimalist and simple, with domestic objects and large expanses of colour. However, each painting has a delicate balance. No element is out of place, and the spaces are very deliberate and as vital to the composition as the objects themselves.

Jenny often incorporates stencilled or freehand text into her paintings, predominantly as a visual element rather than to convey information. This use of text is reminiscent of graphic design and provides an interesting counterpoint to Jenny’s very ‘painterly’ style.


17The items Jenny paints are carefully chosen. Some are favourite possessions that appear in many paintings-

“I have my favourites. A coffee mug from the Bernard Leach studio in St Ives has appeared in many paintings, and another mug with a half yellow glaze and a raspberry scratched into it- hand made by a friend

Others are items she has collected for their shape, colour and function, and how they look in relation to other objects.

“I like the things I paint to be beautiful but unpretentious. They need to work together in a painting too, so they can have a harmonious conversation.”

Some objects become regular features in paintings simply because they have something indefinable and fascinating about them , or a perfect balance of colour shape and texture.

“A jug I bought recently on ebay has already featured twice – it has perfect ‘jugness’ to it, including blue stripes.”


18Despite colour and composition being so visually dominant in Jenny’s work, close observation of the objects is still important, and Jenny always works from life to try and capture the ‘essence’ of the objects she’s painting.

The still life paintings are always from life – it feels very personal and intimate to sit a few feet from the objects and see what they offer up to be painted!”


The act of painting itself, with its element of chance and the characteristics of the medium is something that is also central to Jenny’s work.


19“I like the painting to evolve on the canvas – the history of mistakes and changes become part of the finished work. I have been asked to make copies of my paintings but its impossible to replicate the history of trial and error and it never works.”

Despite sometimes painting figurative work, still life is the subject Jenny always comes back to- Jenny describes herself as first and foremost “a painter of ‘things’!”

For Jenny, the versatility and practicality of the still life have an enduring appeal. By using the objects as“vehicles for exploring colour relationships, tone and composition” she takes a very traditional subject matter, and breathes new life into it.  It is a subject that has limitless possibilities, and is something Jenny sees herself continuing with-


21“Thinking about the next painting is always exciting. The exploration of colour, form and space through painting still life will continue to engage me, and I want to bring more people into my work; after all, people are ‘things’ too.”

You will be able to see new paintings by Jenny Danby in our upcoming Spring Exhibition, from the 29th March to the 25th April.

Coming up next week we will have an interview with Dee Nickerson, another of the artists showing in out Spring Exhibition. If you would like to receive email notifications of new posts, scroll to the bottom of this page and find the ‘follow’ button.

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Originally posted March 11th 2015

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