Archive for May, 2013


Art review: Jenny Hudson

In 2010 I attended an exhibition  at Blackburn College’s University Centre.  It was the graduation of the latest class of Fine Arts students and I was there to see some real art, something I didn’t often get the chance to do.

Unlike your average gallery, university showings are usually full of people who want to talk about what they’re looking at, rather than browsing with pious silence.  This is why I like them, and why I turned up off a train from Sheffield to invade the halls of this building and go from classroom to classroom, each of which had been turned into a mini studio.

I’ve been on a university art course, so I’ll be the first to say that such places produce a lot of crap.  My field was writing, and I know bad writing.  Many people will probably agree on what I would call bad art, and there was  a modest share on display at the Blackburn exhibit.  But I was glad to see a lot of experimental art, a rough and ready mix of funky stuff, a few pieces featuring Spider-Man which gave me geek-grins, and a number of portraits.

An artist who stood out was Jenny Hudsen née Sumner, who has recently uploaded her portfolio to Redbubble.  A portrait artist from Great Harwood near Blackburn, Jenny has a flair for capturing personality on canvas.

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I’m lucky enough to know Jenny and subjected her to a quick Q&A session this month.  For an artist she is surprisingly grounded and laconically describes herself as “Deadpan.  Realistic.  Recluse.”  Devoid of airs and graces, she recognises the difficulties of being in a creative field.

“[The difficulties are] the same as in any creative profession: lack of demand, lack of audience and huge competition.  There are millions of very talented artists in the world.  Unlike the music industry, for example, there aren’t many people who require or can afford art, and it seems out of reach.  The art world is also an intimidating place for most, and the stigma of pretentiousness that is attached to it doesn’t help.  I try to keep things simple and unpretentious.  Hopefully my work is more accessible than some other forms of contemporary art.”

To Jenny, art is a philosophy.  She is a fan of any medium, as long as it is emotive and touches a nerve.   She says that “[a]s long as people have opinions and questions, art will always be necessary.”

She isn’t afraid to rise to her own challenge either: her portraits burst with character and emotion.

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"Mum 4" - Jenny Hudson

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SAMSUNG

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SAMSUNG

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Jenny told me, “I like the challenge of a portrait.  If the structural drawing beneath the paint isn’t accurate, then the whole piece fails.  It’s personal satisfaction more than anything else, though it is also satisfying when a person recognises themselves or a loved one and remarks on the similarity.  I feel like I’ve done my job correctly.”

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Far be it for this reviewer to define an artist’s job.  This, surely, is subjective and personal.  Open to self-analysis, Jenny didn’t mind being probed about the modest hues in her portraits:

“I think the pale pallette was mostly down to a lack of confidence; as the years have progressed, so has the depth of colour.  These days I think I’ve “found” the style with which I’m most comfortable, and the pallette has become bolder with more contrast.  My most recent painting shows this clearly, when compared to past portraits.  However, I am very influenced by Euan Uglow, who often made his structural pencil marks visible beneath the paint.  I like how this “spells out” how a painting is constructed, and how this is immediately available to the audience.  I think it makes the whole thing less intimidating and more logical to the viewer.”

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DB:  If any artist in history offered to paint your portrait, who would you want it to be and why?

JH:  Euan Uglow.  He kept things simple and analytical, which is what I aim for.  His structural pencil marks were often visible through the paint, which made it easier for the viewer to “understand”.  Part of the the reason why I used to use very thin, pale paint was because of Uglow.  To me, it’s like a writer presenting their research as well as the finished novel, or mathematician showing their “workings” as well as the final solution.  I like people seeing how art is created.

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DB:  Last film you watched?  Last album you listened to? (if not most recent, then favourites)

JH:  I watch several films a day now that we have Netflix!  One of my favourites is still Adaptation [2002, Spike Jonze, Charlie Kaufman].  I watched that again last week. It’s such an hilarious and clever representation of the creative process, and all the self-deprecation and doubt that accompanies it, as well as what can happen under pressure. My music interests change weekly, at the moment it seems to be 90s-00s hip hop!

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DB:  Who or what inspires you most, in life, not just in painting?

JH:  I’m sure this is most peoples’ stock answer, but my Mum. She’s the reason I’m still here.

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Jenny Hudson

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Jenny’s profile and gallery can be found on Rebubble here.

She is also currently taking queries and commissions via her e-mail address, renmus [at] hotmail.co.uk.

— db

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Yesterday, 25th May, was International Towel Day.

I’ve been harping on about this on Facebook for a couple of weeks and I’m quite sure no-one knows what the hell is wrong with me anymore, but that’s because many of them have yet to have their minds and hearts delightfully corrupted by the wondrous “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” series of books, by the late great Douglas Adams.

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For other like-minded ladies and gentlemen, here is a profound explanation of the importance of towels, as found in Chapter 3 of Adams’ work The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:

“A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost.” What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Hence a phrase that has passed into hitchhiking slang, as in “Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.” (Sass: know, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy: really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy.)”

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There are five books in Adam’s original Hitchhiker’s series, and a sixth novel written by Artemis Fowl author Eoin Colfer, which I haven’t read and probably never will.  No disrespect to Colfer, but I have such a close relationship with the original books that any semi-official additions seem distinctly sacriligious.

I’m not the only person who feels this way.  These short, humourous science-fiction novels have brought so much joy to readers that they hold them close to their hearts in the way that only a genuinely funny, insightful author could achieve.  The bittersweet tone of the last two books in particular establishes Adams as a writer with great heart.

So what the hell is this Towel Day all about?

It’s a simple commemoration of the author, who was not only a great writer, but a proponent of environmental protection, technological innovation, as well as a respectful (and erudite) atheist.  Adams died suddenly twelve years ago to widespread grief.   The simple towel, as described above, is as good a mascot as any for his commemoration – not to mention that Adams would no doubt love the silliness of knowing that thousands, maybe millions of people around the world are all walking around with towels…

The dedication is huge.  The official Facebook page has some great stories and photos of people across the globe who are celebrating Adam’s life and work in this uniquely peculiar way:

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chile

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scrabble

Thumbing for spacecraft (https://www.facebook.com/towelday)

 

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Wearing your towel for protection against solar radiation, in Kurdistan, Iraq (https://www.facebook.com/towelday)

 

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Texas – With these towels they do wed! (www.facebook.com/towelday)

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This hoopy frood from Texas already has a ride (www.facebook.com/towelday)

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israel

The answer to Life, the Universe and Everything, from Israel (www.facebook.com/towelday)

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This couple has found the Answer (www.facebook.com/towelday)

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star wars

May 25th is also a Star Wars anniversary, so there are plenty of weird franchise-mixes going on … Stormtroopers celebrate (www.facebook.com/towelday)

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Group celebrations in Argentina (www.facebook.com/towelday)

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A towel as a cape in India (http://imgur.com/6WiQp6T)

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astronauts

Get this – astronauts on the International Space Station know where their towels are! (twitter.com/AstroSamantha)

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Most of these amazing photos are pilfered from the Facebook page, which I expect will keep running each year.  You can also read about the massive support worldwide at the official site.

There are also numerous shots of pets with their towels, so it’s great to see our quadrupedal planetary co-inhabitants joining in the fun (no dolphins yet though).

I also happened to come across this restaurant whilst taking a walk in Leeds yesterday, so I just had to take a photo:

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The 42 restaurant and bar in Leeds, England

A restaurant and bar, prominent at no.42 on a street in Leeds, England

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Why do I care about all this?

Not because I have an interest in towels, or even for the basic pleasures of supporting a much-admired writer and activist.

It’s partly because Adams suffered from crippling low confidence (not to mention writer’s block), as many of us do, but mainly because his books have always managed to make me laught out loud, even on my darkest days.

No other writer else has been able to do that before or since.

—db