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.

jenny1

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.”

jenny2

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