How Jill fell for the dale landscape
Jill Campbell was inspired to take up painting after moving to Teesdale 17 years ago and falling in love with the drama and beauty of the landscape. Most of her work is based on Cockfield Fell where she regularly walks. Jill graduated from the University of Sunderland with a first class degree in fine art and has since exhibited throughout the UK, including the Royal Academy Summer Show 2019 and 2020, Royal Birmingham Society of Artists Prize Exhibition, the Ferens Open and the New Light Art Prize Exhibition. She is also a member of the Teesdale Art Network and Leeds Fine Artists.
Does your love of painting stem from childhood, or is it something you discovered later in life?
Since I was a child, I have always loved making things, drawing and painting and I studied art at A level. I went on to study law at university but throughout my life I have always found time for art.
As with many artists, you enjoyed a different career in earlier years. What prompted your to return to art?
After graduating I was a solicitor for several years but when we moved to Teesdale 17 years ago I had taken time out to spend renovating our home in Lynesack.
I was so inspired by the beauty of the landscape here that I started to paint again.
I enjoyed it so much I decided to make a real go of it and in 2008 I started a degree in fine art at Sunderland University with the aim of eventually working as a full time artist.
How did you find university life when you studied fine art at Sunderland?
I enjoyed it. It was hard work and quite challenging as I had to really question the way I painted, undoing bad habits and starting all over again.
It was the exposure to different styles and ways of working that helped me to gain confidence and develop my own style.
How would you describe your style; which other artists inspire you – and who is your favourite?
I’ve always been interested in abstraction and I wanted to use the landscape where I live as a source of ideas.
I am very interested in the work of Peter Lanyon, who was a member of the St Ives Group, and also the work of Barbara Rae.
In my abstract expressionist paintings I like to explore the interplay between the reality and perception of landscape.
I use elements of what I see and combine these with my imagination to create my paintings which celebrate the wonderful Teesdale landscape.
When did you first come across Cockfield Fell and what makes it such a special place?
I first encountered this landscape 17 years ago when I moved to Lynesack with my husband who has family in the North East.
This was the first time I had seen the Teesdale and Weardale landscape and I was blown away by its drama and beauty.
It was actually this experience that made me want to start painting again. So I am delighted to be able to draw attention to this part of the country through my art.
I spend many early mornings on Cockfield Fell walking the dog in all weathers. The ever-changing light and weather providing a continual source of material to work on.
I think that the Fell is a bit of a hidden treasure and very much underappreciated.
What I most like about the Fell is its strange, other worldly quality.
Its abstract shapes are created by early morning shadows and framed by big dramatic skies. Its pools, pathways, mounds, dips and curves are my motifs, these guide the composition of my paintings.
Do you have a favourite painting that you have completed – or are you always looking forward to the next one?
Well, to be honest I do have favourites – particularly the one I showed at The Royal Academy Summer exhibition last year, Fell 6, which I thought was so atmospheric. But I always enjoy starting a new one and hoping it will be the next favourite.
For the last two years your work has been included in the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition – how did that come about?
The competition is open to everyone and applications are submitted in the early part of the year. There are thousands of applications made by artists from all walks of life including the Royal Academicians.
From a shortlist of 4,000, about 1,000 artists are selected and the exhibition starts in June.
I was lucky enough to be selected 2019 and in March this year I was thrilled to hear that my painting Fell SkyLand 5 had been shortlisted.
Then lockdown happened and I thought that was it. However, in August I received an email out of the blue saying they were opening in October and, to add to the excitement, an email mix-up meant I only got one day’s notice of the deadline for delivering my painting for the final judging.
In September I heard my painting had been selected and I was so lucky to be able to go down to see it on varnishing day when there is a special private opening just for the artists.
The exhibition had to be closed again in November for this second lockdown and whether it will reopen for January is uncertain. At least it managed to open for a few weeks.
How have the events of 2020 impacted/influenced your art?
As you can imagine it has not been easy. In March I had six exhibitions planned around the country and was also really looking forward to opening my studio and exhibiting at The Witham as part of the Teesdale Art Network 2020 open studios event.
Overnight everything was cancelled and the future looked really uncertain.
At first, I felt very demoralised and it was difficult to find the motivation to paint but I managed to keep a painting routine going and am pleased to have started work on a new Fell series which I am really excited about.
When things eased a bit during the summer, I was able to physically show work at The Blue Tree Gallery, in York.
Overall, it is really difficult to plan anything at the moment but I do have an exhibition tentatively lined up for next Easter at the Watermark Gallery in Harrogate.
I have certainly had to rethink how to approach things in the future and instead of physical exhibitions I am concentrating on selling work online through different galleries or direct.
How can people find out more about your work?
I have a website www.jillcampbell.info which I regularly update and this has details of where I am selling my work and my social media sites and I can be contacted directly jillcampbellart @gmail.com.