OPENING UP: British Kennel Club illustrator and fine artist Jo van Kampen inviting people to her studio as part of Teesdale ArtNet’s open studios event later this month
OPENING UP: British Kennel Club illustrator and fine artist Jo van Kampen inviting people to her studio as part of Teesdale ArtNet’s open studios event later this month

AN internationally-renowned artist, whose work is inspired by her love of animals and the outdoors, is preparing to open up her Teesdale studio to the public for the first time.

Jo van Kampen, who lives in Barnard Castle, is the official illustrator for the British Kennel Club. She also specialises in painting gundogs, with birds and wildlife also featuring heavily in her portfolio.

The 49-year-old’s love of art began as a schoolgirl while growing up in North Yorkshire.

She said: “As an eight-year-old I used to buy Archibald Thorburn books. I used to copy the pictures out of the book. I used to love to sit and draw. I’m also inspired by Cecil Aldin.

“When I was 18, I started making a living by travelling round photographing people’s horses and painting them.”

Her status as a professional grew when she was signed as an artist for Sally Mitchell, a leading publisher of country prints.

In 2008, she was then headhunted by the British Kennel Club and became its official illustrator. She was asked to produce about 280 separate colour illustrations which took her almost three years to complete. She is still required to do this as new breeds are added to the KC register.

Nowadays, her success is mainly due to the popularity of her privately commissioned works of art which are carefully crafted using pen and ink or oil paints.

Northallerton Heating

She said: “There are hundreds of original pieces of my work all over the world. 50 per cent of my work must go to America. A lot goes to Sweden and Belgium. I’ve also sent work to Australia and Dubai.

“My work is traditional. Commission work can get quite emotional. There are a lot of people who have lost their dogs and are upset. I’ve had people tell me that my paintings help them with the grieving process and that it is the nearest thing to having them back. That makes me feel like I am doing some good. It is not just about painting dogs. It is what it means to people and that is a really big thing.”

Ms van Kampen will be opening the doors of the purpose built studio at her home in Green Lane to the public as part of an open studios event which is being organised by TeesdaleArtNet (TAN), a community organisation which supports and connects artists across the dale.

The event will include a series of art workshops and will run from Friday, October 19, to Sunday, October 28. Four bus tours will offer greater access to the studios.

She said: “I love coming in my studio and painting everyday. I am looking forward to opening up my studio to people. It will be good for people to see that I am here. Instead of me just being here by myself painting it will be nice to show people the working studio.”

TAN’s open studios event coincides with an exhibition at The Witham which will be unveiled on Thursday, October 11, at 5.30pm. The artists’ work will be on display in the main gallery as well as in the Dispensary Gallery.

For more information visit www.jovankampen.com or www.teesdaleartnet.org.uk.