OXFORDSHIRE comes to life in intricate detail through the paintings of Jill Smith, our latest featured artist.
Born in London but living and painting in Oxfordshire, her “traditional” style makes her landscape paintings instantly recognisable – often the epitome of English life so often popularised through jigsaws and biscuit tins.
But if her portrait of Childrey Pond in the Vale of Oxford looks as quintessentially English as you could get – and a flashback in time to a past century – all is perhaps not quite as it seems.
Although the Downland village close to Wantage has been known for its pond for centuries, by 2005 all was not well, with the village website describing it as a “smelly, muddy puddle with green weed and slime, which even the ducks shunned”.
A major restoration project was needed to restore the pond – and Jill’s portrait certainly portrays the village in all its glory and in the sort of fine detail for which she is perhaps best known.
As an industrial chemist who later moved into IT, she says: “I think my ordered scientific background bleeds through in that my landscapes, flower studies and pet portraits are mostly realistic in style and quite detailed but from time to time I rebel from the traditional to let rip, splash paint about, see what happens and take it from there.”
Only too happy to try new techniques, Jill works in a variety of media from acrylics and oils to watercolours and linocuts and is largely self-taught – supported by attending various evening classes, painting workshops and the membership of local art societies.
“When painting I aim to capture those fleeting light effects on the landscape or colour combinations that transform a scene and make it special,” she says. Frequently inspired by local landscapes, Jill is one of hundreds of local artists featured in the forthcoming May festival organised by Oxfordshire Artweeks.
Traditionally May is the month when hundreds of artists across Oxfordshire open their doors to the public and many of those exhibiting have had their work featured in past Beyonder features, including Katie Cannon, Jane Duff, Maureen Gillespie and Sue Side.
This year her collection captures landscapes encountered out walking during lockdown, plus scenes from further afield, with a particular focus on her oil and acrylic paintings.
There is the added bonus of a ‘two-for-one’ visit with fellow artist Patsy Jones exhibiting her paintings and prints at the same COVID-secure sheltered outside venue in Patsy’s garden in Wantage.
“I’m lucky to be able to work in a spare bedroom that started out being organised but over time the flotsam and jetsam has spread to cover everywhere except the small desk where I sit to paint unless I’m working at an easel,” says Jill. “I’d love to invite you to view my ‘open studio’ but you’d hardly be able to sidle through the door.”