Devon-based artist, Jo Mortimer, likes to say there’s an artist in everyone - and she should know. As part of her varied practice, she creates ‘people participation artworks’, which have large scale community involvement - and she also loves the inclusive nature of TAE. Today, Jo talks to Carolyn Murphy about her background, her art and the things that inspire it.
Originally from London, Jo fell in love with the wild landscape of Dartmoor in Devon, her adopted county – and this countryside, the local buildings and her travels, are just some of her inspirations. Her process is pretty unique, as she explains, “I always paint in acrylic inks and draw in fine line ink pen. My style really developed the day I stopped using a pencil and just went for it! I scan my line drawings into my computer, add colour digitally to create limited edition prints, then return to the line drawing to create an original painting. This means that my original paintings never have a copy made of them - they are truly originals - and my prints are related to them through the line drawings, but not the colour.”
How did you first find out about TAE?
I love Twitter and find such a lot of inspiration there, from amazing photographers and from fellow artists. I found TAE via these about 5 or 6 years ago and have done a painting every year since.
Have you always been an artist?
I had always wanted to be an artist, but I was ‘told’ to do my degree in science as I would always get a job! So I did, and also a degree in education, to become a science teacher. I rebelled for a year and did a foundation year at art college also. I always did my art alongside my science career, until 12 years ago, when I became a full-time artist at last!
You’ve created an adult colouring book and written children’s books! How did these come about?
The adult colouring book was by request! So many people kept telling me that my line drawings would make great adult colouring books, so I put some together based on our county of Devon. They have sold well and I have had some lovely feedback from people, which is the best thing.
I have written two books for children about “Westcountry Witch” and I illustrated them myself. They have been well received and I have had requests from parents and grandparents for more as they are getting fed up with being asked all the time to read just those two! I have several more of the stories in my head…
I love the sound of your participation artworks. Tell me more about them.
I love doing these, as one of my big things is to get everyone having a go at painting or drawing. I start by creating a VERY large drawing of a local scene or building, and then I get people to draw and paint a stone or brick on the drawing so that when I finish it off it’s a collaboration of hundreds of people for one artwork. I have done many of these at different venues; I was even lucky enough to be a guest artist at the Saatchi Gallery in London, where I had the chance to do these collaborations there. It was an amazing experience, as we did a wall-sized artwork!
You’ve been involved in some exciting projects, Jo. What have been the highlights so far?
Certainly, spending a week, two years running, at the Saatchi Gallery in London was a great honour and a wonderful opportunity.
In 2019, I planned and created a unique exhibition tour with poets, photographers and artists, several of whom are Twitter friends and followers. Firstly I asked the photographers to take photographs which were used to inspire the poets, who wrote poems around the images, then these poems were given to the artists, who created artworks WITHOUT seeing the original photos. It was like a game of ‘whispers’. I called the exhibition ‘Trios’ - and it toured all year to different venues. The photos/poems/artworks were displayed as a Trio and were sold together. It was amazing! At the launch evening, we had the poets reading their works and the Trios on display in the beautiful Civic building in the city of Exeter.
What can you tell us about your TAE21 postcard?
My contribution this year follows on from a collection of paintings I’ve done based around “The Watcher”, a mysterious figure who lives in a ‘spinney’ on a floating hill! The first one sold last year for TAE. They both incorporate white gold leaf leaves on the trees and they tell a story, but mostly appeal to people’s imaginations.
What do you love about TAE?
I love that it raises money for such good causes, that it is inclusive and encourages everyone to take part and be an artist, something very dear to my heart. It enables people to purchase original artworks from artists that they may not usually be able to afford.
Also, the Twitter artist community are great, and I have made many friends there. TAE brings us all together from across the world in one big art exhibition. What could be better!
Have you bought postcards by other artists?
What are your hopes and plans for the future?
I hope to be travelling in Europe a lot - and create a collection of works from that. Also, I may become involved in some large mural works in my town, and I am really interested in expanding my digital work. I will always do TAE though!
What would you say to people thinking about taking part in TAE22 in York?
Go for it!! There is an artist in everyone!
If you would like to find out more about Jo Mortimer’s work, check out her website: https://jomortimer25.wixsite.com/original-art. She sells online, through galleries and by commission. You’ll find her on Twitter at @JoMortimerArt, as well as on Facebook @jomortimer.artist