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View to a future in prints
9:40am Tuesday 19th June 2012 in Features
The North Yorkshire coast has inspired many an artist. Matt Clark meets one of the latest
JESSICA Hogarth looks out from her bedroom window onto a view that would soften the hardest of hearts. In front of her is Ravenscar, in all its lofty, crumbly glory, and the tumbling pantiles of Robin Hood’s Bay cottages that cling precariously to the cliffs.
Not surprisingly, Jessica has always been inspired to capture her beloved view. Now she turns it into prints – and they’re selling like hot cakes.
The third generation of her family to be born in a cottage in Raw, Jessica says she feels lucky to live in such a special part of Yorkshire.
“I’m quite a country girl at heart,” she says. “I loved living in the city when I was at university but I’m so glad I moved back. This place is so friendly, it has a real a community feel.”
And an artistic feel, too. The area is alive with painters and musicians – folk aristocrats Martin Carthy and Norma Waterson live in Robin Hood’s Bay – and at first Jessica wanted to be a clarinettist.
“I started doing a classical music course at Leeds, but after one semester I realised I’d made a bit of a wrong decision. I missed doing something creative with my hands.”
So after a bit of research Jessica decided to stay at Leeds but swap courses to study printed textiles and design.
“It was amazing and I really feel I got my money’s worth. The tutors were brilliant and the industry contacts through exhibitions really prepared me for when I left.”
At first Jessica planned to stay on in Leeds, but the draw of that peerless view proved irresistible, not to mention inspirational.
Now the mainstay of her work is based on Robin Hood’s Bay, its cottages and fishing cobles. Not just so, but an interpretation.
“I haven’t drawn a scene from bay exactly as it is, but all the cottages really do exist; it’s just that I take elements from them, add a couple of extra windows or move the cottages around a bit to help the composition.
“You can still recognise it though.”
Then again it can be difficult to improve on perfection. But even on the rare occasion when Jessica records precisely what is in front of her there is a twist.
Take her roof-top scene. It’s a clever touch to change the pantiles from red to white and makes the print stand out from the countless others drawn at the same spot. With such inspiration all around, where better for an artist to live?
However, there was one minor problem: the lack of a studio. When Jessica left for university her brother moved in to her room. Now she’s back in the tiny spare room which has to double as a workspace.
Jessica says she hopes her mum and dad will eventually build a shed in the garden, but for now clothes are crammed in the wardrobe as chests of drawers give priority to an ever-overflowing stock of cards, screen-prints and tea towels.
Despite the lack of space, things for Jessica are looking as rosy as a Ravenscar sunrise. She exhibited at the British craft trade fair in April and next month will be exhibiting again in London.
Word is getting around. There is plenty of freelance work coming in, Yorkshire Geology Trust has asked her to illustrate a new book and a client has even commissioned some wallpaper based on Jessica’s Robin Hood’s Bay prints.
Even though Jessica was initially attracted to modern geometric designs, now she couldn’t work in a more traditional way, drawing her subjects by hand with pen and ink.
“I will use the computer to get rid of any lines that maybe come out a bit jagged, but I think what people like about my work is the way you can tell it’s hand drawn not computer-generated.”
Not that she has always been a dab hand with a pencil.
“I did fine art at A-level but then I was into patterns and prints. When I went for my university interview I confessed that drawing might be my weakness and they said. ‘You do realise that is what a lot of this course is about, don’t you?’”
Somehow Jessica got in, probably with a mix of enthusiasm and persistence. Luckily one tutor took under her wing and nagged incessantly to steer her away from graphics and back to pen work.
It paid dividends, now it’s how Jessica earns her keep.
“Geometrics have become confined to the background and my main thing is drawing. I haven’t ignored trends but I do what I like and just hope others will too.”
Indeed, many do, especially the boat and cottage prints which are proving very popular and there’s another important influence. Paris featured heavily in her final course work and still crops up.
That said, Jessica still produces geometrics and has designed some highly original iPhone covers which are flying off the shelves in Asia.
But despite her global success and the obvious temptation to move, that view from Jessica’s bedroom window, the one that would soften even the hardest of hearts is too much to give up.
And with the internet to market her work, why would she up sticks?
“While I’m still young I’d like to get back out there again, maybe to York, but really I think I’d rather like to stay here – certainly for the foreseeable future.”
• Jessica Hogarth Designs: jessicahogarth.com