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Words: Kate Chapman
Photography: Courtesy Jane Haigh
Featured in the March 2020 issue

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Living in the heart of the Lincolnshire countryside is the perfect place to seek inspiration for artist Jane Haigh, who is making a name for herself with her beautiful character driven paintings of some of the county’s best loved wildlife. Interview by Kate Chapman

Self-taught artist Jane, who lives in Grange De Lings, near Lincoln, has always loved animals but never dreamt she would one day be able to combine her passion for them with her love of art.

But since picking up her paintbrush around five years ago she has started producing a colourful range of pigs, ducks, chickens, dogs and cows among others who also feature on her own range of greetings cards.

“I was fascinated by natural history from an early age and remember finding a tiny bird skull and the fragility of it struck me even as a young girl,” recalls Jane.

“I was always creating art when I was younger and could always be found with a pencil in my hand – it was just something that I could do.

“I was top in art at school, but my love of animals made me go down the science route so that I could try and become a vet. It was all I wanted to do – work with animals and work outside. Now I get to combine both my passions, which is wonderful.”

When her grades weren’t up to the required standard for her to pursue her dream career, Jane decided to study biology and rural science at university instead.

Some years later she worked at the University of Lincoln, in the science labs, based at Riseholme, including some dedicated to anatomy, which she credits with helping her to paint the physical forms of her animal subjects, as she says she got to know them inside as well as out.

She then took up another role at Riseholme College teaching biology and animal care to schoolchildren attending the college one day a week.

A Lincolnshire resident for more than thirty years, Jane has lived in her current home for almost two decades. She opened bed and breakfast accommodation in converted outbuildings a few years ago, a move which has been celebrated with coverage in the Good Hotels Guide and the Telegraph, while the Sunday Times featured Bridleway Bed and Breakfast in its list of the top 100 hotels in Britain.

“When the B&B opened I wanted original art in the rooms, so I approached local artist Denise Hawthorne,” explains Jane. “This led to me wanting to paint more seriously myself, so Denise helped me to develop my own skills.

“I attended Denise’s weekly art group where we’d all work on a piece and then look at what each other had produced at the end; it was all very subjective and personal.

“Everyone else was working on landscapes – mine were always animals! But then it got to the point where I couldn’t fit it all in as there was the B&B and I had my horses too, so I set up a studio above our tack room and that’s where I work now.

“Living where I do, there is always lots of inspiration around me. Coming home up our drive I often see rabbits and hares, and sometimes find moles and hedgehogs in the garden as well as other wildlife, which I love to include in my work.

“I enjoy painting our county’s rare breeds too and have done several Lincoln Red cattle paintings and Lincoln Longwool sheep, although I’m finding I’m being asked to do lots of other things via commission which is challenging me, and also showing me what I’m capable of.”

Jane mainly works in acrylic paint as she is most familiar with this medium, while more recently she has been experimenting with oils too.

Although animals are the subject of most of her work, she also enjoys creating landscapes and is currently working on some human portraits.

Jane has paintings and prints available for sale both at her home and in various farm shops and pubs around the county, as well as on her website.

Last year she took a stand at the Lincolnshire Show and the Lincolnshire Food and Gift Fair and is hoping to attend both again this year. Her artwork has also been reproduced on a range of greeting cards that are available in shops around the county, including twenty branches of Lincolnshire Co-op.

Jane’s art has sold as far away as Taiwan and California, while more locally she has been commissioned to paint Lincoln Red cattle for a country estate plus pet portraits and a large trompe l’oeil mural for a nearby pub.

“I tend to work from photographs when I’m painting the animals as it’s so much easier, while if I’m working on a landscape I might take the easel outside,” she adds.

“My paintings are all about recreating the character of an animal – rather than exactly what they look like, it’s how I see them.

“My love of animals is evident in my characterful paintings – the eyes are so important to capture, and if I can get these right then the rest usually follows.

“As for the future, I’m really enjoying my painting and just want to keep moving forward, ideally finding some new outlets to sell my range of cards to and to just let more people know about my work and that I am available for commissions, including pet portraits.

“If I’d told my younger self I would have my own B&B and be working as a countryside artist I don’t think I’d have believed it. It’s a dream come true to be able to combine my passions this way.”

For more information about Jane and her work visit www.janehaigh.uk or follow her on Facebook at Jane Haigh Country Art.

In November Jane has a month-long exhibition at Caistor Arts and Heritage Centre.

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