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Jean Haines is one of our most inspiring instructors. Here, we share a QA with this beloved teacher and editor Sarah Hall to learn Jean’s quirks, creative touchstones and major influences!
Be sure to get your Watercolor Freedom with Jean Haines Collection as soon as possible so you can carry your inspirations into the studio with you just like Jean does! Available as a physical kit as well as a digital kit! Enjoy!
Jean, you describes yourself as a bit of “a watercolor addict,” which I find fascinating because it really seems to be true when watching you paint. Have you always had that joy throughout your career as a painter, especially when you were first learning, or if there was ever a time when it was frustrating for you?
I love this question. I have truthfully always loved painting ever since I was a child. I love colour and there isn’t a subject I can’t fall in love with. But yes, there was a time when I lost my way as an artist. I thought I absolutely loved art but I was going to weekly art group years ago and everyone was painting the same thing in exactly the same way. At the end of each session everyone held up their almost identical painting.
I lost the will to both live and paint and decided that perhaps I didn’t want to be an artist after all. That is until I discovered painting the way I do now and wow, I fell in love with painting all over again and have never looked back.
My enthusiasm is always at an all time high which is usually pretty obvious!
Tell me about your decision not to ever use a pencil drawing when you paint. Did you always paint like that, and if not, when and why did you start? I also wonder if there are any exceptions – subjects or compositions that require a drawing to pull off?
Another great question. I started serious art as a botanical artist. I sketched every detail at that time and then painted adding colour which possibly looking back felt a little like painting by numbers.
I have to clarify I still adore botanical art and admire the greatest artists who work in this field so much for their amazing attention to detail which takes so much skill to capture in their work. But for me, after some time painting this way seemed to kill my artistic soul and dampen my enthusiasm for creating.
Luckily I moved to Asia and worked with a Shanghainese mentor who never used a pencil. I was in awe of their work and their influence led me to where I am today with my style. I have never looked back. I have grown and hope I am still growing.
You teach constantly. I’d love to know more about your experiences teaching, what your most memorable class was, or what was the strangest thing that ever happened during a class. Perhaps if students have any interesting differences in different countries as far as how they approach painting watercolor?
You ask wonderful questions! I do adore teaching. I feel very humbled that I am fortunate enough to be invited all over the world by wonderful art societies or art centres who wish to host my courses.
Many funny things happen on them and I know if I wrote a book I could end up with it being a much loved “laugh a minute” publication. But which story to choose to share? Perhaps I should just write the book!
I know in Texas one lady artist answered her phone and elatedly shared the news with the group that, “It’s a boy.” I congratulated her on being a new grandmother but had misheard. It was a male, but not a baby. It was a new prize bull that had been born! I can’t say that has happened on many of my workshops.
My favourite and most emotional story has to be two female artists who didn’t know each other before they came into my workshop but ended up sitting close to each other.
One unknowingly was the nurse who had looked after the other’s small granddaughter, who had sadly lost her battle to cancer. These two ladies had never found closure. Touchingly they did through art, through my books and attending my course and meeting each other. The whole group cried when I shared their story and we all felt privileged to be a part of it.
I can cry now thinking of that magical day and union that was meant to be. Can you imagine how magical their being together meeting that way was? How moving? And they had no idea who the other was or how they were connected. They are now the best of friends and I am honoured to say I too am their friend and always will be. We stay in touch and I am so very fond of them both. There is often far more to an art course than art.
This is a side of watercolour and bringing people together that we should never underestimate.
I know you studied in China, and it would be really interesting to hear more about that. What you learned there, what you incorporated into you style and what you didn’t. If there was anything you learned in China that maybe you couldn’t have learned elsewhere? Your website also mentions that you studied in India and Pakistan–how were those experiences?
I did study in Europe, Aisa and the Middle East. Asia influenced me greatly in how I use my brush. In the West we often think about how we pick up colour. In the East I learned how to let it go, releasing it from my brush and letting the pigments interact minus my help.
Watercolour is a beautiful medium but in the West we try to control it far too much. I learned to relax and paint with my heart and soul. Breathing life into my subjects as I did so.
The Middle East taught me so much about portraiture and I studied with the best artists while there on this very subject and I am happy to have influenced many newer artists in how to paint faces but leaving some sections to the viewers imagination.
I was at an exhibition recently where someone I didn’t know approached me and asked if an artist whose portrait they has just seen had ever studied under me as they could easily see my style and influence in their work.
I was surprised and said their intuition was spot on, as the artist had indeed studied with me. I am lucky, I have traveled so much and still travel and I learn wherever I go.
I try to be like an open book that absorbs positive energy and creative ideas. I love sharing all the tips I have discovered with others so that they can enjoy them too. What is life if we can’t give away the things we love so much to others who will enjoy them? I give everything freely in my teaching.
You seem to be very much an advocate of mindfulness and painting to improve your mood. You put a big emphasis on enjoying yourself as you paint, so I’d be curious to know what you thinks about the “tortured artist” trope, and maybe what you’d have to say to people who find themselves in a love-hate relationship with being an artist.
This is an interesting question to ponder. I do meet mainly professional artists who actually admit they hate painting. They, in their own words, “churn out art” to sell and they hate painting the same things repeatedly.
Some openly admit they hate teaching too. My answer to this last point is simply “Don’t teach!” because it isn’t fair to anyone who pays to see you if you do.
I find anyone hating painting very sad but it has never been my main goal to paint to sell or be famous. My art sells and it sells well. But that isn’t my main reason for painting. It is a part of why I paint.
Over the years my approach to painting has changed somewhat in that I have discovered why I am so happy, so calm, so patient and so very much in love with life. It is simple. Art is my yoga. I relax when a brush is in my hand. Completely. I have daily exercises using colour to lift my mood, energize me or simply make me feel great.
Colour is so therapeutic. The action of pigment with water can affect the mind and body in ways we really could find hard to comprehend unless we have felt the very same amazing benefits. I know my life is genuinely richer in many ways because of what I do with watercolour and when I write I try to get that point across.
We all have experienced stress in our lives in situations that often cannot be avoided. My art has taught me how to switch off, on or deal with them. I highly recommend studying mindfulness in art. It is worth taking that time out to do so. And to the artists who feel tortured, perhaps a new look at your life and art is overdue. Life is far too short not to enjoy it.
I’d also like to ask about how you balance realism and expressive painting. For example, in your most recent video on painting flowers, you get very expressive with the brushwork, but take great pains to get the colors accurate. Your paintings can sometimes seem to be fading away into fog, full of lost edges, but there’s just enough solidity there that a viewer can confidently identify the subject. How do you find that perfect point?
Beautiful words. But the truth is I don’t. That ‘perfect point’ finds me! Seriously! This is the zen part of my painting technique. I move into a calm state of being when I create and my subject will appear at some point in the creative process. I can see it is there. Magically. In an almost ethereal way.
At this point it is a beautiful soul touching moment that cannot be described in words. It is spiritual and uplifting.
When artists study with me and learn my techniques they too feel it and they can be moved to tears when it happens. It is beautiful and part of my artistic style. And who I am as an artist.
You also get excited to talk about color – you tend to talk about each color having a personality, almost a life of its own, which I love and which resonates so strongly with me. So what colors are inspiring you lately and do your color moods change with seasons?
It is Autumn in UK and I am surrounded by large oak trees glowingly adorned in their autumnal wardrobe of the season. Rusts, golds and reds are shining in sunlight so my influence from nature guides my artists eye to using Quinachridone Gold and Daniel Smiths stunning Aussie Red Gold.
I am experimenting with iridescent colours in copper and gold as well. Why not? Life as I always say is far too short to be boring so it’s “out” with any old colours and “in” with new ones.
And I am currently working on a new book,which will be out in the summer of 2019. It is beautiful and has changed me greatly as a person and artist. I can’t wait to share it!
Thank you very much for this wonderful interview and as always: Happy Painting!
More with Jean
Be sure to reach Jean on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to stay in touch! And don’t miss your chance to get the Watercolor Freedom with Jean Haines Collection so you can carry your inspirations into the studio with you just like Jean does! Available as a physical kit as well as a digital kit! Enjoy!