What started you on an artistic career?
I have always had a passion for drawing and painting animals, and pursued this as a hobby for many years after leaving school. It was back in 2000 when I first took the plunge to become a full time artist. Before that, I was the head designer for a lead crystal figurine producer. The company was having management problems and eventually ceased production. This left me with the opportunity to do what I always wanted, but never thought feasible as a career. It was a struggle at the very start, but the years have gone by and things are going very nicely.
What do you enjoy about portraying the game birds, wildlife and landscapes of Northern England?
It is a fantastic job, doing what I would have done as a hobby anyway. To go out on the hills and moors, being in such beautiful settings is enough in itself, but to also see the birds that make it their home, provides me with the perfect inspiration and subject matter for my art. The light is constantly changing on an hourly basis and through the seasons, with such variations in colour and atmosphere. There are some great wildlife spectacles to be seen with patience and knowledge.
The Red Grouse and Grouse Shooting feature largely in your work – what inspires you in particular about this subject?
The Red Grouse is a wonderful bird, with many endearing characteristics and habits. I spend many hours studying the bird throughout the year. I love to watch them foraging in snow covered heather, territory and courtship pursuits in Spring, and perhaps my favourite, is to see them with their young chicks on a sunny evening in late May. They are such protective and dedicated parents. The grouse has distinct spectacled white eye rings, neat white moustache, white feathered legs, set against chestnut plumage and finished off with a scarlet eye wattle, giving it a dandy appearance of self importance.
It is always a privilege for me to go out with the Guns on a shoot day and watch the grouse in flight, sometimes in large numbers. Their flashes of white under wing really adds to the whole visual experience, when set against such a painterly backdrop. I’m certain that I get the same excited feeling as Sportsmen do when a pack of grouse finally appear from such a long wait in the butts. It is sheer exhilaration that never fades no matter how many times you see it.
I try to create a moment in time of what thrills the Sportsmen and those involved on a shoot day. On the whole, grouse shooting is a wealthy man’s pursuit and is the pinnacle of fieldsports. This obviously lends itself to the appeal of original paintings of such a subject.
Do you have a typical working process when completing a piece?
If doing a piece for exhibition, I start by seeking inspiration from my vast library of reference taken over the years of the various species, landscapes and light conditions. When doing a particular subject, I will go out and study it, taking photographs, sketches and notes. I will start by sketching out the scene until I am happy with the layout. Once drawn up, the painting begins and the scene gradually comes to life. When doing a big landscape scene, I always paint the sky in first, as this is the most uncontrollable part of the painting. I normally complete a painting before starting the next.
What do you hope to achieve by sharing your artwork with the world?
I get immense satisfaction when people are willing to part with their hard earned money to buy an original painting from me. I love what I do, and for someone to see and believe in my work, and tell others about it, confirms that I must be doing something right. I would like to think that my work is still enjoyed and passed down through the generations in many years to come.
You also undertake commissions. What is the most enjoyable commission you have received to date?
Commissions are a large part of my work, and some are more enjoyable than others. My favourites are grouse shooting scenes. One of my most enjoyable and memorable commissions was a large six foot, grouse shooting scene of Holwick, for the late Earl of Strathmore. I love working on such a scale and at this size, the painting has an immense visual impact.
Who are some of your favourite artistic inspirations?
I have always admired the work of Rodger Macphail, who has inspired me over the years, and he is very likeable as a person. Others include Andrew Ellis and Ben Hoskyns.
What piece of artist’s equipment couldn’t you live without?
In this day and age, my camera is a very important tool for capturing reference, light and mood. A lot of commissioned work would prove nearly impossible without it. Some artists like to play down their use of such means of reference, in order to give themselves more artistic merit. How else can you accurately portray in such detail, coveys of flying grouse, complicated plumage and Guns etc. in such a fraction of time. Just look at Thorburn’s work . He created such wonderful scenes but his flying coveys have their characteristic birds with barrel bodies and short wings, taken from the limitations of memory.
If you could paint any subject other than the one you do already, anywhere in the world, what would it be?
I would love to go to Africa and paint the Big Game. Unsurprisingly, a few sporting artists have already done this. Such scenes, with the majestic beasts, really lend themselves to the paint brush and canvas. The Scottish Highlands, red deer and salmon fishing are also something I would like to explore.
Do you shoot?
I don’t actually shoot, but get much enjoyment from being out there on a shoot day and being part of it. I used to do a lot of rifle shooting when I was younger, on the rabbits, and would go out most evenings. I would also prepare and cook them. I would very much like to take up proper game shooting at some point. I would need to start with lessons and practice first though and then perhaps join a little syndicate.
Find out more…
You can see more of Jason’s work and contact him via his website: www.jasonlowes.co.uk