London Art Spot: Jacqueline K Crofton


Jaq is a born and bred London-based artist I’ve gotten to know over the past few years. She gave me my first job when I moved to London. She is a perfect example of an artist who lives and breathes her art, picking up inspiration in the little things, the shape of a flower perhaps or the swish of a woman’s dress. Colours , forms and textures hold onto these moments in her painting. Many are woven with scraps of Japanese paper, leaves, petals and other found items. Some are flecked with gold leaf. 

A well-established artist, Jaq is a member of the RSA and has exhibited her work all over the world from New York to Tahiti. It can be found in private collections of connoiseurs and on the walls of hotels and a few famous restaurants in London and Paris. (Random fact: One of Jaq’s pieces can be spotted hanging on a wall on the set of EastEnders.) Her work is represented by Jiq Jaq Gallery in Hampstead, NW3. Her new website should be launched by the end of the year. For now, check out: 

Jaq took a few minutes to talk to us for this week’s London Art Spot about her changing style, world travels and drawing Lucien Freud.

Homage to a Poet

LLO: Your painting style has evolved over the years from still life and figurative pieces to your current abstract collection which is very different. Can you tell us a bit about your style?  

JKC: I still do figure; in fact, I am doing tiny figures in oil today. They are somewhat abstract. I feel a yearning to return to figure – nudes, form, dancers, dresses, shapes. It can be hard to be entirely abstract and that may be over now as we are entering a new era where art must change from hard edge, conceptualism, etc., which was particularly seen before the recession and tied up with bankers, etc. 

Paint is still significant while all the other elements are incidental, like adding texture. Like a cake mix, sometimes you want to add more and more, but you have to learn control. I love colour, though too much all at once gives me nausea. Figure is there just to add a subject, to concentrate attention. 

Meaning and conceptualism is, for me, not relevant – just an intellectual exercise, unimportant. I see myself as an eye, a heart and a hand all working together. There is little thought. The more I think, the more problems appear in the work. I have technicolour dreams about colour and shape. I wish I could capture all the pictures I have painted in sleep or in half-sleep. My sleep is a great artist for sure. I wake up eager to capture the emotion, feeling excitement. I must work without stopping or it’s gone. I often go perhaps eight or nine hours with no food, no rest, no sitting down. My work is very much my personality. 

Blue Azzuro

LLO: Mixed media features heavily in your work these days. How do you choose which materials are integrated into your paintings?

JKC: I love paper – especially Japanese handmade – cloth, flowers, stones, shells. They are works of art on their own. I collect all sorts of things, sometimes just for inspiration, or as a visual aide to recall a memory. I like the act of tearing paper up and creating something new. Though sometimes the work can be decorative, I think there is a human need for decoration, a physical want. There was a movement called P&D (Pattern and Decoration) in the 70s. I think we will return to that or similar. 

Fundama Watches Over Me

LLO: You recently returned from a trip along the Suez Canal and travel quite often. What sort of ideas have you gained from these experiences? Do you always carry a sketchbook?

JKC: I always, every day, carry a sketchbook. Every place I go and the people I meet, are all very interesting. Recently in Oman I was inspired by the women and men and the robed taxi driver, the Jonathan Johnston flautist from Ireland moving on the stage and off and the dancers in the wings at a show, the architecture, the sea, the sky, the flowers.

The effort of travelling can be too much; sometimes it’s easier to stay put with all that packing and unpacking. The Middle East was quite an eye opener. It’s a new world to me. Dubai is super futuristic, Egypt very dirty, Oman very polite. Petra, Jordan was truly beautiful and amazing.

Sometimes ideas will creep into my work. Often its quite unexpected, a memory of a colour, a shape a texture, a face. I captured in photo a small girl in costume selling postcards. Who knows if I will ever use it, but it’s stored for the future. I always bring art materials when I travel – four or five or more sketchbooks, watercolour paper, coloured watercolour pencils, gouache, pigment pens, sometimes oils, sometimes watercolours and other bits and pieces. Sometimes I bring too much, other times not enough. I have even brought canvasses with me. Once, I was painting canvasses on the deck of a ship and the passengers thought I was crew, teaching. I ended up helping some people with painting.

Heure Bleue

LLO: In what ways has living in London influenced your work?

JKC: I think I could be anywhere for my work, though certain intellectual ideas I might miss, newspapers, London oddities. I think London is getting a bit regularised. It used to be very peculiar, full of eccentricities and personalities. Its getting to be like a glorified Homebase, every High Street the same, no individuality. Everywhere is the same. It sounds critical and it’s a shame. I am Londoner, born and bred. I was here in the 60s and I saw the rebirth of modern London from the start. London is visually interesting, particularly buildings in haze, like a Whistler. I like the RSA building where I go sometimes as I am a fellow, and I like the restaurant The Wolseley. I cannot tell you how often I have sat a table away from Lucien Freud. Though he doesn’t know me, I drew him once or twice and sent it to him. Sometimes he nods to me now. Even though the weather can make it difficult getting around, that’s the thing about London – you don’t know what you will see, who you will meet. When it’s great, it’s truly great.

Fair Drift