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Dorset artist Jake Winkle and his vibrant watercolours

PUBLISHED: 11:14 27 May 2014 | UPDATED: 11:14 27 May 2014




Kirstie Allsopp is a fan and he has a host of awards under his belt but Dorset artist, Jake Winkle, is charmingly modest behind his vibrant watercolours

Flying TurfFlying Turf

Encapsulating depth of movement on a canvas as still as it is two dimensional, is not only one of the most vital ingredients in any artist’s work, but one that is singularly essential in the authentic portrayal of a living subject.

Perhaps this is especially true with animals. For don’t we all share a universal fascination for creatures’ instinct, rituals and absence of self awareness? And who isn’t in awe of their behaviour, whether manifesting itself in survival or play?

Bad Hares DayBad Hares Day

Such curiosity means that only by incorporating their inherent qualities can a representation create an impact which honestly captures the nature of an animal – be it a companion pet or wild creature – enabling the viewer to dip into a world he can never inhabit.

And that brings me to Jake Winkle. The multi coloured images produced by this Dorset artist are charmingly lifelike yet refreshingly unconventional. More importantly, they portray a tangible energy of movement.

Bumble BeeBumble Bee

“I want to make my paintings individual to me,” Jake enthuses. “I can make a static animal move by brushstroke. If I just painted a brown hare that would be static so I prefer to break up the colours, using each one in the rainbow. This way I am creating energy in the image on the paper but it is still realistic. A hare is brown and if I use all different colours they would make brown again. I just separate them. But the colours are balanced, they cancel each other out.”

This mix of hues is all the more remarkable given that, despite his initial training in oils, he now confines himself to watercolours.

Elegant GiraffeElegant Giraffe

“I have been very lucky. I never thought watercolours could do this. In fact, I used to hate them! Then years ago I watched an Alwyn Crawshaw television series. His paintings weren’t particularly bold but neither were they insipid. So I thought I’d give it a go.”

Up to that point Jake confesses he had been a late developer. Having studied Fine Art and Expressive Art, his interests leaned more towards music. A lack of direction didn’t help and he even dabbled in teaching until artistic commissions eventually determined his career choice. For a while he produced tourist information maps but, after advertising pet portraits, soon realised he was tapping into a growing market.

“At first I wanted to do people portraits but didn’t get much work. So I turned to pets. Over the years I’ve probably done 1,000.” Included in that number is TV presenter and home craft aficionado, Kirstie Allsopp’s Border Terrier, Foxy, an adored pet that had been a present from her parents some years earlier.

Jake’s creative space is a studio over the family garage, built into the eaves and with vaulted windows. Such proximity to home means he can act upon inspiration whenever it transpires. He begins work by 7.30am and concentrates on all painting aspects until about 2pm. “I like to be fresh while I’m working,” he explains.

“After that I concentrate on admin (a necessary evil) and the mechanical aspects of my work. I run workshops around the country so I do a lot of preparation for those. They account for about a third of my income, with the other two thirds coming from gallery sales.”

An admission to chaos is no surprise. Tidiness, after all, rarely accompanies creativity. Nevertheless, Jake assures me he works in an ordered way and with an organised approach.

One of the downsides of working with watercolours is being unable to build layers in the way an artist can with, say, oils. Does this present a challenge? “I use a very spontaneous medium. I get into the zone for a period of time when nothing can get in my way. There’s no time to sit back and consider the next move. It’s an active rush of painting but I love that pressure. I like reacting; spontaneity rather than planning.”

I can appreciate the motivation of this Blandford artist. He is engaging to talk to; direct and self assured, leaving me in no doubt of his ongoing focus. His work is featured in half a dozen galleries around the country including The Lyndhurst Gallery and Odiham’s The Frame. He has also exhibited at The Wykeham Gallery in Stockbridge. In addition, he will be taking part in this summer’s Dorset Art Weeks. He has twice won the Marwell International Wildlife Art Society’s best in show and reached the finals of the Daily Mail’s Not The Turner Prize competition, with one of only 10 watercolours out of 40,000 entries. Yet such accolades haven’t compromised his humility.

“Years ago a friend pointed out that I was concentrating on masculine subjects. That made me think about diversifying into flowers and animals which is what I do now. As a man, this gives me a slight edge. I am also known for my horse racing paintings but I don’t know much about horses; I just look at what they can offer me in my work. I don’t get involved in the physiology of an animal. Instead, I paint the shape and silhouette then create shapes within shapes.”

An eclectic range of tools to transfer paint to canvases is common amongst many painters but Jake is loyal to a couple which are right for him.

“I employ different techniques but work only with Luxartis brushes.” This handmade brand comes from Germany and uses Kolinsky sable. “They are good quality and I stick to two: a medium large and a rigger.”

It is while admiring the elegant line of these brushes that I begin to sense a bond with the softness of watercolours. Like Jake, I once sidelined the medium for bordering on the bland. Yet there is nothing weak about his images. And I’m not just referring to the animals which continue to fascinate me; there are the magical renditions of Venice, too. These scenes capture an intuitive atmosphere and a strong sense of time due to his knack of depicting light.

Indeed, it is these skills with movement and light which enable him to produce such charismatic images. It’s an exceptional talent and one he willingly shares via books and regular articles in The Artist magazine. Similarly in his DVD, in which he defies convention by painting dark colours first before moving to lighter tones, he gently encourages boldness and bravery by promoting generous quantities of paint and water. His manner is an unrivalled inspiration to many and he is firm in his advice: “A lot of artists don’t even pick up a pencil, but tread your path and broaden your horizons. Look at current, contemporary 
artists as well as those of the past. Make your own style.”

Spending time in Jake’s company is akin to attending a Master class, and not only in terms of technique. For his professional mindset provides a valuable life lesson. The drive and enthusiasm he has for his art translates into every aspect of his career. And while attitude and talent have launched a flourishing profession, they also ensure the public enjoys an unparalleled opportunity to encounter their favourite animals.


Dorset Art Weeks takes place between 24 May and 8 June. Jake will be exhibiting at Woodcroft, Queens Road, Blandford Forum, Dorset, DT11 7LA. www.dorsetartweeks.co.uk; www.jakewinkle.co.uk


See Jake’s work

Lyndhurst Gallery, 68 High Street, Lyndhurst, Hampshire SO43 7BJ. Tel: 02380 283243; www.lyndhurstgallery.co.uk

The Frame, 81 High Street, Odiham, Hampshire RG29 1LB. Tel: 01256 701082; www.theframe-gallery.co.uk

The Wykeham Gallery, High Street, Stockbridge, Hampshire SO20 6HE. Tel: 01264 810364; www.wykehamgallery.co.uk

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