Colour, light and a dog’s sparkle by Nick Waters
For me, one of the challenges facing animal portrait artists is having the ability to convey so much without the clutter of excess detail, yet with seemingly little effort Jean Haines, a member of the Society for Women Artists (SWA), has that gift.
At a glance some of her images are barely recognisable, yet you instantly know what they are – impressionism taken to its logical conclusion. Jean says of her work: "I create a subject that tells a story with as little information as possible. The viewer can then make up their own story and get to know the subject in their own individual way.”
Water plays almost as important a role in her work as does the pigment it is mixed with, the result is a liquid translucency that has led to her work having been described as reminiscent of J M W Turner – a compliment indeed.
Her technique of combining vibrant colours and light evolved while living in hot climates where bright colours are a way of life. For example, she sees a Westie not as a pure white dog, like most do, but as a mixture of white, turquoise and violet, yet her completed picture is unmistakeably a West Highland White Terrier.
Her passion for watercolour is evident by the fact that she has published two books on working in the medium and runs workshops for students from all over the globe. Her oeuvre does not fit into any one category, for she is equally at home tackling any subject, however, she admits to having a fondness for horse racing and dogs.
As a very young child there were no dogs in her life, so to compensate she drew them. A Wire Haired Fox Terrier was the first family dog and as a result she has a soft spot for box-shaped dogs. Many other breeds though have followed over the years including two black dogs christened Buddy and Holly, rescued from the street while she and her husband were living for the first time in Hong Kong.
Her favourite breed is the Bearded Collie and this shows in the number of Beardie pictures she has completed. Her first, Taffy, was a much travelled dog. Born in the UK, he travelled first to Dubai and from there to France where he and Jean lived for six months while Taffy did quarantine before they joined Jean’s husband in Hong Kong. Finally it was Belgium before travelling back to the UK under the Pet Passport scheme. While living in the foothills of the Pyrenees he proved his inbred natural instinct at driving sheep by folding a flock that had not previously been driven by a dog.
As an artist, Jean prefers to work from life as she thinks photos fail to capture the ‘sparkle’ and true character of the dog – "I like to see and feel them and watch them play.” Her catalogue of breeds completed is many, interestingly mostly long-haired breeds.
A comprehensive selection of Jean Haines dog portraits is currently on view at the Stockbridge Gallery in Hampshire and can be viewed on the gallery’s website www.dogsinart.com.