The accidental artist
PUBLISHED: 08:46 24 October 2013 | UPDATED: 08:46 24 October 2013
Standing on the beach in all weathers, painting the crab fishermen who have embraced her as one of their own, Jane Hodgson and her easel has become a well known sight along the Norfolk coast.
But as she prepares for the launch of her new book and exhibition about the county’s traditional rural industries, she reveals that had it not have been for a near fatal car crash her dreams of being a painter may never have been fulfilled.
“I am officially a Cockney, I was born in London to New Zealand parents, but I don’t sound like it any more,” she laughs. “I had always loved art but my mother was very keen that we have a viable career that would give us independence, so she stopped me painting at school as she obviously didn’t think being an artist was a good career.”
So Jane trained as a journalist, working in London before heading off on a round-the-world trip. “I had enough money to get to New Zealand but once there I needed to work, and I ended up staying. I started working on the Bay of Plenty Farming paper, where I wrote all the copy and took the photographs.”After getting a job as a reporter on a local radio station, Jane was involved in a life-changing car crash leaving her in hospital for three weeks with terrible injuries.
“It was a major turning point,” she says. “When I came out of hospital, I went to stay with my aunt and she took me painting. I always thought I would paint but I just found myself doing things that other people thought I should do, so I made the decision to return.”
Arriving back at Heathrow, she realised that she couldn’t live in London, so with friends in Norfolk, she decided to make it her home.
“I just saw car after car sitting in traffic full of people with grey and strained faces and I thought I can’t do this. I love it here up on the coast. In the spring here, the light and colour reminds me of New Zealand.”
She signed up for every life-class she could and got a place at Great Yarmouth College of Art and Design, during which time she met her husband. The couple had three children, and in between parenting duties Jane continued painting whenever she could.Her very distinct work, mainly in oils, has become highly collectable and as well as exhibiting regularly in Norfolk, she often shows in London.
Her work focuses on the traditional industries along the coast, the expertise and skills learned over generations, and the colourful characters and sense of camaraderie they share. She has become friends with many of those she paints, from the crab fishermen, oystermen and mussellers to the bait-diggers and reedcutters.“They are great guys. I have even been out with fishermen off Southwold and I think they consider me an honary member.”
Jane will be signing first edition copies of her book Working North Norfolk – An Artist’s Story, published by Red Hare Publishing, at the exhibition opening on the October 27 at the Pinkfoot Gallery, High St, Cley NR25 7RB.
Artist Samuel Thomas and photographer Dave Morris explore the theme of escapism in their joint exhibition at The Red Lion Hotel in Cromer during Coast week, October 25 to November 1, 11am to 6pm in the function room.
Visitors will be invited to express some of their thoughts through a ballot box, and the best quote on escaping reality will win a £100 art vouocher redeemable against either artist’s work.
Samuel has captured Norfolk landscapes and scenes in an explosion of Pop Art-infused colour and pattern, while Dave will be exploring “Barlife” in his study of drinking places around the world and the fascinating people he came across in them.