It was a warm spring day when I met with Devonshire-based artist Amy Jobes. I was greeted with a smile, offered a cup of tea and, as I sat down, informed that her guinea pig had escaped his cage and was refusing to return. We stopped, listened, both leaning towards the sofa, hoping to hear a rustle that would indicate his location. He responded with a quick scurry between the cabinet and the sofa and, upon hearing this, we agreed to continue with the interview. I don’t think I could have hoped for a better start.
North Devon is one of 46 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in the United Kingdom and, one of the first aspects of Amy’s personality that stands out is her love for the area. “We used to come here twice a year as a family and it’s always where I’ve felt most free”, she tells me. In true artist’s fashion, Amy and her husband took the leap and moved to Devon with their one-year-old son, with Amy giving up her job as a Climate Change Advisor to become a full-time artist. She tells me of an experience she had one day in the dunes by the beach saying, “I was sitting barefoot on Braunton Burrows, and I just felt this surge of energy, like this amazing connection to the planet”. A “connection” that showed when she described the feeling of horse-riding across the moors “talk about freedom, you’re galloping full speed across the moors and the exhilaration was just unbelievable”. It’s this love and sense of freedom that reflects in the work she creates. Vast, open landscapes with so much care and detail placed on every point in the piece.
Alongside the local scenery, Amy credits her mum for inspiring her and encouraging her creativity. “There is actually a picture of me as a two-year-old, on my doorstep, covered head to toe in red paint. There’s more paint on me than the paper”. This led to pet portraits and commissions from a young age and eventually into landscape paintings, which is what Amy is renowned for. I ask her about the artists that have inspired her work and her list of influences is extensive and varied. Ranging from the greats like Van Gogh and Monet and their use of colour and movement to contemporary and local artists like Kurt Jackson and Hester Berry and their use of surrealism in landscape paintings.
“I just felt this surge of energy, like this amazing connection to the planet.”
There is one saying Amy uses to connect all of these influences and inspirations, a “fire in my belly”. To me, this “fire” is what every artist finds when they discover their medium, their calling. It’s a true and uninterrupted connection to a style or subject that, once found, can never be extinguished. I was told I visited her studio on the right day, as many commissioned works had just been completed. Safe to say, I was not disappointed. I was led to a small wooden building in the back of her garden and found myself in a creative’s dream. The shelves and walls covered in different and fantastical paintings, each one an experience in itself, a huge easel that took up the majority of the room and a paint splattered table, scattered with oil paints, jars and paintbrushes, that just screamed creativity.
A part of our environment that has always stood out to Amy is the sky, and clouds in particular. “I’m part of a cloud appreciation society”, she tells me with a smile. “You can go out to Exmoor (National Park) and find yourself on a high point and you can just see the entire sky. You can see the weather coming in and I love that there are dark parts of the sky and light parts that just light up the landscape”. She started off painting vivid sunsets and colourful skies, but recently started focusing on the duller and grey days. “They’re much more subtle pieces, but I think they’ve got even more sophistication, and they’re very calming to look at”. For a lot of her recent pieces, her entire palette has consisted of roughly three colours and all the shades it’s possible to create from that.
The conversation moves on then to the environment, one of the key talking points I had wanted to bring up when I had asked to meet with Amy. Her connection with the local area and the planet has become clear over the course of the conversation and she discloses her struggle with quite severe “eco anxiety” over the past few years. A passionate environmentalist, we speak about the extent the coastline has changed because of the changing weather patterns, the struggle that local farmers have with the recent dry spells and the unseen damage done by microplastics in the ocean. I recall seeing a newspaper clipping in one of her paintings that featured the headline, “Do your bit to clean up our waters”, subtly placed on the left side of the unfinished piece. “I had to step back for a while though”, she tells me, “it just felt like too much”.
As art lovers, we have been spoilt over the years with so many phenomenal artists offering us their renditions of landscapes we know or places we can only dream of in every way we could have imagined them; and in many ways we couldn’t have. With Amy, it feels as though we have something special, a new perspective on a coastline and landscape that has inspired so many artists for centuries. Her use of colours, light and texture create pieces that calm the soul and have led to many of her pieces being featured in galleries all over the South West and beyond. As I left that day, and the guinea pig had made his way back to his cage, I think I had a “fire in my belly” too. Such is the magic of Amy Jobes.
You can follow Amy’s journey here: