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Artist Interview: Naomi Jenkin


Naomi Jenkin is a Cornwall based pastel artist of whom specialises in creating animal portraits. Her art is heavily inspired by her love of wildlife and the importance of protecting them, which consequently led to Naomi becoming a finalist in the 2022 Wildlife Artist Of The Year! From being a sound engineer in film and TV, to being a self employed artist who has been featured on the BBC, she has mastered the art of capturing animals.

We had the pleasure of asking a few questions, delving into her world of animal pastel portraits!

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©Naomi Jenkin

'Pastelmat is my hands-down favourite! My drawings are very realistic and I work by building up multiple layers, each one getting more detailed. Pastelmat is perfect for this as it can hold so much pastel, so layering is never a problem. '

Naomi Jenkin

'I’ve always been intrigued by colour, and worked for several years on a series of abstracted jazz musicians. For as long as I can remember I’ve been experimenting with different styles, techniques, and mediums..'

Naomi Jenkin

Q: We love your focus on animals and love of the natural world which translates intoyour artwork! Have you always been interested in the subject matter?

Yes definitely - I’ve always had a real passion for animals and the outdoors, right from a little kid. I loved having pets growing up and would draw them all the time. We regularly used to go on caravan holidays to a campsite that had a pet’s corner where they had all sorts from rabbits, guinea pigs and goats to an African water snake named Wally! I used to spend hours there with the animals. They fascinated me and I just loved being around them! Spending time in nature has always been a big part of my life too, and something I always gravitate to. Growing up by the sea ignited in me a passion for the ocean and I spend as much time as I can in the sea, frequently having curious seals come up to say hello!

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©Naomi Jenkin

Q: What is your favourite thing about working with pastels and do you have any tips for artists looking to delve into the medium?

I love how easy they are to pick up and put down! Which may sound like an odd answer, but when I was starting out and trying to create art in my spare time alongside a full-time job, that aspect was really important. With paints, there’s a large amount of set up time and cleanup afterwards, especially if you’re working with something like oil paints. I can spend 45 minutes cleaning my brushes after a day oil painting, which is obviously a lot of time that could be spent creating! So, for artists who are short on time to create, pastels are a great medium in that respect. I also love the huge range of different pastels you can get, from big chunky sticks to precise pencils, so you have such a fantastic range of tools to work with, and can choose the most suitable type of pastel for the area you’re drawing.

Q: Congratulations on being a finalist in the 2022 Wildlife Artist Of The Year with ‘Hold Me Closer’! Would you be able to explain the process and would yourecommend fellow artists to also enter into like minded competitions?

Thank you! It was a wonderful experience, and something I’ve entered into again this year. The event is run by the David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation, which was set up by the incredible wildlife artist David Shepherd. He felt compelled to use his art to protect the animals which inspired it. Every year, the Wildlife Artist of the Year competition brings wildlife artists together from around the world, raising money for wildlife conservation of endangered species across Asia and Africa.I really recommend other artists get involved – it’s such a fantastic cause to support. As wildlife artists, our subjects and inspiration are wildlife, so it’s hard not to feel compelled to protect it. Wildlife Artist of the Year is a great way to both celebrate our natural world through art with other like-minded artists, and do something positive to help. You can enter very easily online on the DSWF website. They have various categories which you can enter your work under, depending on the subject you’ve chosen. A panel of judges then collates a shortlist of finalists, who’s work will go into an exhibition. Then from those finalists they pick the winners. For each artwork sold in the exhibition, 50% of the sale price goes to support DSWF conservation projects.

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'Hold Me Closer' ©Naomi Jenkin

Q: What is your go to surface/paper when using pastels?

Pastelmat is my hands-down favourite! My drawings are very realistic and I work by building up multiple layers, each one getting more detailed. Pastelmat is perfect for this as it can hold so much pastel, so layering is never a problem. You can also get the surface wet without damaging it, which opens up the possibility of using paint alongside pastels – something I’ve been experimenting with in my wildlife art! I also like the variety of colours it comes in, and you can buy it in big sheets or board. I use Pastelmat board for my bigger drawings to give them a bit more rigidity.

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©Naomi Jenkin

Q: What are your essentials when working?

Something good to listen to and a regular supply of tea or coffee! I listen to a lot of audiobooks and podcasts when I draw, which really helps to keep me focused. I have quite a busy brain, so I get easily distracted. Becoming absorbed in a story or a podcast helps to hold my attention so I can draw for longer! Good lighting is also an absolute must. My desk is next to a big window so it gets lots of natural daylight, and I have two very bright daylight lamps which allow me to work easily when it’s dark or overcast outside. The other essential is my homemade desk easel which my husband kindly made for me. I struggled for years with shoulder problems caused by terrible posture when drawing. I had a really bad desk set up, and was hunched over all the time with a lot of tension in my upper back. My husband, being an engineer and someone who loves to problem solve, came up with a bespoke easel design which he constructed from wood he had lying around the garage. And it completely solved my shoulder pain!

Q: Due to going through it yourself, do you have any advice for those who are considering switching careers to pursue art full time?

It’s 100% one of the best things I’ve done for my own happiness and wellbeing. I started off by doing my art as a sideline alongside a different full-time job. I would spend evenings and weekends producing art and sharing it on Facebook. After a little while, I mad ea small website and started offering commissions. My first commissions were for family and friends, and then friends of friends through word-of-mouth. It gradually started gaining traction, to a point where I knew there was enough demand for me to be able to make a proper go of it. Quitting my job and taking the plunge into art full time was still very nerve wracking though, but also incredibly motivating! Obviously, you have to make sure you can keep yourself afloat financially while you’re in the early stages. It wasn’t until the second year that I was really making any sort of liveable income from my art so that’s something you have to plan for.

Q: Could you tell us some fun facts people may not know about you?

I’m terrible at these questions so I asked my husband for some fun facts about me! He said to tell you how up until the age of 34 I thought the reindeer in Santa Claus The Movie were real. He shattered that illusion for me and I still haven’t forgiven him for it. Haha! Some other interesting (and slightly less embarrassing) nuggets of information about me are…I cycled from John O Groats to Land’s End a few years ago raising money for the Brittle Bones Society. My cousin had suffered with the condition for years and passed away aged 34. The BBS had supported him massively throughout his life. The ride raised over £7500 for the charity. I used to work as a sound engineer for a London post production studio, recording actor’s voices for film and television. I worked on some really interesting films, and met some incredible people. I briefly moved to Australia with the plan to relocate there, but after 6 months decided it wasn’t for me and moved back!

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©Naomi Jenkin

Q: Thank you so much for your time and knowledge! We would love to know what youare currently working on/ do you have any exciting future plans in the making?

I’ve just finished a wildlife drawing of a chimpanzee which will be my entry into Sketch For Survival 2024 – an initiative run by Explorers Against Extinction. They’re another fantastic charity doing incredible work to bring key species back from the brink of extinction and to restore our natural ecosystems. This is the first year I’ve got involved with this event so I’m excited to be entering. I’m also about to start work on a pet portrait commission featuring an adorable trio of cats. I absolutely love the pet portrait work I do, as I know how much these animals mean to their families. It’s always such an honour to be entrusted with capturing a pet’s unique personality and essence in a portrait, and is so rewarding to hear how much that finished portrait is cherished.

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©Naomi Jenkin

Be sure to follow and find out more about Naomi Jenkin:
Instagram: @naomijenkinart
Pinterest: naomijenkinart
Website: www.naomijenkinart.com

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