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Jean-Louis Vincent Farmer

My Story

At the age of six I became bored with the colouring books and started making pictures of my own.  I have drawn and, increasingly, painted pictures ever since.

Art was not my first choice of career however. Instead, having graduated with a degree in Marine Physics from University of North Wales, Bangor, I joined the Royal Navy. Having left the service I travelled in Africa and then studied graphic design, illustration and time-based media before working for some years in TV and corporate video. The draw of the sea was too great however, and for the last ten years I have worked aboard ships in the offshore oil and gas industry as a hydrographic surveyor.


Paradoxically, the offshore life has afforded me more time and opportunity to paint than ever before, and over this time I have steadily developed my practice and built up a varied body of work  using a variety of media. Whilst covering a wide range of subjects, this body of work retains its coherence through the common vision and approach that link its constituent parts. 


My Inspirations, My Work


There are four key elements in any subject I observe that may inspire me to paint or draw it.  


First and foremost, it is a certain quality of light – particularly trapped light, be it within a room, passageway or stairwell, within towering cumulus clouds or within a single blade of grass – that transforms the most everyday scene into one of high drama, where humble places are made luminous and ordinary people, going about their daily tasks, become extraordinary.

Then there is what I would term 'dynamism', a sense of line and movement. This is clearly expressed by the human figure in action but is also evident in things initially perceived as static – trees, or even rocks.  In portraying this, I believe draftsmanship is paramount: it is crucial to be able to perceive the structure of and form of things and to be able to render them effectively on paper, as a first step to creating a convincing painting. 

Then, there is the sense of place, of space. It may have the tempestuous quality of a stormy sea or the calm tranquillity of a cathedral cloister – either may resonate with me.

And lastly, there is a sense of the monumental – something that can manifest itself as much in the presence of a petite lady serving behind the counter of a bakery, or a team of men rigging the hook of a giant crane aboard a heavy lift vessel, as in a towering outcrop of rocks or an impressive building. It is the feeling of gravity, an inner strength and dignity held by the subject that is timeless. 

Whilst I naturally seek out beauty in all of my subjects, I see my work as a form of exploration, comprising a series of experiments, rather than just so many pleasing pictures. Friends have described me as a perfectionist, but of course there is no such thing as perfection in art, where one is working with the strengths and constraints of the chosen medium. I love the time-honoured combination of oil on canvas, but also like to work on alternative surfaces such as metal and wood, using the surface properties of the material to express something about the nature of the subject. Charcoal is another medium to which I return time and again; its purity, tactility and the opportunities it affords for mark making are a continual source of joy to me. 

One of my heroes in the world of painting is JMW Turner, whose work has always inspired me with its combination of luminosity and energy. Initially drawn in by that energy and apparent spontaneity - evident also in the work of the "Impressionists", to whom Turner may,  arguably, be considered the antecedent - I have become increasingly aware that such effects are deceptive:  the end results were, so often, the products of long periods of reflection and years of hard work. Degas wrote that he knew nothing of spontaneity; Monet, known as the “schoolteacher” to his friends, adopted a highly analytical, almost scientific approach to his work, and Turner, remembered largely for his later, more experimental works, started life as an architectural draftsman and was a master of painting detail.  

With this in mind, I have, increasingly, adopted a slower, more reflective approach to my own work, and for inspiration I have gone back to earlier times – the 17th century, the Renaissance, and earlier still – to study how those artists worked and to apply some of their methods (if only in part) to modern-day subjects. 


Seek them out and you will find the timeless qualities of natural beauty that inspired those artists of the past here and now in the everyday. Walk into a bar or a bakery on a sunny morning and witness those same lighting conditions that inspired Vermeer or de Hoch, four hundred years ago. The sunlight that dapples through the trees onto a café-lined street or market square is much the same sunlight that Renoir used to such poignant effect.  


I believe that our appreciation of natural beauty and the expression of such in naturalistic art will never become obsolete (no matter what the critics may say): truly, this is timeless.

Inspirations and work
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