Issue 58: New Collectable Bookplate - Meet the Artist!

OUR BOOKPLATE PROGRAMME MANAGER, JULIA B. GRANTHAM, INTRODUCES THE INSPIRING TALENT BEHIND OUR NEWEST BOOKPLATE DESIGN.

We are delighted to announce the launch of our new Collectable Bookplate, this time featuring artwork created especially for the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation (JALF) by Alton artist, Pam (Pell) Jones.

Pam’s painting of Jane Austen walking up towards her brother’s house in Chawton is absolutely perfect for a June launch. June is the month of the Jane Austen Regency Week in Alton and Chawton. It began today (Saturday June 22) and many of the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation’s supporters and volunteers are visiting this very house during the week.

When I approached Pam about creating a new bookplate for us, she not only responded swiftly and enthusiastically, but offered the original painting as a prize in our traditional draw along with some absolutely fabulous other pieces of art, created by her and inspired by Jane Austen. She is going to bring them to the Regency picnic in Chawton and I hope to film Pam donating her exquisite prizes for you to win in 4 months’ time!

Pam kindly agreed to answer a few questions about herself for Pride & Possibilities readers.

Enjoy!

Dr J.B. Grantham, JALF Bookplate Programme Manager

JBG: Pam, thank you so much for painting this lovely image for our Bookplate Programme. Before I ask you about Jane Austen and your connection with her work, can you please tell us about yourself, how you have become an artist, and what inspires you in your work?

PJ: I have always loved to draw and paint but choosing a career in science meant that for many years art became just a hobby. In my late teens, my father gave me his old oil paints and I just spent time dabbling in techniques. Following the gift of a scraperboard pack I produced countless images of birds and animals, many of which I sold for silly money to my colleagues in the Zoology Department at Manchester University. I continued with scraperboards up until the 1980s. My love of Renaissance art and Raphael’s Madonnas inspired me to try my hand at painting my own versions in oils but with only modest success. While in Manchester, I attended an evening class in Portrait Painting with a view to gaining more experience. My class tutor, however, encouraged me to try less traditional forms of portraiture, where faces were broken down into simple flat areas of colour which I originally painted in oils but eventually changed to gouache. This was the start of my faceted style of painting using gouache which I have applied to many subjects. I have continued to paint throughout my life and love it…it’s my way of relaxing.

 
Pam Pell artwork.  Credit: Pam Jones

Pam Pell artwork. Credit: Pam Jones

 

I have been a member of the Alton Art Society for over 30 years and following my retirement I decided it was time to take an art qualification. I was accepted for the Access course in Art and Design at the University for the Creative Arts (UCA) at Farnham from 2006 -2007. Rubbing shoulders with other artists had a profound effect on me and I was determined to take another step forward into the world of art - that of 3D design. It was here I discovered ways of working with glass and I was able to learn and use techniques associated with both furnace and kiln-formed glass. On completion of the course, I bought a small kiln to use at home and I continue to experiment with recycled bottle glass as well as special glasses, frits, powders, and decals. No matter what medium I am using, it’s the colour and forms in the world around me that fire my creativity. Working with glass allows me to go one stage further than paint and allows me to explore the interaction of these colours and forms with light, which I find truly exciting and inspirational.

JBG: How did Jane Austen first come into your life?

PJ: My first encounter with Jane was not a particularly happy one…Persuasion was the book I had to study for O level back in 1964 and the way it was presented by our teacher did nothing to endear me to her as an author. Many years passed and having lived in Alton for several years and having retrained as a teacher, I found myself applying for a job at Chawton Primary School. All of a sudden I was surrounded by everything ‘Jane’ and the pupils at the school were involved in many aspects with the Jane Austen’s House Museum. A group of pupils attired in Regency costumes danced ‘Comical fellow’ at the opening of Chawton House in 2003 and my maypole team danced one Mayday in the garden of the Museum. 

 
Pam Pell artwork.  Credit: Pam Jones

Pam Pell artwork. Credit: Pam Jones

 

JBG: Living in such close proximity to places where Jane lived and wrote, do you have a favourite spot related to Jane? Perhaps a place where you return again and again and draw and paint it repeatedly?

PJ: I never tire of visiting ‘the Big House’ (Chawton House) and, as the drive way is still unmade, your feet crunch on the path as you walk up the drive. I can almost imagine Jane would have had the same experience. I have painted there several times from different vistas; the roof tops, the side view, the gateway into the courtyard and, of course, the view chosen for the bookplate… which had to include Jane herself.  My favourite place though has to be inside Chawton House…the special window alcove where I could imagine Jane sitting to see who exactly was coming up the driveway. 

JBG: Do you have a favourite amongst Jane Austen’s books?

PJ: Strangely enough, considering my negative first impression as a teenager, my favourite has to be Persuasion.  I was brought up by the sea in Teignmouth where Jane herself visited. The links in Persuasion with the sea struck a chord, but I only read the book again after I had seen the BBC dramatisation of it… I have also enjoyed reading the unfinished Sanditon which again struck a chord as it is set by the sea….

JBG: Is there an Austen character that you feel particularly close to? Who is it and why?

PJ: That’s a tricky one…. I feel some empathy with Anne in Persuasion but I also admire Elinor in Sense and Sensibility.   

JBG: Do you have any passions and hobbies outside the world of fine arts? What else ‘makes you tick’?

PJ: I love working with children and still go back into schools to do art workshops. I returned to Chawton Primary School last year, where the children, dressed in Regency dress, had to do two minute sketches of each other… frozen statues after dancing to ‘Pleasures of the Town’. 

Pam (Pell) Jones, the Mayor of Alton, with the pupils of Chawton Primary School, 2004.  Credit: Pam Jones.

Pam (Pell) Jones, the Mayor of Alton, with the pupils of Chawton Primary School, 2004. Credit: Pam Jones.

I am a local preacher at the Methodist Church and was recently elected the Leader of Alton Town Council. I consider myself a ‘community’ person and have had the honour to serve as Mayor of Alton twice. 

JBG: I know that I approached you with a suggestion of creating a bookplate for the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation rather out of the blue. However, you agreed immediately, and furthermore, you are donating some beautiful works of art as prizes for our draw. What made you feel so passionate and engaged with our project?

PJ: To tell the truth I was flattered at first, but when you chose my favourite view of my favourite place, there was no hesitation…as I said, I am a community person and I have been fortunate to have had a good education and when I realised this would raise money for the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation, I felt it was my way of saying thank you.

JBG: Are you going to exhibit any of your work during Jane Austen Regency Week?

PJ: I had an exhibition of my work back in March so there is not anything on show during Regency Week. However, cards are on sale at both the galleries in town and the Library, and all art work can be seen on my website (www.pellart.com) Why PELL? It was my maiden name…

JBG: Pam, thank you very much for your time and for painting such a beautiful image for us. I am sure the bookplate will be a great success and will be cherished by JALF supporters.  

 
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BOOKPLATE LAUNCH!

For every donation to the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation you receive two personal bookplates with YOUR NAME in Jane Austen’s handwriting and a unique number, as well as a letter from our Founder, Caroline Jane Knight, and a collectable sheet with information about the artist. 

The image is designed exclusively for JALF and should not be copied or published in any other context. 

Help us to improve literacy rates in the world and enjoy your very own bookplate!

 
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Image credit: Pam Jones