Why Devon based seascape painter Amy Jobes loves the coast
When she’s not painting her land and seascapes, artist Amy Jobes is in or near the water, drawing inspiration from nature, writes Catherine Courtenay
Amy Jobes’ paintings have a dramatic energy, strength and freedom that seem at odds with the artist when encountered.
Amy comes across as calm, level headed and practical while chatting across the kitchen table she is clearly very organized and professional. She readily admits that she enjoys “the business side” of her job.
But as we chat, it becomes clear that there is a lot going on beneath the surface. Amy is a thinker, she reads, she absorbs the ideas and theories of others, and then she goes outside, into the landscapes she paints. In these natural settings, she will “cleanse her brain and clear all thoughts.”
Her dedication to nature, which she has built throughout her life, gives strength to her work. Ever since her childhood holidays, Amy has been obsessed with the atmosphere of what it feels like to be in the wilderness, and nowhere more so than the coastal areas of North Devon.
It’s a connection strengthened by finding solace in this landscape and realizing how it can help in difficult times.
There is a row of small oil paintings on the table, her ocean prana Works are an immediate response to a moment at sea; they are quickly painted on board with large brushes and a spatula on their return home.
It’s a reaction to being in her “thin space,” she says, “where the veils are thin,” where she feels an intense, almost spiritual connection to something else.
Amy admits that at times she was brought to tears in the presence of the ocean. Once she was surrounded by “a sea of diamonds” in Saunton. The calm, flat sea shimmered and sparkled with light. “It blew my mind,” she says.
Amy lives with her family, husband of the school teacher Edward and children Isaac and Rose, in their home in Chivenor on the outskirts of Braunton. She works in her studio, a large shed in a corner of the garden.
Originally from Hampshire, living in North Devon has always been a dream. She spent many holidays here. With her teenage friends, she “swimmed in Putsborough at night,” she recalls. “The beauty of the sunsets… this place was magical, my spiritual home. It was my first sense of independence, freedom and nature and it was so breathtakingly beautiful.’
Drawing and painting since childhood, at the age of 15 she commissioned animal portraits. But a lack of confidence in selling her work caused her to put aside any thoughts of becoming a professional artist. Instead, she focused on her other passion, biology and geography, which she studied at Exeter University. But the drawing continued, this time it was “plant cells and annotated diagrams.”
Eventually Amy worked for the Environment Agency in Bristol as a climate consultant.
Nine years ago she and Edward moved to North Devon. Amy’s work had taken its toll. “I felt like the world weighed on my shoulders. I felt really helpless,” she says. It seemed such an overwhelming task to try to stop the damage being done to the environment.
The move was difficult financially for the family. Although Edward continued to teach, Amy had taken on the challenge of becoming a professional artist – alongside raising Isaac and Rose.
It was also emotionally difficult. There was “an element of suffering” to her motherhood, says Amy, who suffered from postnatal depression, but “the suffering makes you see life differently.”
She found strength in reading books and was inspired by writers with alternative views of life. She developed a self-coping mechanism and lived in the present. “You are not your thoughts; it means letting go and accepting what is.’
And her beloved North Devon landscapes and nature aided both her spiritual well-being and her work.
“I had imagined the doom and gloom, but we still live in an incredibly beautiful world.”
“I’m lucky,” she adds. “I have a lot more time to think and reflect than most people.”
Now when she paints she will go into another zone, “an active meditation” as she describes it. “When I’m in that zone, it really feels like I’m not; I feel like I’m channeling something. Then I think, “Where did that come from?” My best work comes when I don’t control it.”
“For me, it makes life magical.”
Amy’s work can be viewed at the Echo Beach Gallery in Ilfracombe. She is currently artist-in-residence at the Saunton Sands Hotel until early March – see her website for details.