The Eyes Are the Window to the Soul

Artist Jean Pritchard gains momentum as more Westie owners turn to the award-winning painter to capture their pups.

You’re an award-winning professional wildlife artist. How long have you been painting and was it always on the cards that you would do this for a living?

I have painted since I was about 10 so that’s over 40 years. Of course, when I first did it I was just messing around. Then I started to think seriously about drawing and painting when I started 6th form college. I was told in my A level art lesson that I would never do anything with art! So, I decided I wanted to go to Art college. I did Scientific and Technical Illustration and absolutely loved every minute of it. Then after college, getting married and raising a family took preference. I taught watercolours at the local college for years, but I didn’t really start painting seriously until about 10 years ago when I saw other artists work posted on the Internet. I have westies myself, so it was always on the cards that I was going to paint them. I am part of the Westie Advice Group on Facebook so when I started advertising my pet portraits, I got some interest from them.

When did you start painting West Highland Terriers and how difficult is it when you’re copying a photograph? Talk us through the process.

I am part of the Westie Advice Group on Facebook so when I started advertising my pet portraits, I got some interest from them.

It’s hard to bring someone’s Westie out on canvas and get the true personality. I won’t work from reference photos that are no good. That is not what I am about, and I don’t want something out there that I am not happy with. Of course, it would be ideal to take all the photos myself but that isn’t always possible so I have to work with a client to get the best photos they can possibly get. I am fortunate the doggy people take such a lot of photos! I do an underpainting in one colour first to try and get the personality of the dog. When I am happy with that then I start to add colour in thin layers letting the layers dry before adding the next. This takes a few weeks of adding and drying. Then when finished they are scanned in so I have a copy for advertising, then they are varnished. They are sent out unframed in my own personal box, so they look good for a present.

You also teach art classes. What kind of people attend your classes?

I have taught for many years and have only recently stopped my in-person classes as I haven’t got time to do them anymore. The zoom classes are made up of people from all over the world, some are beginners, but some are professional artists too who want to learn oils my way. I try and take the difficulty out of oils as I was brought up with watercolours and had to teach myself oils. We have our own private Facebook page where we can all post work and ask questions and suggest new materials, brushes etc…. it’s great! I have been totally overwhelmed with the way it has taken off and I love doing it. I only do one a week, so I have time to get on with commissions and wildlife paintings.

Your uncle was a well-known local artist. What did you learn from him?

My uncle and godfather always encouraged me – he was a Lake District artist, T. Leslie Hawkes. But my style was totally different to his so he could only advise me so far. He taught me my first watercolours; I am the only one in the family to inherit his talent for drawing so I would like to take it as far as I can.

What inspires you and do you ever take a break to reflect on your work?

Lighting inspires me, textures inspire me. I love the softness in fur which I am always trying to emulate. Trying to get the feeling of the subject actually there. I am always trying to do that. Eyes are my favourite thing to paint; you can get the soul of an animal in the eyes.

What artists are you inspired/influenced by?

Raymond Harris-Ching, David Kassan, Steven Townsend, Robert Bateman, to name a few, these are the painters I love. Realism. When I show at wildlife exhibitions, I still pinch myself that I am showing next to such great artists as Stella Mays, Eric Wilson and Michael Demain, Alan Hunt. These are artists I have admired for years each for their own style. When I came back into painting after many years after the introduction of the Internet these are the artists whose work I would spend hours looking at.

For more information on Jean’s work visit 

Facebook: @jeanpritchardartist

Instagram: @jeanpritchardwildlifeart 

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