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So Who On Earth Is Villager Jim?
An Introduction to the Villager People - The Villager People are a couple of creative types called Villager Jim & Villager Helen. They live and work in the glorious Peak District. Jim takes stunning wildlife photographs & Helen paints them perfectly
By: Villager Helen
“Now that would be telling”, laughs Helen Clark, the wildlife artist at Caudwell’s Mill in Rowsley.
As I look around the all new Gallery, it’s hard to imagine it’s the same place it was, when I visited the craft centre a few years ago. It really seems twice the size I remember, but she assures me there have been no extensions, just renovations.
“It’s exactly the same size as before – honestly. I know it’s been a while since you were here, but it’s still my faithful old Gallery. It was so hard making the decision to downsize” she says wistfully, “I had no choice really, but it’s good to be back, and this time I’ve brought someone with me” she grins conspiratorially. The wonderful new lighting and soft cream walls really give it a wonderful spacious effect as I look round at all the canvases on show. But where did Helen go and why did she return?
Helen explained, “It’s been a very tough couple of years, with the recession hitting all craftspeople extremely hard. Art, of any kind, is classed a definite luxury item and is at the bottom of everyone’s list of priorities. Several of my artist friends have sadly had to throw in the towel. It’s been a seriously tough time for anyone trying to make a living in the art world – it’s just not an essential item is it?” as she gestures around at all the fantastic paintings and photographs on display. She went onto explain, that as an artist you have a lot of time to think while you’re working on your own, she started worrying what she was doing wrong, if she should change what she painted so customers may buy, “ I came up with some very bizarre ideas” she laughs. ” But I also lost all confidence in myself” It was a real wrench, having to leave her beloved Gallery in early 2010
“I knew deep down, I had to try and cut my overheads, hence the move to the small studio in the courtyard at Caudwell’s Craft Centre. I had a lovely year there, and I’m so glad I didn’t have to move somewhere totally new. My loyal customers all came to see me and said how nice it was, but now that I’ve moved back, they’re all turning up saying “I’m so glad you’ve moved back home – it wasn’t right for you round there was it?” She found that her paintings were getting smaller and smaller – “It was a bizarre feeling. I’m so used to painting quite large canvases and I ended up just painting miniscule little things”
Helen stayed at her “Cubby Hole” as she fondly calls her small studio in the craft courtyard , for just under a year, essentially to ride out the recession. “It was a tough year but I’m so glad I did it.” She now firmly feels her perseverance has paid off.
“ I’ve come home again, back where I belong” she says. “But I don’t regret a minute of the temporary move. If I hadn’t moved”, she beams, “then I wouldn’t have met Villager Jim”.
So back to the original question - who is Villager Jim? Helen gestures around the walls, pointing to several stunning wildlife photographs, hung amidst her paintings. “This is Villager Jim, and this, and this” as she walks around the room it’s very difficult to tell the difference between the photographs and the paintings, they blend together so well. “Aren’t they fantastic?” she smiles.
“I not only get to hang this gorgeous stuff, see it every day, listen to customers going mad about them, but, and this is the most important part - I get to paint them too – how lucky am I?” As I look around I can see now the connection between artist and photographer. Helen’s unadulterated love for wildlife is obviously shared by the new wildlife photographer on the block, Villager Jim.
“He just keeps taking the most amazing photographs and I can’t paint them fast enough ” Her obvious delight is infectious and as I look around it’s amazing to see the photograph and Helen’s almost identical portrayal, in painted form, next to it. It’s quite hard to choose which I prefer – the painting or the photograph. The symbiotic relationship they have is quite unique.
Helen explains that back in October last year, she had a call from a potential customer who wanted his black lab painting for his wife for Christmas. He’d seen her advert for her pet portraiture in Derbyshire Life, and was a bit worried his photograph wasn’t good enough.
“He was really shy and bashful, but a really, really nice bloke and my only slight worry, as with all pet portrait photographs, was sometimes a photo makes a very good photo but not a good painting........ he said he’d email it and I didn’t think much else about it to be honest. I wasn’t expecting anything out of the ordinary because I know how hard it is to catch your pet in just the right pose. I often have to make things up and use a head off one photograph and a body of another. Little did I know what was going to appear on my PC!” she laughs again. “The photograph was exquisite. See what I mean?” She gestures to an adorable little black lab pup fast asleep on a red leather chair.
“I actually squealed and had my husband shouting up the stairs to see if I’d fell off my chair!” she giggles.
“Just the whole warm glow off the fire and the position the pup was in – you couldn’t make it up. The whole photograph was just perfection to me.
This has never happened to me in over 12 years of painting professionally and it just begged to be painted, and I didn’t need to alter a thing. I have never been so excited to paint a pet portrait in my life” She rang him back the next day and asked if she could pay HIM to let her paint the photograph!
“And that’s how it all started” she says. “That’
She went on to explain that the call really saved her own flagging morale and ultimately her career.
Whilst painting the dog and swapping several emails with Jim, showing him progress of the painting, Helen gleaned that Jim was actually an extraordinarily confident businessman with several, hugely successful companies. She thought this highly amusing as he was so painfully shy about his photography.
” He mentioned he’d got a few more photographs to show me if I’d like to paint any I was welcome. I met at his house and he began the viewing on his big widescreen computer screen. It was like Mission Control in there. He was talking too quickly about it only being a hobby and I could tell he was nervous. I was more nervous than he was – I really thought I was going to explode when I saw them all!”
Helen then explained how it was as if she knew something amazing was going to suddenly happen to her future.
“It was as if a piece of jigsaw puzzle had just slotted into place. He so reminded me of ......well me!”
“I still can’t explain what I mean and you probably think I’m a total nutcase, but something just seemed to make me think “ah – this feels just right”. Because I’m a working mum and am either at home painting or here at the Gallery, I don’t ever have the time to go out and She went onto explain,that the call really saved her own flagging morale and ultimately her career.
Whilst painting the dog and swapping several emails with Jim, showing him progress of the painting, Helen gleaned that Jim was actually an extraordinarily confident businessman with several, hugely successful companies. She thought this highly amusing as he was so painfully shy about his photography....................to read the rest of the article and see the stunning photographs and amazing paintings , please visit :
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Spring Watch Favourite Villager Jim, takes stunning photographs of the Uk's wildlife and Villager Helen breathes extra life into them, transforming them into fantastic paintings!
Page Updated Last on: May 21, 2011