Jenny Hallowes

Jenny Hallowes


I was encouraged in drawing by my family even before I went to school, then by teachers right from sub-A. In form 4, I received the Rembrandt vs Rijn special award. I was also awarded the Form 6 school art prize.

I then did a diploma in Dress Design at Durban Tech Art School (1962-1964) and was awarded a 2nd and 3rd year bursary to complete my studies.
After 2 years as a junior dress designer at Greys in Johannesburg, which I hated, I moved as a junior to the advertising agency, van-Zyl & Schultz, (for whom I had done some freelance fashion drawing).
I then worked successively for PM Barrett, Grey Phillips and then Rolfes, (the latter after I had a baby). Finally I ran my own design studio, ‘Artline’ from 1976 -1987.

We moved to Pietermaritzburg and I battled to keep Artline running because of complicated logistics in dealing with clients in Gauteng, and so with great support from my husband, Jonathan, I decided to paint full-time.

I value my years in advertising:
I worked with some amazing people, John Meyer and Dov Feddler among them.
I learned to work with all painting and drawing techniques & mediums,
and I learned the rewards of creativity & thinking out-of-the-box.
Illustration and lay-out taught me composition,
Printing taught me about colour,
and production taught me planning and the discipline of working to schedules and following through to finish a project.

On arriving in Pietermartizburg, I immediately joined Jane Heath’s art classes, Midlands Art and Crafts (MACS), and attended every workshop or course I on offer just to LEARN. I have always been prolific and passionate about drawing. I joined Jeanette Gilkes’s Westville Garret Artists, drew every Monday with them for 13 years, (figures, animals, and landscapes), and participated in annual group exhibitions. Garret Artists comprised an amazing list of teachers and really accomplished artists and I was sorry to leave because the weekly trip to Westville became onerous.

But my biggest learning curve was being asked to fill in as fine arts teacher for MACS and having to come up with challenges and solutions for other artists. I taught eventually for about 15 years. I taught some pretty amazing artists, Gill Gerhard and Rose van Staden amongst them. My mantra was “The only way to learn is to do”. It worked for me and my students.

I have participated in many group and few solo exhibitions over the years, my last being at the Tatham in Pietermaritzburg. Most of my work is in private collections. I do commissions quite often. At present I belong to 2 groups: “Mark” run by Moray Comrie where we draw and paint from a live model, and “MOPS, Midlands Outdoor Painting & Sketching run by Hermine Spies. I am beginning work on portraits that I hope to exhibit next year.

In spite of my age I learn all the time and produce quite prolifically though sometimes ‘life happens’ and you to plan around that.

My daughter was asked if she painted ‘like her mum’ and she replied, “I do paint quite a lot but not like my mom, to her it’s like breathing” and that describes how I need to work. The actual process; drawing, painting, collage etc. is more rewarding than the outcome. I am lucky to be very confident in my ability and pretty proficient in most mediums. I experiment and set goals for myself. Whatever subject I am pursuing or medium I am using is my passion right then. I love to interact with other artists and my husband and I own quite a magical collection in our home and beach house.

I use sketches and photographs and memory to compose my paintings. There are lots of decisions to make. I am a hopeless photographer but can usually find something in my pics to use. My sketches and drawings are spontaneous complete works in themselves and the only decisions I make are about paper size, instrument and medium. I think a lot about content but am very wary about contrived ‘meaning’. It is quite a discipline to decide a direction and then follow through, keeping the work fresh and interesting without mass producing, not producing your best work, or boring yourself. So consequently some of the ‘ threads’ through my work are very short , or I return to them over and over again as in ‘scarves’ – do they define us or hide us? – or ‘Faces of Africa’ or ‘Material Women’. I love paths and roads and that may be the lone subject of an exhibition. I see myself painting energetically and well for at least another 10 years – or as long as I live.