Artists’ Corner – Jill Tattersall – Chronicles on Canvas

“Jill has a wonderful take on the BVI. You can see through her paintings and their stories that when she and her family arrived here, she truly embraced and integrated with the community.” — Lisa Muddiman Gray, Jill’s agent and owner of The Gallery on Main Street

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]fter interviewing watercolour artist Jill Tattersall, Lisa Muddiman Gray’s words affirmed Jill’s convivial personality and affection for the BVI, represented in her vibrant watercolour canvas.

Inspired by a 48-year period in the BVI, Jill’s art portfolio is a unique dichotomy, unveiling her early memories of the island—a very different world from today, absent of the current hustle and bustle—whilst bringing familiarity to audiences who appreciate her work.

It was on an unusually humid Tuesday afternoon, amid the commotion of the BVI Spring Regatta season, that I made my way to Jill’s condominium in Nanny Cay.

As she welcomed me into her home, I immediately sensed that I was in the presence of a prominent yet modest figure. We sat outside on the porch, decorated with rich plant life and a garden adjacent to the marina, sharing coffee and biscuits. We discussed her history as a best-selling novelist, the instrumental power of memory in her art and the origins of her creativity.

Hailing from Cornwall in the UK, her transition to the BVI in 1965 was filled with new experiences that swayed her creative abilities into action. “These islands made such an impression on me when I came, because it was so different from anything I’d ever seen,” said the artist, whose distinctive use of the islands’ colour and light is vocal in her work.

“I saw little wooden houses, properties with no chimneys, in East End they were building the first concrete houses—things that never strike people who live in the Caribbean all the time,” continued Jill as she reminisced about her early time in the region. “There was no road; horses were used.”

It was a combination of these sights and the enrolment in a watercolour art course—headed by renowned painter Roger Burnett—that influenced Jill into the genre of painting she exhibited in March. She honours the ‘old Tortola’ with accurate representation of the architecture, invoking nostalgia in audiences and encouraging the success of her work. The recent art gallery showcased 42 of her paintings, 22 of which she sold.

A warm picture began to materialize about this artist, whose March 2013 Sugar Works Museum exhibition, Memories of the BVI, provided audiences with a peak into the territory’s past, spanning back almost five decades. Audiences are transported 48 years back in time with depictions of familiar locations and individuals conducting their daily routines.

Predicting that this recent showcase took her years to accomplish due to the busyness of the paintings and multitude of colours used, Jill surprised me “I did the paintings for this show in one year, because I wanted to do everything completely new,” she said. “I had to dredge out of my memory back 48 years since we first came,” she added whilst also indicating that it was more challenging than was anticipated.

Emotion, smells and sounds are instrumental in triggering Jill’s creativity. “When I was in Africa, I suddenly smelt charcoal burning…I thought I’m back in Tortola,” she said in reference to the strength of her senses that can draw a memory from decades ago.

Her paintings are so distinct, that occasionally viewers will recognize their own relatives or properties. “It’s very much like creative writing,” Jill said. “You think about the characters, where they were born, where they went to school, what their parents were like.”

Evidently cut out for greatness, Jill’s notable career path saw the origins of her tutelage under the great-grandson of famous English romance painter John Constable. Following that, Jill attended art school in Essex, England.

Subsequently, she studied under President of the American Watercolor Society David Lyle Millard and other notable artists such as Judi Betts and Jeanne Dobie.

In reference to the recent gallery, Jill explained, “People would say to me, ‘don’t you run out of ideas?’” to which she would respond, “No, I’ve got 56 more ideas I’m beginning to work on now you know, just in case anyone ever asks me to have another show.”

With Jill’s art, we are privy to see through the eyes of someone who truly appreciates the BVI. Her distant yet fresh memories of the past add to a thriving artistic world here in the territory—a universe that will continue to grow with more artists who will find inspiration in her works.

Below are pictures from the Sugar Works Museum March exhibition –  ‘Memories of the BVI’

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