Jennie Tuffs 

Article in the Konect Directory, Calders edition, July 2010

If you've traveled on the London Underground you may have seen the series of bright posters depicting various London gardens and parks, which were commissioned twenty years ago by Art on the Underground. 

The posters are the work of local artist Jennie Tuffs, from Harburn, West Calder.  Jennie creates distinctive bright paintings that have been commissioned for posters, book covers, calendars and cards as well as held in public and private collections.  

"Valkries" by JennieTuffs

I caught up with Jennie at the Art Exhibition at the Grand Harburn Festival on the 12th  June.  The owners of the house Broadshaw, at Harburn, very kindly give it over as a temporary art gallery once a year for the festival.  Jennie's allotted spot at the top of the stairs was a blaze of colour with her paintings along the wall.  Vibrant colours are one of the distinguishing features of Jennie's style.  Her pictures use riotous colour but at the same time have a serenity that comes from the bold confidence of the paintings. 

Jennie originates from London but left the city with her family as a lifestyle choice in 1981, preferring the tranquillity of the countryside near West Calder.  She has lived in Harburn ever since and paints pretty much every day in her studio at home here. She trained at St Martin's School of Art, the Academia dei Belli Arti in Florence and Goldsmith's College, University of London.  Her long career has included dress design for various boutiques - including Long Tall Sally - teaching and lecturing.  

So how did her distinctive bright floral “trademark” style of painting evolve? 

“After the dress design – where I was using collage on fabrics as a way of free drawing on the clothes - I returned to painting but I was looking for a new challenge.”  She wanted a liquid medium that would give her the flexibility of watercolour but at the same time the bold colours typical of acrylics.  So she developed techniques for using a new liquid acrylic, a permanent, waterfast and colourfast liquid medium originally developed for air brush work on illustrations  – Magic Color.  A limited range of nine colours is marketed today by the manufacturer as the Jennie Tuffs Range.  It is a very challenging unforgiving medium as every mark remains on view. Once on the paper, it can't be covered over or changed, only adapted. 

Jennie’s work often pursues  a particular theme – her current exhibition has a focus on trees.   She uses a digital camera rather like a sketch book with the quick response that it enables.

She describes her work as ‘‘a dynamic balance between abstraction and representation’’.  Besides brushes, she uses pens, feathers and even sticks to create the look or the line she wants.  One of her favourite tools is an opened-out paper- clip!  “I have to physically get out of the studio between stages while the ink is drying, as I can't leave it alone and am constantly trying to tweak it otherwise!” she says.  

Her work is the culmination of forty years and more of developing a language to express the colour, form and harmony In the subjects that she paints.

Visit Jennie's website and see her gallery at  www.jennietuffs.co.uk

Helen-Jane Shearer

© Lothian Publications Ltd 2014