Welcome to the beautiful work of artist Kerry Johnstone. Kerry has very kindly offered a donation to The Word Forest Organisation from the sale of her ‘Trees Are The Key’ series of pictures and we were intrigued to find out a little bit about her and her creative process.
Kerry reminds me that Picasso said “Every child is born an artist,”; she became hooked on art as a child yet chose to specialise in Economics at University. Over the years that followed, she moved around a lot with work, had a family, and didn’t always have time to tap into her creative side. She squeezed in the occasional evening class and workshop and had the opportunity to spend three wonderful months painting watercolours in a London Park after her first child was born. Even though she may not have been painting or drawing, she was always looking, observing and imagining, often through a camera lens, thinking about composition, light, colour and tone. A real turning point came when she moved to Devon and took some time out to settle in a place that was to be home for good. She’s finally taken the plunge and now calls herself an ‘Artist’.
We asked her some questions and here is what she said.
Can you give us some insight into your creative process?
“It usually starts with procrastination. This can go on for some time and can be quite debilitating in terms of artistic productivity… though the house always looks better for it! Eventually, the weight of frustration propels me into tentative marks in a sketchbook, or maybe a review of photos I’ve taken recently. Being a ‘jack of all trades’ – not specialising in a particular medium or subject – means I’m faced with the luxury but also the burden of choice. Sometimes I overcome this by grandly announcing to anyone who will listen, something like, “This is the week – or month – that I only work in pastels”. This can be the trigger for settling down and the joy that comes from feeling absorbed, lost in trying to capture an atmosphere or getting the right combination of lines or that exact shade of yellow.”
How do you go about creating a picture?
“I try to strike a balance between being literal and expressive, taking inspiration direct from what I see, mostly outdoors. I don’t tend to deliberately play with the ‘truth’ of what I see so much, but of course what I see in a subject is ‘my’ version of the truth and will be completely different from how someone else sees the same thing. I often work from a photograph, starting with a rough sketch if I’m feeling cautious, or get on with the ‘real deal’ if I’m feeling gung-ho or under pressure. If I’m trying to achieve something more on the ‘expressive’ side, I try not to overthink the initial marks; I can work quite fast – at least in the initial stages of a picture – and be bold on getting the tonal contrasts in. I then spend a large part of the next phase nudging and adjusting. I love colour (lots of it!), and complexity; often I’ll indulge this tendency, but sometimes I’ll restrain myself by choosing a limited palette or standing back from the detail. I struggle as much with finishing a picture as starting one, often leaving it not quite finished for quite some time. I like to think that this is because I’m subconsciously figuring out what is needed to finish it and that this process should not be rushed!”
What inspires you?
“Often a good walk inspires me. Every turn offers a glimpse of something special. I feel incredibly lucky to live where I do, near the Jurassic coast and Dartmoor, with the gentle East Devon countryside on my doorstep. Rocks and trees and water tend to feature a lot in my work. Lockdown gave me a fresh perspective on my immediate surroundings. Those spring months of 2020, when the world ‘stopped’, led to many walks along country lanes and a sense of nostalgia for a simpler life. I’m also more and more drawn to capturing the objects that I choose to have around me at home. Still Life and capturing People is something I intend to focus on more in the future.
Hembury Fort Roots by Kerry Johnstone
What drew you to help The Word Forest Organisation?
“A big part of my old life was spent working abroad on projects to support people gain better livelihoods and job prospects. This sensitised me to the enormous impact of climate change on people’s ability to earn a living, especially in agrarian societies. For example, Malawi depends on an increasingly erratic single rainy season for most of its food production, and the majority of families rely heavily on charcoal and wood for cooking. It’s no surprise that deforestation has happened on a massive scale there, undermining food security even further, with negative repercussions for soil fertility and making the country highly vulnerable to droughts and floods. And this is just the ‘local’ impact.
Now immersed in the often wet Devon countryside, and enjoying trees in all their glory as an artist and nature lover, I’m acutely aware that we, in the ‘developed’ world, have the potential to make a difference to the lives of people suffering the impacts of climate change far away. The Word Forest Organisation is a local charity with a ‘global’ perspective that has chosen to focus on planting trees on the equator, specifically in Kenya. But they don’t just plant trees – they’re seeking to address the complex ‘livelihood’ issues that need to be tackled to prevent trees from being cut down unsustainably. I’m very much drawn to their vision and approach. Giving the Word Forest Organisation a third of the proceeds from my ‘Trees are the Key’ pictures feels like a great way to ‘complete the circle’, reconnecting me to my old life and allowing me to harness my creativity for the greater good.”
Needless to say, we’re incredibly grateful to Kerry for her support. Please do go and check out her amazing art at
Instagram – Monstonek
Facebook – kerryjohnstoneart
Website – www.kerryjohnstone.com
Kerry Johnstone and The Team