Art of the unexpected for gallery exhibitor

A recent natural history  painting by  Janet Robinson of  "Flora and fauna of Marojejy National Park, NE Madagascar" Commissioned illustration by Duke Primate Center, March 2014.

A recent natural history painting by Janet Robinson of "Flora and fauna of Marojejy National Park, NE Madagascar" Commissioned illustration by Duke Primate Center, March 2014.

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Avoiding missiles thrown by suspicious gorillas is merely part of the job for Forton freelance artist, illustrator and art tutor Janet Mary Robinson.

Janet combines her passions for painting and the natural world in her commissioned illustration work.

Now some of her paintings, featuring scenes much closer to home, are on show at Garstang’s Artroom Gallery on High Street as part of the gallery’s Winter exhibition which runs until January 28.

Born in 1982 in Kirkcaldy, Janet grew up honing her drawing skills by sketching the farm animals surrounding her in rural Fife, as well as her family’s assortment of pets, waifs and strays.

She turned down a place studying fine art in Dundee when she discovered, via a wildlife magazine, that she could instead combine her love of nature and art at Blackpool and the Fylde School of Art, studying Scientific and Natural History Illustration ‘.. and has never looked back’.

Her paintings are featured in private collections worldwide, has exhibited in galleries and shows throughout the UK and has twice been awarded a Young Artist’s Bursary by the Society of Wildlife Artists

It was a final year work placement as an artist at Jersey Zoo which introduced her to some of the unexpected hardships of the portrait-painting profession - including the very accurate aim of a silver back gorilla armed with a cabbage.

Working alongside the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust she created identification cards for a band of gorillas at the zoo and recalls: “They dislike being looked at directly; it makes them feel threatened.”

She resorted to sneaking glances at the primates out of the corners of her eyes, but also recalls being pelted with fruit and veg.

Janet, recently put her skills to use as part of a lemur conservation project organised by Duke University, Virginia.

Janet played a key role in illustrating posters of a variety of the most rare and endangered lemur species in North East Madagascar to raise awareness of the importance of biodiversity on the island.

Janet has also gained a Silver Gilt medal for Botanical Artwork from the Royal Horticultural Society in 2010 for a series of illustrations of seeds commissioned by Jelitto Perennial Seeds.

When she is not travelling, Janet prefers to be outdoors sketching the local wildlife.

She usually draws while looking through a telescope, before taking the pieces back to her studio at Halton, near Lancaster, to be completed.

Janet lists some of her favourite places to draw locally as Conder Green and the Lune Estuary, for their fantastic birdlife and the Forest of Bowland for its ever changing light and skies. In addition she runs “Art in the Park” botanical, natural history and landscape drawing and painting classes at Williamson Park, Lancaster.

Janet, who also teaches at her studio, said: “This unconventional art class offers people the chance to try some wildlife drawing - the most popular model this term so far being a (very well behaved) Bearded Dragon lizard!”

Art in the Park is on every Wednesday morning during term time, and all are welcome. Contact Janet, whose website is www.jmr.org.uk for more details.

Janet will also be opening her studio to the public on Saturday November 29 at Halton Mill when there will be the opportunity to browse original handmade gifts at a craft fair.