Memories – connections to the past

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Memories – connections to the past

When I paint, I often think of my parents and how they provided me with the values and principles by which my life is structured.

Mother and Child

Mum, as far back as I remember was always drawing and painting. We lived in the city centre of the old Manchester during the late 1950s until the early 1970s. Manchester in those days was a bomb site. At the end of the war there was very little money to reinvest and rebuild, so many of the sites were left. At that time, we lived in a terrace house, with a back yard, outside toilet and no hot running water. This was the norm for many people at that time. Mum was very talented, and she painted in watercolour, depicting the social side of Manchester. Her artwork captured street scenes, social gatherings in public houses, the rag and bone man with his horse, women in their house coats sanding front steps in the streets, children playing marbles in the gutters. Her style was very similar to Lowry. Mum was also adept at drawing cartoons to entertain both myself and my brother, and painting flowers such as chrysanthemums. She achieved this with a small watercolour set and two brushes. Mum often used the back of wallpaper to paint as money was extremely short. Mum used art to escape the reality of life. Art provided a space where she could express herself and find solace. Unfortunately, her portfolio was lost and after we left Manchester, she never painted again. Soon after we arrived in Bournemouth, Mum met Ken who became my stepfather. I have always considered him to be my true Dad as his kindness and guidance made me the person I am now. I have really missed his incredible sense of humour and counsel. Ken a very active sportsman, but unfortunately became ill with Parkinson’s, which is one of those very cruel diseases that strip people of their dignity. Ken had a very strong personality and whatever hurdle life threw at him; he overcame it. During his time with Parkinson’s he took up art. First watercolour, using the hake brush which afforded a loose style and it didn’t matter that his hand shook. He went on to exhibit his work around the Lymington area and sold many pieces. As his Parkinson’s advanced, he took up oil painting with a palette knife using an impasto approach. Some of his work was amazing with vibrant colours that he observed in the New Forest where they lived. I often joined Ken on workshops and I really relish those memories of the banter between artists. When I paint, I often reflect to those times and the inspiration of my parents who used art go get through some very difficult and challenging times in their lives. You will catch me talking to them. “What do you think of this?” “Do you feel that it’s in balance?” You could say that art is the thread that joins us together. Website: Facebook: Twitter: @JanUnderdown Instagram: jan.underdown


It's good to be reminded of our inter-connectivity, social and environmental influences. My mother was a potter and father a painter. Both had a huge influence on my childhood and subsequent choices: education without realising it. As you say, a reminder of our past and loved ones as we paint. Wonderful.

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