Stand-up comic and author, Jenny Eclair, is best known for her television appearances on Grumpy Old Women and Loose Women. She was the first woman to win the Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Festival in 1995, and her most recent book, Older and Wider – A Survivor’s Guide to the Menopause, is a Sunday Times bestseller. Jenny also loves to paint and says she is now “art course hungry”, after being to Venice, Sicily and Morocco with Flavours on painting holidays over the last few years.
Jenny has been working on a piece of art a day during lockdown – sharing them on Instagram and Twitter – and says part of learning to paint is to accept that failure is part of the process. We’ve loved seeing her art-a-day project, and it’s definitely inspired us to be more creative during this time at home!
Painting teacher Hugh caught up with Jenny recently to reminisce about holidays past and catch up on all things painting and art! Read on to find out more and watch the full Youtube video below.
You’ve been on a few Flavours painting holidays – can you tell us why you enjoy them so much?
Ever since I did Flavours, the first one I did was with you in Italy, in Treviso! And ever since then I’ve been very art course hungry and the best have been the ones abroad with Flavours. I did a couple in Italy, one in Sicily. And then there was a mad one, it was a Flavours holiday in November in Morocco. When I can’t sleep and I need something to think about – something that takes you away from everything else – I still think about that accommodation in Morocco. If somebody had said to me ‘this belongs to Elton John’, I would have said “well, yes, of course it does.” Apart from the fact it was a bit subtle for Elton John. It was so luxurious and so beautiful, and the gardens and the pool! I was very fortunate to be a guest. But if everything comes good again, that would be the ultimate treat, wouldn’t it? I mean, there are some lovely destinations with Flavours.
Have you been painting much recently?
One of the reasons why I do so much painting at the moment – during lockdown, I’ve been doing a piece a day – is for therapy. I mean art for me, I’ll never be somebody who can charge money for anything I do, but to me it’s a blood pressure lower-er. And I obviously haven’t got a studio but like most people, I’ve got a kitchen table. And my thing at the moment, I’m using a lot of oil pastel crayons on black paper, because I’m lazy and I like the very instant effects of this!
Editor’s Note: If you’re art course hungry like Jenny, make sure to check out our online painting classes!
Why do you think some people are put off at learning to paint?
I think that what people have in their heads is a finished product that they could hang on their wall, give somebody as a present, or print off as a card and they get very angry by failure. And failure is actually the only way you learn. And getting over the rage. I do yoga as well. I do a lot of online yoga and my balance is very, very, very bad. And they always say you’ve got to fall over to learn. I’m still in the falling over stage.
But with the drawings that I’ve been doing in lockdown, I’ve really been trying not to judge harshly. I put them out on Twitter and on Instagram, and try not to mind if they don’t get any likes. I’ve got a huge amount of stuff now, which I think I might try and flog for charity when this is all over. And I’m going to stop doing them on the 1st of June because I think that seems to be when we are going to the next stage of coming out of lockdown.
Have you taken any other art courses?
I’ve been to a few courses at Dulwich Gallery as well because it’s very local to me. It’s the oldest art gallery in the country, so they say. And they do some courses now and again, and they’re not stupidly expensive. I’ve done an introduction to oils, about three times, and I’ve done some watercolour classes there. Most courses start quite basic with drawing and things like that, and my drawing has definitely improved.
You’ve said “I have no precision and everything I do is scrappy and out of kilter” – why do you think that is?
Well, my brother always says that I come from the flat earth school of painting! I really genuinely still don’t really understand perspective. And quite a lot of my favorite artists also ignore perspective. There’s quite a lot of stuff where perspective is skewed or it doesn’t really make sense or you know, a lot of mid-20th century stuff as well when you have a still life and you can see all sides of the bottle. And it doesn’t really make sense but it does.
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How does it feel to be 60?
Well, thank you very much! I find myself sort of sitting further and further back and just looking better and better at a distance. Close up is not my friend anymore!
Do you know what? I think that 60 at this moment – in a pandemic – it’s not a bad age to be because I think that it’s very, very hard for young people. It’s just heartbreaking and the only comfort is that everybody is in the same boat. There isn’t anybody that is able to do anything at the moment. Everybody has been completely knocked off the chessboard. And I think, when you’re 60, at least I’ve had so much fun in terms of my career and travelling – I’ve been to Australia, I’ve been to Finland. If nothing ever happened to me, performance-wise, again, I could hack it. I mean, I’d be livid and I’d go a bit mad, but I have had a great career.
With everything that’s happening, do you think there will be a decline in live comedy shows?
I don’t think that Zoom can ever replace a live environment for comedy, I’m afraid. I don’t even like watching comedy through a screen at all, I’m not very good at watching comedy on television. I feel panicky watching other stand ups. Often it’s jealousy, so I tend not to watch it.
You can only really sense the joke is working when you feel the atmosphere in the room. At first you hear the laughter and then, you feel a vibe, which is everyone leaning forward – everyone’s listening, everyone smiling. And without that, I don’t think it could work. Even if you could see that – if there was some kind of Zoom standup – it’s not the same.
I can’t even think about the future of it all too deeply because it makes me panic. The whole industry is so huge – it’s not just theatre, it’s not just stand up. It’s all those massive gigs. It’s just exhausting to even contemplate what the future’s going to be. So I think at the moment, all we can do to save our sanity is to live day by day and keep our fingers crossed. As I said before, it would be a terrible thing if I didn’t have those experiences. But the younger generation, to not know what it’s like to stand on the stage in front of a couple of thousand people, all laughing at one thing together, it’s just miserable.
Where are you planning on travelling to once you can?
I have to go back to Kuala Lumpur one day because that’s where I was born. I don’t have that yen to do that much in Asia though – apart from Japan. I’ve always had a big thing to do Japan. I was supposed to go for my 60th, but thank God we didn’t or we would have spent a fortune and not gone! I have a feeling that’s not going to happen, so I’m going to have to do that virtually now. Fortunately, over the past few years, every other celebrity and his dog has been doing Japan. So I can watch all the programs and just be quite jealous!
Lastly, what are your next plans for your painting?
I think what I’d like to do next is I’d like to work on a very big canvas, to try and approach one painting and actually finish a very big work because I’ve never done that. I think the biggest I’ve ever gone is probably A3. When I started doing these little art-a-day things in lockdown, I started with postcard-sized because I thought it was only going to be 20 minutes a day or whatever. And within a couple of weeks I’ve gone up a size and up a size.