Belfast artist Jane Moore: 'I couldn't give up chocolate for a whole year, but I knew I could do a sketch every single day'
Belfast artist Jane Moore tells Una Brankin about her unique art project, and telling her parents that she was gay
Within 24 hours of the death of screen legend Lauren Bacall (89) earlier this year, her famous sultry gaze and perfect bone structure were captured beautifully by Belfast-born Jane Moore.
The drawing was part of the illustrator's ambitious year-long Sketch a Day project, and one of the highlights of the 365 artworks she was planning to exhibit in January.
But she has been left devastated by the theft of the sketch and six others of hers from the Winter Pride Art Awards, a gay event in London celebrating diversity and sexuality. The deeply personal selection was snatched in the early hours of the morning two weekends ago - along with a memorial print by another artist - by three men posing as volunteers, who removed the artwork at around 2-3am when the only people left at the end of the evening were the curating team, security and bar staff.
"They were brazen - the staff thought they were part of the arts team," says Jane (32). "I got a call from the curator the next morning. I left feeling sick and gutted. It's not so much about the money, but one of the pieces was a self-portrait I spent a lot of time on. I'm not a big fan of self- portraits in general, so it was a big deal to me. It took four hours of the little time I'd set aside each day to work on this project. I don't want to prosecute anyone; I just want them back."
Insurance will cover the eight originals - valued at £6,000 - but Jane's seven are the equivalent of a week's gap in her 365 day project, spanning the whole of 2013. The art college graduate began the creative odyssey initially as a new year's resolution.
"I could never stick to going to the gym or giving up chocolate so I picked something I knew I'd stick to every day and definitely do it," she says, speaking at her parents' home in Ballygowan, Co Down. "I wanted to do it for a while but I knew it would take dedication and time. It was difficult to be motivated some days, like when I was feeling poorly, so I'd pick a topic I could sketch pretty quickly, like a figure drawing. Sometimes if I'm busy in work I can only spare 30 or 40 minutes but I always managed to fit it in."
The original self-portrait depicts the artist in a simple black T-shirt, tattooed arms raised, with her platinum-blonde hair falling loose on her shoulders (she's growing out the pudding-bowl fringe look, recently sported by Beyonce). Her pretty features are presented expertly in monotone, which - while striking - misses out on the vivid blue of her wide-set eyes. She enhances them with lots of black eyeliner, making the cerulean irises pop out against her fair complexion and even paler hair, which is shaven at the back.
"The self-portrait was the one I was most proud of," she admits. "I did it from a series of photos a friend took; I used a mirror as well. Looking at a photo, only, changes your perception of yourself because of the 2D. I had a big problem with the eyes - they're the feature which stands out. Once you capture the essence of a person, the rest falls into place pretty easily."
Currently in talks with exhibition venues in Belfast, Jane is back home from her base in London and a recent three-month stint in Barcelona to stay in the scenic Ballygowan countryside with her parents, James, a structural technician, and Sarah, a window display artist. It's a chance to catch up with younger sister Rebecca (30), a paediatrician, and her sister's children Michael (5) andNicole (2).
Openly gay, Auntie Jane came out of the closet long before her niece and nephew were born, just as she was moving to London to work after graduating 10 years ago. "My parents were shocked - I've always been quite feminine," she laughs. "But they and my friends have been really supportive. I knew I was gay by my late teens. It was harder in Northern Ireland when I was younger but attitudes are changing now. It's still not as open here as in London; there is greater acceptance there, you can be who you are."
So what does she think of the continued hush-up of homosexuality in A-list circles, both in the UK and Hollywood?
"Well, the actress Ellen Page coming out recently, in her late 20s, is very encouraging. The younger generation is not ashamed of their sexuality."
Androgynous images feature prominently in Jane's work, although she doesn't consider lesbianism as a major theme in it. She's currently single and wouldn't rule out having children in the future, but art comes first at the moment.
She excelled in the subject at Grosvenor Grammar School, and went on to study as the Creative College of Arts Art in Surrey after her foundation degree with the University of Ulster's art college in Belfast.
Her talent and qualifications led to jobs in fashion promotion and illustration, magazine work and story-board commissions for production companies and theatre directors.
Seemingly inexhaustible, she now works for both private and corporate clients, as well as continuing her now annual Sketch A Day project.
Her commitments don't hinder her free-spirited lifestyle, however, which allows her to travel.
Goya and Andy Warhol are influences on her work, as are fashion illustrators Rene Gruau, the inspiration for a recent John Galliano couture collection for Dior, and the legendary French image-maker Georges Barbier: "Our styles are similar in that my artwork can be quite decorative and I like to use muted colours."
While prolific, it's doubtful whether these great artists managed a drawing per day. Where does she get the inspiration for such a mammoth task?
"I do a lot of portraits, mostly of friends, and I like drawing animals in human clothing," she giggles. "I draw 24/7 - I never run out of inspiration. I keep them all in a note-book I carry about with me. It's full of fashion and figure pieces too.
"I'm continuing the project into next year, with more colour pastels, oil paint, water colours. My favourite is oil but it's slower. Watercolour's quicker and dries faster."
Impressively, Jane is also working on illustrations for a children's book. She came up with a plot and outline, while a friend is writing the narrative. They hope to publish next year. In the meantime, she's exhibiting some of her work in a trendy Notting Hill gallery and running a Kickstarter Crowdfunding campaign, until December 11, as a means to fund her huge Sketch A Day exhibition in London and Belfast, and to self-publish her Sketch A Day book.
"I've poured my heart into this project and to get it out there, I'm selling the framed original drawings, prints, book and other merchandise," she concludes.
"After that I'm just looking forward to spending Christmas with my family. Ballygowan's beautiful and it will always be home."
To purchase from Jane Moore's Sketch A Day collection, click here.