Homegirl London’s Interview: Jane Lee McCracken. This artist constructs intricate and complex Biro drawings in layers which are sold as original drawings, sculptures directly drawn on in Biro, limited edition prints and fine bone china plates. Her work explores powerful subject matter such as the human condition of war, destruction and the resulting loss for all. Her recent plate series visualises the plight of the endangered last great carnivores of Eurasia featuring Grey Wolves, Siberian Tigers, Amur Leopards and Brown Bears. This work is striking, mesmerizing and thought provoking. I caught up with Jane Lee McCracken to find out more.
In Homage to the Last Great Carnivores of Eurasia, Selection of Limited Edition Fine English China Coupe Plates
Meet Jane Lee McCracken
Jane tells me about her background – “I studied BA (Hons) Graphic Design at Humberside University graduating in 1990. I freelanced as an illustrator for several years, producing illustrations for the BBC and various book publishers. Having moved to London in the mid-1990s to freelance, I lost my portfolio on the tube! Although devastating it was a significant turning point. I had wanted to express my own thoughts and ideas for some time and explore them through art and photography. I made the difficult decision to walk away from freelance illustration and begin experimenting!”
To subsidise her art practice Jane took on some interesting jobs – “I became a Park Keeper for Camden Council which involved opening, closing and looking after over 30 historic parks across the borough. In the late 1990s I became one of a handful of female Guard/Tube Driver on the Northern Line. I wanted a job that created a sense of being at the beating heart of the London I was so passionate about, but also shift work allowed me to continue making art. Both jobs were challenging and brimming with inspirational life experience.”
Sweet Plate and Print
Making art has always been a passion for Jane – “As a child I always had a Biro in my hand and made drawings. As an adult I worked in an office in London where I used to make pieces of art in my lunch hour using Biro pen on Post-it notes. It was a natural progression when I finally became a full-time Artist in 2006 to use Biro as my main medium for producing artwork. Art has always been part of my life and many artists have inspired me to never give up and make my childhood dream a reality.”
Tiger Plate and Print
Jane’s business is pretty much a solo project but she does rope in family members if needed. She is based near the coast close to Newcastle-upon-Tyne with her husband Rob and Northern Inuit dog Lily, who is her muse. She tells me – “Apart from university years in Yorkshire / Humberside then London and various other places, I have always lived near the East Coast. I was born in Edinburgh and lived in Northumberland where my parents moved to from Scotland. The North East is beautiful and peaceful, not far to visit family in Edinburgh and the Highlands but also close to the vibrant city of Newcastle. The people of the North East are so warm and having been a bit of a wanderer for so many years I felt welcome here and decided to settle!”
Jane Lee McCracken Collection
Jane makes black and colour Biro drawings on paper along with objects and sculptures that incorporate her drawings. These objects are either drawn on directly or feature printed images of her drawings. The resulting products are limited edition prints and fine china. Jane comments – “I use Biro because picking up a pen and drawing is simple and immediate. However, Biro can’t be erased which makes it challenging to use! I also draw layers of images within my drawings, which again adds to the complexity. My working method of photographing films and documentaries as they play on screen is transporting and aims to add a cinematic quality to my drawings from the photographic images I produce for inspiration. My style is realism with a cinematic photographic quality incorporating a passion for layered images. I draw what I see so when working from photographic images I incorporate the visible pixelated patterns. My aim is to try and make each piece as epic as I possibly can to represent the subjects in an iconic way and provoke contemplation.”
Our Forefathers Print
The subject matter for Jane’s artwork explores ‘loss’ experienced by humans and animals through war and environmental destruction. For example, ‘In Homage to the Last Great Carnivores of Eurasia’ was created to capture the beauty of the remaining threatened and endangered Eurasian carnivores, whilst highlighting the threats they face – Grey Wolves, Siberian Tigers, Amur Leopards and Brown Bears. She explains further – “Every artwork takes time to research, weeks and months to make and often involves reading harrowing information or looking at distressing images. I weave symbolism through my drawings that represents the experiences of real people and animals caught up in war or destruction, aiming to ensure they do not become statistics but are remembered as individuals. There is a sense of duty to make the best work I possibly can for the subjects who inspire my art and this therefore applies to the manufacturing of products.”
Inspiration for Jane often comes from watching films, documentaries, reading or experience. She elaborates – “I see or read something deeply moving and want to make a piece of art to channel the emotions I have experienced. For instance, ‘Sweet’ and ‘Revenge’ wolf diptych from my china collection was inspired by a distressing image of a wolf caught in a trap just about to be shot by a hunter. The impact of seeing this image was so strong I needed to vent! I had just seen the film ‘Watchmen’ and read the true story of a wolf named Lobo whose mate Blanca was killed by a hunter. My dog Lily became Blanca in ‘Sweet’ and ‘Revenge’ represented Lobo, whose body transformed into that of The Comedian from Watchmen.”
When producing products, Jane likes to work with the finest manufacturers in the UK. She explains – “My prints are made by one of the best print makers in the business whose excellent standards insures every detail of my Biro drawings is captured in print. For the manufacturing of my china products, I use The New English of Stoke-on-Trent. It’s wonderful to work with Barbara Desax and her team who have ensured my Biro drawing designs are manufactured exactly how I envisaged them in china form. I originally worked with Paul Bishop, the founder of The New English, before he sold the business to Barbara. It’s important that I have the continuity of skill and attention to detail that this company provides.”
Buy Jane Lee McCracken Art
You can buy Jane’s artwork through the Jane Lee McCracken Website and via Wolf & Badger and The New English. Her pieces can be shipped overseas. To give you an idea of price points 50 x 50cm prints are limited editions of 50 per design priced at £140 each plus. Fine English coupe plates are limited signed editions of 200 per design priced at £150. Jane undertakes drawing commissions and is open to collaboration projects. You can contact her via the website to discuss further.
Author: Homegirl London. Thanks and photographs: Jane Lee McCracken.