Artist Feature: Jean Gillespie


Jean Gillespie was born in Kirkliston, a village just outside Edinburgh, and from a very early age showed a deep interest in art and drawing in particular. After some health problems she eventually started drawing again and with encouragement from a tutor, successfully applied for a BA (Hons) in Drawing and Painting at Edinburgh College of Art, giving her a chance to follow her dreams.

After gaining her degree from Edinburgh, she was accepted at Wimbledon School of Art, London. This was a time of tremendous work and learning as, alongside winning a scholarship for a year-long residency with ArtSpace Portsmouth, she combined her studies with four teaching jobs plus a part-time position at the Office for National Statistics.  Once she gained her Postgraduate Diploma in Drawing she set off on some travels which culminated in teaching Art & Design in Shanghai and in staying on in China to live, work and travel for three years.


Since coming home to Edinburgh she has shown with the RSA twice, been selected for the W Gordon Smith Painting Competition, been selected for shows with the Methven Gallery, EDS, the Lighthouse in Glasgow, the Line Gallery and the Doubtfire Gallery and numerous others. She also shows with the artist’s group Art Can and at Art Fairs in London. Her work is now in private collections in Vienna, Norway, London and around Scotland. Her work has been published in two volumes of “The State of Art” by Bare Hill Publishing.

In this exhibition, along with a number of abstracted landscapes which have arisen from a sustained interest in the coastal nature of Scotland, she is showing a body of work which is a departure into a more colourful and playful figurative style. The drawings of Clowns and Circus figures are spontaneously worked from life but, along with drawing from the comic/tragic nature of life, have links to ideas of the Icarus myth and to the masks in the paintings of Ensor. After developing the drawings onto plates for printmaking, she then experiments with watercolour to enliven and enrich the colour. Through this she was encouraged to go to Italy to learn new techniques where colour is key to the design and which, along with new paintings, she is hoping to develop further at Glasgow Printmakers for an exhibition early next year.

Jean’s influences have been many from China through Europe and back to Britain. She is influenced by many contemporary artists, some of whom she has met and a number of whom work alongside her in her studio at WASPS Patriohall Edinburgh. She is now retired from full-time work which for a number of years she has had to balance with her artistic practise but occasionally teaches part-time.

Working with Art Can is an exciting development for Jean and she is very grateful for the hard work of the team which allows artists like her a chance to show work outside of their immediate area. Without a connection like this, developed by artists themselves and dedicated to developing a wide understanding and encouragement to artists, she feels that artists and art lovers all over would find life duller and more restricted.






Find more of Jean Gillespie’s work on her website!