Journey of Discovery
Accomplished artist and photographer Jeff Eskdale, who only discovered his talent for painting two years ago, has recently been endorsed by the National Trust
With retirement on the horizon, former self-employed joiner Jeff Eskdale suddenly discovered he had a latent talent that has led him to embark on a new, exciting chapter in his life.
Today Jeff, 66, who lives in the Ribble Valley with his wife Jeanette, is an accomplished artist whose work has recently been endorsed by the National Trust.
He discovered his talent unexpectedly after being invited to join an art class, as Jeff explains: “I knew I had always had an inkling to draw but I had no formal training on how to do it. I wasn’t bad at art at school, I just didn’t do anything with it.”
Born and brought up in Blackburn, Jeff started his working life as an engineer. He later moved to Zambia where he spent two years working in the copper mines and teaching, and after returning to the UK he became a self-employed joiner, a career that lasted four decades.
At the age of 64, with retirement looming, Jeff joined an art class in Sawley Village Hall where he realised that his eye for detail in his working life could be applied to art: “I started the art class and met a few other members. It was only by going there that I discovered I could paint. All the group are really supportive and encourage each other.”
Tutor Harry Caunce and professional artist John Chapman were among the artists Jeff met at Sawley: “They are both really encouraging. While their style is very different to mine, they showed me various techniques. It really boosted my confidence,” recalls Jeff, who is also a member of Blackburn Artists’ Society.
Jeff is also a qualified fly-casting instructor with the Game Angling Instructors Association and a member of Haslingden and District Fly Fishing Club. His first commission came from a fellow fly-fisherman who asked Jeff to paint a Dorada surrounded by flying fish. He went on to receive further commissions after displaying his work, which features mostly wildlife and landscapes.
Jeff’s collaboration with the National Trust came about after his daughter embarked on a trip to Lyme Park in Cheshire, as Jeanette recalls: “As a family we are National Trust members and when she visited Lyme Park, there was a display of art and crafts by local artisans. She told them her dad was an artist – they were really interested and asked us to send over some of Jeff’s work.”
Jeff and Jeanette put a short biography together and submitted samples of Jeff’s paintings to the National Trust, who responded asking Jeff to meet a panel, who wanted to know more about Jeff and his work.
“I hadn’t had an interview as such for 40 years so it was a bit nerve-wracking! But it was really just an informal chat, telling them a bit more about myself,” Jeff recalls.
The National Trust were amazed and delighted with the paintings, focusing on three paintings they particularly liked – Running Hare, Stag in Front of the Lantern at Lyme Park, which Jeff painted from a photograph taken there and Highland Cow, as Lyme Park had just bought a herd of Highland cattle. The trust ordered the three works, which now feature on eco-friendly greetings cards and mounted prints, and can be purchased from their gift shop at Lyme Park.
As an amateur photographer, Jeff adds: “I take my own photographs and paint from them – not to create a lifelike reproduction but to capture the essence of a scene and draw the viewer into the story within the picture.”
Having always enjoyed wildlife, earlier this year Jeff and Jeanette embarked on a trip-of-a-lifetime to Kenya where they went on safari in the Masai Mara. Taking pictures of animals in their natural habitat ensured Jeff had a wealth of inspirational material on his return.
“We got to see the ‘big five’ – lions, leopards, rhinoceros, elephants and buffalo,” recall the couple, who also stayed at Treetops, the luxury lodge where Princess Elizabeth was staying at the time of her father’s death and her accession to the throne.
“During our time in Kenya we also saw giraffe, cheetah, gazelle, ostriches and warthogs, it was amazing. I think there was one stand-out moment on safari when we saw a lion and her cubs – it was magical!”
Since returning from Kenya, Jeff has produced some stunning works – hence his Lion, Elephant and Giraffe paintings and he has also worked on various commissions painting people’s pets and favourite animals.
Jeff, who has attended various workshops run by professional artists enabling him to use different mediums and develop new techniques, concludes: “I am the first to say that I am still learning, but enjoying every minute!”
A selection of Jeff’s work can be viewed or purchased at The National Trust gift shop at Lyme Park, The Furniture Tailor showroom on Kester Lane, Longridge or by visiting: jeffeskdaleartist.co.uk