Jeni Caruana, nee Paine, is British-born but she has now been in Malta since the 1970s, so considers herself a hybrid. Jeni studied at Uxbridge, Hull and Harrow colleges, graduating in Illustration, which honed her drawing skills.
How did you get started?
I don’t ever remember NOT drawing or painting. I was lucky enough to be encouraged at home and at school, but I was also fortunate to be born with the ‘gift’. Now that I teach others I know that 99% of people can easily learn to see abstract space, which is what you need to draw accurately.
What genre do you consider your work to be?
I find this question hard to answer. Like asking what my ‘style ‘is. I leave that to others. I do the best I can with the gifts I have and the materials I have to hand. I tend to work in series, and I seem to work from precise detail to abstract not only throughout the series but sometimes in the same piece. ‘Unpredictable’ is perhaps my ‘style’, or ‘genre’?
Describe your work in less than 10 words
Drawing, watercolour, acrylic, movement, musicians, nudes, trees, landscapes, dancers……etc.
When was your first exhibition held?
At the Bankside Gallery in London while I was still at college. It was a collective, and we were asked to record the area along the South Bank before it was redeveloped. I still have that painting somewhere. My first solo was in Valletta in the early 80’s as the inauguration of the fledgling art group N’Ghinu bl-Arti.
How long have you been practising your art?
Which is your favourite from among your own artworks?
Impossible! I haven’t parted with some of my musician paintings because I have no idea how I could have painted them. I work on the spot, at speed, in bad lighting; the ones that really work surprise me every time. I look back on the photos of my work over the years and often appreciate them more now than I did at the time. I can’t get too connected to paintings though; I need to pay my bills.
Whose artist’s work are you most inspired by
The internet has given us access to endless images of fabulous works from all over the world, from way back in history to the present time. The list is too long to even start thinking who most inspires me. I suppose I am easily inspired.
If you weren’t an artist what would you be?
Maybe a writer… I have always loved writing but spent my life painting, until I discovered blogging! Now I can do both through my website.
What is the epitome of happiness for you?
When a picture ‘works’, being with friends, family, in nature, a large cold gin….
What are you working on at the moment?
I am obsessed with a collection of tree paintings and writings titled ‘Arbor Vitae’. It has taken me over completely at the moment and it is currently hanging at the Majjistral Nature and History Park, Ghajn Tuffieha until December 16th…
Are you a morning person or do you come alive at night?
Both. I collapse in the middle.
How many coffees a day? Don’t embellish
One, usually. If I’m at home it will be black and strong, with honey. Outside it may be an Americano or a Cappuccino, depending… I’m English don’t forget; I drink tea most of the time.
Sundays can be very productive for some and very unproductive for others. How do you spend yours?
Sundays, Public Holidays, holidays in general, retirement – every day is much the same for a full time artist. Sometimes I’m productive, sometimes I’m not; it doesn’t depend on what day it is.
Wine and Cheese. Yes or No?
If you were given a million euros what would you indulge yourself with?
I would say ‘thank you very much’ because I’m polite like that. Then I’d wonder what the catch was…..
Assuming there was no catch I’d try to put most of it in the bank or invest in something so that I would never have to even think about money again. Never again have to scrimp for a bill or hope I had enough to pay for my framing or materials. Or gin. I’d give a nice lump each to my two daughters, of course!
Favourite place to holiday?
Artists don’t go on holiday – everything goes with them.
I’d just like to add that there’s a huge difference between those who paint for relaxation and those who paint for their life. I avoid commissions because I find it impossible to connect with what’s in someone else’s head long enough to do a decent job of it. And I get really frustrated when they want their wrinkles taken out or their dog’s face friendlier, or whatever. So I paint as well as I can – which is never ever going to be good enough – and hope that the results touch a chord in someone else. I am very lucky to be doing something I love so much; hopefully that joy is channelled into my work.
Paula has a pedigree in TV and stage production (children's and family entertainment) and a passion for the arts. She's taken the reins on The Artists' Directory - Malta and the relevant content for the site.