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January 30, 2010
Meet the correspondents: RENNES/MANCHESTER > Caroline Johnson
"I was born during one of the worst winters on record in Sharoe Green Maternity Hospital, Preston. Brought up on a post-war housing estate, archived drawings (aged five) already show a keen eye for detail such as washing on a line and fluff under a bed. By the age of nine I was copying photos of the stars from magazines and had decided to become an artist, feeling that my inherent shyness precluded a career as an Air Hostess.
I studied Fine Art for two years at the lovely Neo-Classical art school in Preston, in the industrial North West of England. An extra year's Foundation Course was spent at the palm-clad Falmouth School of Art in Cornwall. Then to London, in the heady, hippy late Sixties, and three years at the Central School of Art.
I now divide my time between Rennes in Western France and Manchester in the North-West of England.
The city of Rennes is in Brittany, for the most part a rural region which is bounded by rugged coastlines, sandy beaches and small fishing ports. The interior is scattered with romantic mediaeval villages, forests of Arthurian legends, intensive pig-rearing farms, industrial agriculture and the occasional sophisticated university town, such as Rennes.
Manchester is the birthplace of England's Industrial Revolution, and was the world's first industrialised city. Here was a thriving cotton industry, the remains of which can still be seen in its surviving cotton mills and warehouses, and the city's grand architecture... witness to the wealth of the few and the misery of the many.
I'm a tutor for painting and drawing workhops, where, among other things, I strongly encourage the use of sketchbooks.
I've done numerous public mural commissions and artworks for Chambers of Trade in England and France. I show my work in several galleries in North-West England.
Drawing and painting is a great delight to me and when I can't draw regularly I feel incomplete. I carry at least one sketchbook with me at all times and I'm drawn to the urban and the architectural, and the people who move through these places, who are often quite unaware of their surroundings.
As an artist, I feel it's up to us to reveal the beauty of the mediocre, the commonplace and the overlooked. It's easy enough to do a pretty picture of something like a vase of beautiful flowers! But it's a challenge (and a pleasure) to me, to show the charms of the urban — a humble nettle growing out of the pavement, creeping shadows, derelict mills, forgotten doorways and broken fences; the watchful solidity of a gasworks, the mystery of parked cars; bland shopping malls with nothing to recommend them... the intrusive and enigmatic shapes of new structures which stand like glittering giants against the steadfast skies.
I'm so pleased to be part of the Urban Sketchers' community!"
• Caroline's blog.
• Caroline's art on flickr.