A Natural Talent

Elmbridge Lifestyle Magazine, November 2010  Article: A Natural Talent

Carol Cordrey admires the life and work of Frances Jordan

“Now here’s an inspirational tale: a story of woman’s resolve to nurture her artistic talent and bring it to glorious fruition. No feminist fable this, but pretty clear evidence even so that Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves.

Frances Jordan’s richly coloured, expressive paintings, inspired by nature, now attract such a flow of commissions that the lady from Fetcham, near Leatherhead, is on the verge of turning professional. But to get this far has required a quiet determination and so much hard work that the term ‘multi-tasking’ doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Despite her obvious talent as a child, Frances’s parents discouraged her from attending art school on the grounds that it wouldn’t help her “get a good job“. To appease them, she learnt hairdressing at college in Carshalton – but only because the students on that course were allowed to study art in the afternoons. Hairdressing did, indeed, bring in a steady income and Frances – by now married and a mother – contented herself with painting in her spare time, focusing on the natural world and portraits of her own and other people’s children.

Then life took a turn for the worse. Divorced, aged 37 and with two small children to support, Frances hit an emotional low. At this stage it was less a case of Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves as Things Can Only Get Better – and the thing that would most make her happy, she decided, was art. Grasping the nettle and replying on her hairdressing business for cash, Frances decided to take an A-level in the subject. She emerged from the course with grade A.

Confidence blossoming, she moved on to an art foundation course at Reigate College and was stunned when, at the end of her studies, her tutor advised her to apply to one of the top art schools in the land: Central St Martins in London. Needless to say, she was offered a place. Her long term goal of becoming a professional artist was steadily heaving into view.

But first there was the culture shock of the school. On day one she felt like “Mrs Suburbia” amongst a colourful assortment of ex-BBC staff, flamboyant transvestites and rebellious graduates from Chelsea College of Art and Design. Still, she soldiered quietly on in her inimitable way, taking five years to do the course part-time, supporting herself through her hairdressing, sales of her paintings and art classes held in her home.

And it was in June 2005, during Surrey Artists Open Studios, that her work first came to my attention. In studio of master framer Ian Dixon was a group of her dramatic abstracts which impressed me so much that I felt compelled to contact the artist. Then and subsequently I urged her to develop her distinctive style and to exhibit more widely. The result? Burgeoning sales and commissions through such outlets as 238 Dorking, Guildford’s Red Biddy Gallery, Leatherhead’s Fire & Iron and The Architects Gallery, in Twickenham not to mention a sell-out exhibition at Croydon’s Fish Frames. Then there is her own website, which attracts collectors of her available work and is yet more fertile soil for commissions. Wave, a huge triptych, was one such that found its way to a client in Wimbledon.

Now comes a display of her latest work at the Fountain Gallery in Hampton Court Village. For Frances the natural world and, in particular, the British coastline provide endless material which she revels in portraying representationally and in abstract form. Here, in both watercolours and oils, boldly painted scenes of crashing waves, raging fires, enveloping oceans, flowing lava and dramatic caves present nature in its most exalted state.

It is an exhibition truly to inspire – not unlike the painter herself. Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves? More like Simply The Best.”

Feature Written By Carol Cordrey, Elmbridge Magazine, November 2010 edition.