Jennie at her second solo exhibition in Fishguard, 2018.

Jennie Shales.


“When I was in school, I loved drawing and painting and spent all my time doing that instead of studying all the other subjects as I should have been doing. After school, I didn’t do much at all, really. I was a primary school teacher at one point so I obviously used art with my class; we did group art-work and things like that. It was after I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014 that circumstances changed and art presented itself again.”


“Also at that time, we had been flooded out of our home in Lowertown, Fishguard and had temporary accommodation in a beautiful cottage – a holiday let at the top of nearby Goodwick. From the conservatory at the back of the house, we enjoyed a beautiful, ever-changing view of the hills to the south and a panorama taking in Fishguard harbour and out to sea. There I was, recovering from treatments and I couldn’t really do much but soon found myself immersed in art again. I had everything, the time, space and the views and started over from there.”


We are looking around Jennie’s second solo exhibition at Fishguard library and I comment on the huge collection from 18 months of work.

A flood tide at Lowertown, Fishguard.

“Well, actually the collection is limited compared to the number of works I might have produced as a studio artist. Almost all these images were created outside and very dependent on weather conditions. But I’m most inspired outside, especially when conditions are good, like today.”


When working outside – en plein air – a practice most associated with artists painting in oils or watercolours, Jennie uses Pastels and different coloured papers.


“When I go out, I’ve got all my art stuff in the back of the car in a rucksack so if I have half an hour, say on Newgale beach, and I feel I really want to do a drawing, I’ll take my bag out. I keep a stock of different coloured papers that I take out with me and have a flick through to see what background colour I’m inspired to use; that colour with the pastels on top to capture the colours, conditions, and mood at the time. The coloured paper alone doesn’t look very bright but that colour really does come through. I also like to use acrylic paint with the pastels on top – that really produces more depth.”

Assorted coloured papers and chalk pastels are always at the ready in a rucksack.

“If I can’t get out, perhaps because the weather is bad, or for the bigger pictures, I’ll occasionally do some from memory or work from a photograph as I’d struggle to take a large canvas out on the coast path with me; I’d probably end up flying off with the wind.”


Born in Somerset, Jennie came to Pembrokeshire as a five-year-old with her parents when her Dad, a merchant seaman, took a job at Fishguard. She grew up in Pembrokeshire and has spent almost all her life here but has travelled the world. “I have travelled a lot but haven’t found anywhere to match Pembrokeshire. This is a magical place to be. Everywhere you go in Pembrokeshire is outstanding.”


‘Starting over’ in May 2014, her work soon attracted attention.


“Local printers, Jonathan and Barbara of Right Price Print, Goodwick, were so encouraging and supportive right from the beginning. They thought my pictures were different and fresh and would be well-received by art buyers, and I’ve been selling my work ever since. I feel really privileged when someone says they’d like to buy one of my pictures. I’m just as delighted when someone chooses a card or a signed print because I know not everyone can afford an original.”


Jennie’s solo exhibitions in Fishguard are a popular attraction for locals and for visitors coming ashore from the cruise ships that dock in the harbour.


“They’re welcomed ashore by the Fishguard Welcoming Committee and come to see the historic tapestry depicting the Last Invasion of Britain which is next door to my exhibition at Fishguard library. Visitors have been excited to find the exhibition and especially, it seems, to be able to meet and chat with the artist in person, and it’s been wonderful to meet them, too. It’s humbling to know that my pictures are on display in homes around the world”


Her pictures have taken up residence in homes around the world with buyers from America, Canada, Germany, The Netherlands, Australia, and New Zealand. Some have even stayed in touch. There are, of course, local collectors, too.


Asked if she ever feels isolated as an artist, working alone out there on the Pembrokeshire coast path, Jennie says not. “I find it so restful”, she says, “And Pembrokeshire has its fair share of artists – we do seem to gravitate to one another. Facebook has been good for me in attracting the attention of other artists and we enjoy the chance to connect. We tend to be very supportive of one another, even attending each other’s exhibitions, and I appreciate the feedback.”


Special requests.


“People request commissions for many different reasons. Like the lady who asked me to do a picture of The Pilot House at Porthgain. She had a special connection with the place, recounting how it was where she and her friends would hide as children to avoid going to church. Apparently, there is a tunnel accessible from inside the little building that goes through the cliff to emerge at the beach!”


Art as the perfect gift.


Of course, there are likely as many different reasons why we buy art as there are customers. A recent sale was an original work as a gift for someone’s father who would surely love the boats in the picture of Lowertown. The buyer had their very own reason for the purchase – the car on the quayside behind the boats looked like hers, so she felt there was a connection in the picture between her and her father.


Art does that. It connects people, through time and across time zones, and people to places. And so much more, besides. Browse Jennie’s pictures here, signed limited edition prints, and selected gifts, homeware and apparel featuring her art.


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Starting Over – Part of the ever-changing view from Goodwick

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