Watercolour World

PUBLISHED: 17:07 19 October 2010 | UPDATED: 18:01 20 February 2013

Janet Treloar with her husband, John Hale-White, at their Cornish home

Janet Treloar with her husband, John Hale-White, at their Cornish home

Some of the country's best watercolour paintings are coming to Truro. Sue Bradbury talks to one of the people who has helped make that happen.

The Royal Watercolour Society stages its first ever show in Cornwall at the Royal Cornwall Museum from 20 November, and Senior Vice-President Janet Treloar couldnt be happier. Janet is a talented watercolour artist painter whose work has been shown worldwide and the shows opening at the museum marks her return to the county she grew up in.

Janet Treloar spent 13 years as a pupil at St Clares School in Penzance and it was there that her passion for communicating ideas through writing and art began. Like many young people, however, she was desperate to get away and discover the world for herself. So, as a starting point and without telling her parents, she successfully applied to Oxford Universitys Somerville College to study geography and history.

Oxford turned out to be something of a watershed. Not only did she end up with an MA, she also had both a husband and a child by the time she graduated. I had to get special permission from Dame Janet Vaughan, the Principal, to get married while still a student, says Janet, a mischievous glint in her eye. Tamsyn, my eldest daughter, was born while I was still there, and when she was two weeks old I left her with my parents in Cornwall while I finished my degree.

Years of overseas travel for the family followed. Janets husband was in the oil business and his job took them to countries including Libya, South America and Norway. As an ex-pat wife, Janet wasnt able to get a job of her own so she immersed herself in each of the countries she lived in, learning the language and absorbing the different cultures.

While still at school Janet had taken classes at Penzance School of Art, and so when she got the chance to study for three years at the David Manzur Atelier in Colombia, she took it. A move to Norway followed. It was a thrilling time professionally, says Janet. I worked in all weathers and people queued up to see the exhibitions that my paintings appeared in.

By that time, she was the mother of three. Paul had been born in Libya and Alice in Colombia. A fourth child, Arthur, completed the family when they returned to Britain in the 1980s.

Back in England, Janet continued to build on all that she had learned, broadening her technique. Her work was shown at the Royal Academy, the Royal Watercolour Society Open, the New English Art Club Open and the Royal West of England Academy. She was asked to join the board of the Richard Demarco European Art Foundation and was elected as a member of the Chelsea Art Society, where she exhibits annually, and also Chelsea Arts Club. She became a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and was elected as an associate of the Royal Watercolour Society in 2005. Three years later she became the Societys Senior Vice-President an honour she will hold until April 2011.

Travelling is clearly in Janets soul but so too is Cornwall. She inherited part of her parents cliff-top farm near Rinsey in the west of the county and spends her summers there with her new husband, the sculptor John Hale-White, whom she met ten years ago. When Janets tenure as Vice-President comes to an end, they intend giving up their London house and returning permanently to where Janet grew up.

As TS Eliot said, our ends are our beginnings, and I want to come back to Cornwall to paint and to live, says Janet. Having greatly enjoyed my role in the Royal Watercolour Society, I now want to concentrate on my painting and being an artist is essentially a one-to-one experience. You have to be prepared to struggle with your decisions and demons alone, whereas committee meetings are all about consensus. Painting in Cornwall is a wonderful experience because of the light and I want to make the most of that, while also giving something back.

That desire to give something back includes wanting to run more workshops and sessions with aspiring watercolour artists in Cornwall and to set up a local branch of Royal Watercolour Society Friends. Getting the members show down to the Royal Cornwall Museum has been a very good way of encouraging renewed interest in this art form.

You get an extraordinary sense of immediacy with watercolours, explains Janet. I love the wetness of the brush and paper and you have to paint rather than colour in, which can be incredibly high risk. Painting for me is a way of expressing an idea. I have to get into what is around me and make it something beyond the actual object. The object is the starting point. It gives me the energy to transcend it and explore.

Two of Janets works will be displayed in the exhibition both of them evocatively Cornish in subject matter. Work from about 30 other contributors will also be shown, including about five from Australias Watercolour Society.

The Royal Watercolour Society was formed in 1804 and is second only to the Royal Academy of Art in terms of its historic stature, she explains. Thats why this show is tremendously important. The RWS is actually coming out of its home at the Bankside Gallery and exhibiting at the Royal Cornwall Museum. Its an incredible coup for the county.

Janet and her charming husband, John, are equally ebullient about this exhibition. There is little doubt that when this creative, dynamic couple return permanently to Cornwall next spring, such a coup is likely to be the first of many.

The Royal Watercolour Societys annual exhibition of members work runs from 20 November 2010 until 15 January 2011 at the Royal Cornwall Museum. Janet Treloar is giving a watercolour evening class (5 per person) at the museum on Thursday 25 November at 6.30pm. For further information visit www.royalcornwallmuseum.org.uk or call 01872 272205.

Janets Favourite Things about Cornwall

My favourite gallery:

The Belgrave Gallery in St Ives and the Tate in St Ives

My favourite Cornish artist:

Peter Lanyon

Where I like to paint:

In St Ives because of the light

My favourite beach:

This has to be Hendra beach

My favourite restaurants:

The Coastguard in Mousehole and the Halzephron in Gunwalloe

Latest from the Cornwall Life