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Jackie Devereux, watercolourist, tutor and President of the SGFA

Newly elected President of the Society of Graphic Fine Arts, Jackie Devereux has a beautiful, fresh and uplifting style of watercolours. She also combines mixed media and collage into some of her works. We talk to Jackie about her training, her inspiration, the French “Fauves”, her fabulous book and also her hopes also for the SGFA since becoming President of this progressive society for artists which is renowned for its high standards of entry.

What is your background, did you train as an artist?

Jackie Devereux Partygoers hand- embossed watercolour 75x55cm aMy background is primarily part-time study in printmaking at the St Albans Art School in the late ‘70’s/early’80’s after a wiggly creative path, with calligraphic beginnings, illustration mainly pen/wash, graphic and logo design, until in the early ‘80s I fell in love with pure watercolour, which has and continues to be my main medium.

Can you describe your style? I see you also use embossing, and collage, how do achieve the final works? And where did that inspiration come from?

My style is quite distinctive, with calligraphic brushwork and a ‘graphic’ cotemporary feel, incorporating sometimes blind embossing and collage – all pure watercolour – which adds another dimension to the spatial nature of the work. Jackie Devereux Stripped off white orchid Hand embossed watercolour 75x50cmWide open spaces are important to me – I like wild places, and even within floral and still life compositions, I make much of the quiet areas of the paper, which help to define the busy areas. My ideas have evolved over a number of years, and my inspiration has come from my travels to open landscapes in New Zealand, Antarctica, and Africa, to Arizona and the ‘Red Centre’ of Australia. I love the ‘power of suggestion’ and adding blind embossing gives just a hint of life within emptiness, and I enjoy the power it has over the spectator! The use of embossing actually came out of printmaking, where I experimented a lot and could cut shapes out of card, or place dried foliage onto the bed of the press, and the blankets would ‘perform their magic’ – forcing the dampened paper around the raised areas of the ‘cuts’. I took the idea to other lengths by embossing by hand. I now design lettering and shapes from sketches, cut out the detail and use them as templates, which I make out of 300g watercolour paper, and using a ‘bookbinders creasing bone’ I press through from the back of a watercolour when at its final stages, et voila, a perfectly sharp embossed image appears!

Your more traditional watercolours are particularly delicate, which paint do you prefer for those and do you use the same for the other styles you create in?

All of my watercolours, both traditional and contemporary, are executed with the same watercolours – my preference has always been Winsor&Newton, with occasional others such as Schmincke and Royal Tallens Rembrandt. I love to work both in very thin washes and ‘glazes’ as well as with heavier mixes.

Jackie Devereux Venetian glass watercolour 75x50cm

I love your contemporary painting range, in particular, "party goers", "iris and yellow stripes" - do you have a style you love the most ?

I love the exploration needed to work in my more contemporary fashion – a lot of thought goes into the creation of what in the end appears ‘so simple’! But, apart from that, I still get a lot of satisfaction out of just having some well loved small objects and flowers on the table and just drawing and painting them. When I am out and about, my work is much more traditional – it is only once back in the studio that I start to invent, play and grow.

I find humour in "The Match", being a big lover of France, that one really stood out, do you have an affinity with France (I think you said you lived there? where if so and did it have an influence on your work and why?)?

White orchids pink veil Hand embossed  Pencil watercolour

I lived in the Languedoc area of Southern France for over 21 years, where my photographer husband and I ran residential painting and photography holidays. Being a natural ‘people watcher’ I had no trouble finding subject matter to draw. The outdoor life suited me, and my sketchbook became a constant companion. Having a slightly kwerky sense of humour helps, of course, plus the fact that one can sit all day over a glass of wine inside or outside a café without being moved on! On the contrary, I think I actually attracted custom – nothing like a full house to attract more business……….. And yes, undoubtedly, the light in the South is inspirational, and being able to visit easily the haunts of Cezanne, Van Gogh, and the favourite haunts of the ‘Fauves’ just along the coast – I was in seventh heaven! An irresistible invitation came to cruise as watercolour tutor, and nearly eight years I cruised the world, filling sketchbooks and thoroughly enjoying the experience.

Do you follow any artists in particular (dead or alive!)?

I love the watercolours of John Singer Sargent, Turner, Cotman and Cezanne, and am inspired by the simplicity and colours of Matisse. I follow a lot of my contemporaries, but try not to read too much into the way others work – I want to keep my own work as true to myself as possible.

You are now president of the SGFA, what are your main challenges and hopes for your tenure? Are you looking for new members, how do they go about submitting work for membership?

Yes, becoming President of the SGFA is quite a challenge – not being particularly ‘administratively minded’ so to speak, but with the support of the Council – a great team – I am enjoying working more closely with each member, especially for my main objective, which is to increase the profile of the Society and hopefully obtain more sponsorship to enable us to continue to move forward. We are always looking for new members, have introduced a student category, we have a high criteria for work which displays a good understanding and excellence in drawing skills, in any media other than sculpture. We have an Annual Open Exhibition at the Menier Gallery in Southwark, and details and entry forms for this can be downloaded from . All work, including that of Full and Associate Members is juried, which gives every entrant a fair and unbiased chance of being included, and for prospective new entrants, there is the opportunity to apply and submit work.

What's the most important thing to you in your studio?

The view onto the garden, and my small collection of china brush and pen stands which are in constant use!

If you were a Strathmore Fine Art Paper which one would you be and why?

“If I were a piece of Strathmore Fine Art Paper, I should love to be 300g rough, and to have some luscious transparent bright colours floating on my surface, gradually to have full-bodied pigments drizzled into areas which will encourage them to bleed and follow their own path!”

I see you have a book out? Congratulations. How do people buy a copy and how do they get hold of you as you also run workshops, do you have a website?

Having been published by Harper Collins ‘Watercolour Innovations’ by Jackie Simmonds, some years ago, and a contributor for The Artist for several years, I enjoyed the whole process, but really wanted to produce a book entirely of my own, designed by me, and printed in England. The process was incredible, as I was determined to only use my own artwork, and to create a timeless product. My little book features a selection of travel sketches from around the world, is a hardback published by Jacaranda Publishing and available from, entitled “A Private View…….an artist’s world” by Jackie Devereux. My own website is features some of my work plus details of my workshops and courses in UK and overseas.

Watch out for the following series of interviews with members of the SGFA. If you haven’t as yet signed up for our newsletter, please register as a member of this site now. Pleased to have you. Strathmore ArtistPapers are also sponsoring the Best in Show prize worth £400 at the awards this year, so why not consider your portfolio and submit your work to the society. Good Luck! 

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