Jennie Maizels: My colourful world

Jennie Maizels is an artist, illustrator, university lecturer and creator of the highly acclaimed Sketchbook Club online.
She is also queen of rainbows and colour wheels and has just launched her online Rainbow Shop where she showcases the work of colour-loving creatives from across the globe. Here, she tells The Colour File what colour means to her…

My first colour memory

When Jennie Maizels was at school there was a yellow table they'd bring objects in for. She has loved yellow ever since.

When I was in reception class we had a ‘Yellow Table’, We had to bring in items that were yellow to put add to the yellow collection.

It was Springtime and I can still remember the smell of all the flowers, the piles of yellow building bricks, yellow shoes, yellow crayons and yellow toys. It was such a joyful sight and it made a huge impression on me.

My ‘happy’ colour

Jennie Maizels' wedding, which featured Bengal rose as a colour throughout - even in her wedding dress.

Deep pink, like an intense Bengal Rose colour, always makes me think of our wedding day.

We got married in 1998 on a shoestring, the flowers were blossom from the trees outside my parent’s house and we had our reception in their village hall.

The colour ‘theme’ was dark pink: I wore a dark pink velvet dress and all the candles, invitations and name places were all in the same shade of dark pink.

Now whenever I see that colour it makes me think of that happy day all those years ago.

My favourite colour combination…

Jennie Maizels' bathroom is based on her favourite colour combination - coral and mustard.

I have always had a thing about pink and yellow together as a pair, more recently it has evolved to coral and mustard (my whole bedroom/bathroom is centred on the combination).

There’s something achingly satisfying about the synergy between the colours, both warm and both intense, it’s a real visual harmony.

…And the colour I could live without

Black! I have a ‘no black’ rules in my art classes, adding dark blues, browns and even purples, make much more interesting and complex dark colours. I also do not possess any black clothes!

When I was working on one of my pop-up books, one of the spreads had acompletely black background (it was a page about electricity) I had to spend agood week drawing objects with big black backgrounds (this was beforePhotoshop).

I was so surprised by how melancholic it made me feel, every day working with such dark shades and no colour mad me feel very different.

It wasn’t until I moved on to a different spread I remarked upon what a profound effect it had had one me.

My favourite colourful objects…

Jennie Maizels has a vast collection of rainbow and multicoloured objects that she says spark infinite joy for her.

I have a collection of colour wheels and rainbows that give me a ridiculous amount of pleasure.

There is something utterly joyful about rainbows and the order of the rainbow. It’s the satisfaction if the colours in sequential order, it is hugely mood enhancing.

…and what’s on my colour wish list

I have always coveted a giant vintage ice cream! Like the ones outside ice cream parlours; all pinks, yellows and nostalgic colours…

I would keep it in my garden to remind me of summers when the sun is not out and to have it there, all shiny and happy on hot sunny days.

My favourite item of colourful clothing

 have a mustard cardigan that is SO old (bought from M&S years ago) and I have been searching for a replacement for ages.

Just this morning a possible candidate arrived from Toast, perfect colour, dreadful shape… so the hunt continues!

It brings so many outfits to life, it’s covered in holes and paint stains but I would be lost without it.

My favourite colourful work of art

Jennie Maizel's favourite work of art: a piece by her daughter Rosie.

My daughter Rosie did a remarkable painting for her GCSE of boats in a harbour. 

She is utterly ego-less so hid it away for two years and I only recently discovered it. 

The colours are incredible and all the ropes and lines are sewn into the canvas. It’s beautiful.

Colour comes into everything I do

Having both parents as artists must have made me very aware of creativity and colour. I’m a big fan of both of their work.

My father painted huge canvases using really intense colours and my mother (Maggie Jones Maizels) more delicate and illustratively but still using carefully chosen and really sophisticated colours.

I can say with absolute confidence that a day never goes by without colour being involved in some way, I think about colour a disproportionately large amount of time.

I marvel at the pale blue sky, the changing colours of the leaves, of the deep red of jam on yellow butter, of the orange of my dogs eyes and the pink of his paddy paws.

I am like an excited six-year-old, it drives my family mad, constantly oo-ing and ah-ing and making them come and look at something colourful – and I never understand why they’re not quite as excited as me!

The colour I strongly associate with someone in my life

I grew up in a small village with a very close friend. Our father’s taught at the same school and a field separated our houses. We spent our whole childhoods in each other’s houses and spent every summer holiday together.

We went to different schools and different unis but remained like sisters and in our twenties we lived together and had THE best parties.

Then we met our husbands and moved away – Kate to Austria and me to Hampshire – but every time we meet or speak it’s like it’s still just a field between us.

Kate always wears a certain shade of dusty jade green. She also decorates her home with it and chooses jewellery, pictures and accessories featuring it. It’s a dusty sort of jade green and every time I see it I always think of her.

Every time I see it I think of her and for every birthday and Christmas, I try to seek things out for her in ‘her’ colour.

The most colourful place I’ve visited

This is most definitely India! I went to Delhi, Chandigarh and Rishikesh in 1998 with my Father for just a week! He was visiting the artist Nek Chand, whom he ‘represented’ as part of his passion for ‘Outsider Art’ (my Father runs the magazine Raw Vision).

It was February when we went, the weather was perfect, long shadows and blue skies and COLOUR! My goodness I had never seen so much colour!

All the women looked magnificent! Not a grey fleece in sight, just the brightest coloured saris and bracelets and shoes, just wonderful.

The markets in Delhi were a feast for the eyes, even the sweet shops were a riot of bright greens and pinks, I would so love to go back one day.

My colour advice

Jennie Maizels runs colour workshops where participants create colour wheels.

I run colour workshops where we make colour wheels. The colour wheels we all produce are the colours we love; our favourite colours.

We spend a long time exploring each hue and painting a top 10 of each colour before choosing our favourite shade and painting them on the wheel. It is absolutely fascinating as I truly believe everyone has a palette.

It is very apparent in my Sketchbook Club as my attendees are drawn to the same collection of colours each week, some prefer pastel shades, others more pure and others more vivid. With my colour workshop, people focus entirely on what THEY love, what they are drawn to.

At the end, we make little ‘purse cards’ of their chosen colours too and I match them with Pantone numbers so they can always refer to them.

Spending a day discussing each colour and immersing ourselves fully is such an interesting insight into people’s relationship with colour.

My advice would be that: immerse yourself, think deeply and give yourself time to experiment, what IS ‘your’ red, blue etc.? You won’t regret it.

If a colour was named after me…

I think it would have to be a yellow, in homage to that table back in Primary school and because it gives me so much joy as a colour.

I also wear a lot of yellow and use it frequently in my artwork. I use it like chilli, add a drop into any colour and it gives a real boost.

What is the psychology behind the colour yellow? Martha investigates for Psychologies Magazine.

  • For more information about Jennie and her work – including her workshops –  visit her website.

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