Last week I met Jennie Franklin for a special tour of our archive and the LS Lowry galleries with Claire Stewart who is our Curator of LS Lowry collections. Jennie is an artist based in Stockport who is on the autism spectrum and has learning difficulties. She loves to visit The Lowry on a regular basis and her own art work is inspired by LS Lowry.
Claire and I meet Jennie and Faye, her carer, at the entrance to the gallery. But before we go in to the exhibition LS Lowry: Art & The Artist we have a special surprise for Jennie. We make our way to the secret location of our archive. This is where we keep all of LS Lowry’s work that can’t fit in the gallery space.
As a regular visitor to The Lowry’s galleries, Jennie is a ‘pro-spotter.’ Looking at LS Lowry’s works involves a lot of ‘spotting.’ Straight away Jennie shows off her talents by spotting all the dogs in every piece of work we show her. Claire explains that “Lowry couldn’t really draw cats, so he would draw dogs and then change them.” Claire then shows us a painting inside an art gallery with a ‘posh dog’ in it.
Claire asks Jennie “Do you like to draw small pictures like LS Lowry?” to which Jennie responds with an emphatic “Yes!” Claire continues and asks Jennie if she signs and dates her drawings like LS Lowry too. And she does!
Claire: “See that there? I think there’s a dog hiding behind there.”
Jennie: Laughs “Naughty dog.”
Whilst chatting we learn that Jennie likes to draw in biro and felt pens. LS Lowry likes to do the same and Claire shows us the works where he’s used these materials.
Jennie: “Baby in Pushchair… Man got hat on… Birds… Good spottings”
The thing I learnt the most about my afternoon with Jennie is that she loves to find things that others haven’t seen. Faye confirms this when she says that they enjoy lots of countryside walks. “When out in the air, Jennie will find ducks and rabbit holes.”
Before leaving the archive Claire sets Jennie a challenge to “count up all the dogs in the paintings in the gallery” to which Jennie replies “you’re fun!” and we all laugh.
We make our way to the LS Lowry exhibition. Along the promenade, there’s a display of LS Lowry’s collection of other artists works. It’s here that we learn that Jennie has her own collection of LS Lowry prints that she loves to copy from.
Much like her hero, Jennie likes to work in Biro and felt pen. She brings along some of her drawings and paintings to share with me and our curator. Her style is very much like LS Lowry. Drawing all the people she sees in her day. Packed with colour, characters and words, her ‘diary’ pieces are extraordinarily detailed.
Jennie attends art class every Thursday and has been going for a long time. We sit opposite the section of the gallery that has all of Lowry’s faces and portraits. Jennie gets drawing straight away. Her carer tells me that she usually draws ‘The Cripples’ because there’s lots of different things to spot in that painting.
Jennie copies LS Lowry’s works in her own way, and applies her artistic license liberally. You can see that Jennie really enjoys coming to the galleries to draw. Her concentration on the paintings is phenomenal and she goes quiet – aside from the occasional request for Faye to spell a word that needs to go in the drawing. Moving closer to get the really detailed bits, Jennie uses Art as an outlet for all her thoughts. Which is really clear to see in her diary pieces.
When Jennie has built up a sizeable collection of work, she will be making cards, calendars and mugs to sell at teenage markets. Along with the help of her support team, Jennie is living out her dream to be a professional artist, selling her work and becoming a non-profit enterprise.
Visiting The Lowry at least once a month provides an opportunity to relax and draw for the Stockport based artist. We look forward to seeing Jennie drawing in our galleries in future and wish her the best of luck with her enterprise.
Written by Rachel Wrigley, Communications Assistant.