The paintings and sketches of Katesgrove artist Huma Jehan are utterly charming. They glow with a certain tenderness, respect and care to people, buildings and scenery alike.
She has even managed to make the Blade appear splendid, in its steady transition from hated glacial valley view blocker, to acceptably distinctive brash and odd, stock market trading chip. Her pictures of local buildings and landmarks show a particular love for our red brick land, sound and mindscape.
Her work is not all eternal sunshine. There is a lot of skill and vivid realisation on display here – sketches of sleeping or occupied commuters are breathing and intimate, sometimes coloured sparingly at wry angles and with strong lines.
People in waiting rooms or coffee shops hunched over laptops seem a little lower than the angels. Huma has her own style which does seem to suggest there is a better world out there where imagination creates reality.
She kindly agreed to meet me for a cuppa at Reading Museum café to answer a few questions about herself and her art.
[Matthew] Why do you sketch, draw and paint?
[Huma] Because I feel like it (laughs).
Who inspired your art?
I have always liked the sketchbooks of the old masters. But lately from sketchbookskool.com; they work with a lot of illustrators so each week you have a different artist, which is inspiring as even when you don’t like their style you learn something.
Who are your favourite artists?
I haven’t thought about that for years. When I was a kid I loved Leonardo because of art and science. I don’t know any more – there are too many I admire and there are artists that I like that aren’t sketchers, such as the fantastic Cornelia Parker and the sculpture of Barbara Hepworth.
What inspires you in the area you live?
I don’t spend much time getting the nuances of the colours right but I like the colours of the bricks and the red brick patterns that are particular to Reading. There are also streets that look like Oxford and London with Portland Stone and other features.
What are your favourite places?
Market Place and the side entrance to Sainsbury’s. I do really like the Redlands area; I do think it’s gorgeous. The rooftop garden at RISC is amazing – I would love to get to see all the rooftop gardens. I especially like being at home.
Should an artist seek beauty?
I find beauty in lots of things that people don’t find beautiful. That sounds a bit pompous but I take photos of cranes and cables and my friends say if that’s your idea of beauty don’t ever call me beautiful! I don’t seek beauty, it’s more like I just notice it.
Where did you grow up?
Mostly all over London – I have lived in north, south and west all over apart from the east.
Are you thinking of becoming a commercial artist?
I am always unsure about that. I haven’t really thought about it but when people ask if I can buy a sketch there are a lot of things to consider which I haven’t sorted out yet. It is a problem I will deal with on demand.
Do the subjects of your sketches know you are there?
No, I do it without them knowing. If they knew it would definitely affect their demeanour and posture. I do sometimes change clothes and such so people don’t recognise themselves.
Do you get embarrassed if people watch you sketch or paint?
To force me to get used to the idea, I did do the open for art thing in Broad Street a few years ago. So if people stop and look, I have learnt to smile and say thank you. Even if there are street critics it shouldn’t really matter, it’s just a drawing!
Matthew Farrall, the author of this article, died on 20 April 2018.
We are grateful to his family for allowing us to continue to display his work online.