“…the answer is staring you in the face – if only you can see it”

Heather Jansch Driftwood Horses

Depression can appear to be without antidote. For years I struggled with it, even though I made a good living from my paintings and to the observer, my life typified the creative dream.

Horses had always been my passion and the accuracy of my portraits bore testimony to years spent in close observation drawing them in the field, but despite this they did not satisfy me. I ached to find a unique artistic expression. In search of it I had tried all manner of different approaches, mediums and subject matters but nothing really worked for me. It had to be possible for me to do better. Then I tried sculpture, but the same thing happened.

Whatever I did, my work remained a pale imitation of countless other artists.

I was at that time using copper wire which, braised together, resembled Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings but the work still lacked the power of authenticity. I repeatedly tended towards over finishing and the results were weak and uninspired.

After months of struggle, one dark day, I sat in my studio utterly bereft of ideas. I was at my lowest ebb and close to giving up when I remembered something I had read. It was this: In any given moment the answer to your problem is staring you in the face – if only you can see it.

Driftwood horse sculptures "Icarus pair" by artist Heather JanschAll else had failed and I decided that I would test the theory. There was nothing to lose.

If what I had read contained the truth then somewhere in this room, in this moment, lay the answer to my difficulty. Somewhere in this bleak, dirty interior littered with failed attempts and debris was something I had missed.

I took a breath and sat. I looked slowly round the room, there was nothing remarkable, and nothing I had not seen a thousand times. My attention was taken by few bits of discarded twigs lying near the wood burner, the sort of thing that gardeners use to support peas. That was it. Nothing more. I had spent hours in contemplation. It was getting dark, I had grown cold, the cupboards were empty and I was hungry.

Disheartened I went out to stock up on groceries. But it was as though I had been looking at a candle, the after image of the twigs and their rhythm was burned on my retina. When I returned, it was to a warm house, my son had lit the wood burner with the pea sticks. He had also chopped up a long piece of ivy that twined round a long since rotted fence post; it had been standing dusty and forgotten in a corner of my studio. Only a short section remained but to my so recently informed eye, it was a horse’s torso complete with saddle.

Sculptor Heather Jansch with driftwood horse “Beltane Juno” Photo by Julian HanburyFilled with a sudden deep excitement I picked it up and placed it into the copper wire form I had been working on. An astonishing transformation took place as the horse came alive with great force. I had never seen anything like it before. It perfectly expressed what I had been seeking and I knew with certainty that I finally held the key in my hand to a way of working that felt uniquely my own.

The rest of the journey is still unfolding, thirty years on.

By Heather Jansch 1948-2021
see also Quotes by Heather Jansch

Photographs: “Apollo” by Heather Jansch – A life-size horse sculpture made from fallen Devon oakwood. Photographed at dawn in her Sculpture gardens at Olchard, Devon, UK.
“Icarus pair” by sculptor, Heather Jansch – driftwood horses on Dawlish Beach, Devon.
Heather with the big mare “Beltane Juno” – photo by Julian Hanbury.
More of Heather’s stunning artwork, can be seen on her website www.heatherjansch.com
Heather’s art gallery, studios and gardens are open to visitors in May, August and September – see Events – and at other times by appointment only.

Heather writes: “From the beginning my twin passions were drawing and horses, and my hero was Leonardo da Vinci. I dreamed of becoming an artist living in wooded foothills with clear flowing water at my doorstep and horses grazing all around… I went on to achieve my dream by virtue of fate, the generosity of others, luck and determination…”

Specially written  for Zen Moments by the Author. Images and words: Copyright 2009 All rights reserved.

Alan and Vanessa would like to thank our great friend, Heather, for her unstinting, generous encouragement, excellent advice and unique creative input – we like to call her Zen Moments’ “Fairy Godmother”!

Heather Jansch’s Diary artists bookHeather Jansch’s Diary: A Life in the Year of…
By Heather Jansch

Heather’s driftwood horses, warrior women, dancers and other sculptures from found and recycled materials, are incredibly dynamic and vital. They have real, living presence – she captures their movement and character perfectly, with profound understanding of her subject and materials. I have a fascinating time at her open studios, helping to look after visitors – it’s wonderful to see people so inspired and energised, having spent time amongst her work, in her beautiful sculpture gardens and bluebell woodlands – a magical Devon valley! This beautiful and unusual book shares Heather’s amazing energy and is a fascinating insight into the creative life of a passionate artist. Vanessa

“…a visual feast”
“As rich and inventive as her sculpture, Heather Jansch’s Diary takes the reader straight to the heart of her creative life. A compulsive page-turner, full of stunning images, it is a perfect gift.”

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