Starting young… at 83!

Easel does it: Jonni Stratton-Brook is making a name for herself in the art world

Easel does it: Jonni Stratton-Brook is making a name for herself in the art world

Think you’re too old to start a new hobby or learn a new skill? Alan Cleaver meets someone who may change your mind.

Jonni Stratton-Brook was only young when she started painting seriously. She was 83.

Now at age 90, she’s discovering people want to buy her watercolours and has just hosted her first exhibition. Jonni, who lives at Florence House, Egremont, was well known for many years as ‘the jam lady’ in St Bees. She and husband Skip worked at their home producing jam for many years until Skip’s death in 2008 at the age of 89. They were married for nearly 64 years.

A fall and stay in hospital coincided with the building of the retirement housing at Egremont and Jonni moved in. She now had time on her hands to practise her secret passion: painting. She had always created cards for family and friends but now signed up for weekly sessions at Age UK in Whitehaven under the tutorship of John Armstrong.

“He’s the best teacher you could have,” said Jonni. “I am now selling my work. When I sold my first work the feeling was fantastic. It’s something you don’t believe.”

Her subjects vary tremendously but, because she’s largely house-bound, usually relies on photographs for her subjects. And her medium is always water-colour – despite the ribbing of her brother and fellow artist who keeps asking why she hasn’t started in oils.

“I love water colours as they are so delicate,” said great-grandmother Jonni. And Jonni also elicits warm and peaceful atmospheres with her water colours.

So what’s her advice to any other 83-year-olds who are thinking of taking up painting or any other hobby?

“It’s never too late. I have a false knee, a false hip, have been treated for cancer, and have poor eyesight. These are small things. The opportunities are there – you have just got to go and do something.”

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