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19th January 2017

Tess Jaray, 77

Tess Jaray is a British painter and printmaker. She was made an Honorary Fellow of RIBA in 1995 and a Royal Academician in 2010. Tess recently exhibited at Djanogly Art Gallery in Nottingham and the Royal Academy will soon publish her book, The Blue Cupboard, based on memories of her mother.

“I don’t do anything specifically to stay young, I would say choose your parents carefully! Genetics have a lot to answer for. Age is a blessing in many ways. The only problem with it is the diminishing of one’s energy – but if you’re lucky enough to stay healthy, getting older is absolutely wonderful. I have grandchildren aged 18,19, 20 and 21 from my two daughters. They haven’t followed me into the arts world, which I’m rather pleased about as it can be a difficult life.

I wanted to be an artist since I was about five and never considered doing anything else.

I wanted to be an artist since I was about five and never considered doing anything else. My family came from a background where a future in the arts was totally acceptable. I was born in Vienna but grew up in a tumbledown cottage in the Worcestershire countryside.Today things are slightly different. I live in a converted pub in North London, which I love. My studio is in the old saloon bar where farmers would come and drink after working at the local stock market.

I don’t particularly think we live in an ageist society. The mere fact that an artist has gone on working for so many years is respected by young artists, although at the same time there are always those who think that anyone over the age of 25 has had it.

One of the problems with being an artist is that you never really know if you’ve cracked it, so you have to keep on going because it’s always the next one that’s going to be perfect. My idea of happiness is completing a painting that for five minutes I think I’ve got right.

I would say that aside from my twenties, the years after 60 have been my happiest. I know what I’m doing, I know what I want, I understand a whole lot of things I didn’t comprehend when I was young, and my ambitions are tempered. With any luck, one has achieved something by one’s 60s.

I don’t have a life motto, I simply hope to keep doing more and more projects and hope to have the energy to do it. I will never retire.”

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