Lancashire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
Caroline Spalding
Features Correspondent
9:51 AM 2nd November 2020

Artistry of Lancashire: Ava Jolliffe

Ava Jolliffe
Ava Jolliffe
Ava Jolliffe is a digital artist who, in February, became the youngest artist to hold an exhibition at the Garstang Arts Centre, which was covered in both the local newspaper and by the BBC on the regional news.

Fourteen years old, Ava has been drawing from an early age and she told me that, before she took to digital art, she would get through reams of paper on a daily basis to achieve the image that she wanted. Working digitally, she tells me that she can constantly alter an image until she is happy with it, easily adding layers of colour and, in addition to saving a fortune in art supplies, it also means less paper is discarded into the recycling bin!

Ava works with an iPad Pro which is very responsive to touch and is a large tablet to work on. This helps Ava, who is certified blind and deaf and therefore must work in very high pixelation to see the images she is creating. She uses a programme called FrameCast and is beginning to experiment with another programme called Procreate.

The exhibition at the Garstang Arts Centre featured 50 different pieces by Ava and it was a challenge to fill such a large space – but Ava is not one to shy away from a challenge. Her uncle, Guy Pugh, another talented artist, has regularly displayed his work there and in discussion with the staff at the centre about future exhibitions, they agreed it would be wonderful to showcase art of a different genre.

The response to the exhibition was overwhelming. It was one of the most visited shows that the centre had held and people travelled from far and wide to visit. Ava sold a huge number of pieces; people told her they “loved the bright pops of colour, and the expressive faces on the portrayed subjects.” Ava added that deaf people rely heavily on facial expression to convey emotion and clarify the BSL signs being used – all of which is represented in her artwork.

The images Ava creates are often of girls who appear bright and confident, and Ava relies on her imagination to inspire her work. In addition she draws influence from her friends and particularly, her sister. She tells me that she rarely draws people with disabilities because she likes to imagine herself without physical complexities. When she portrays herself, she can be anything she wants – a hero in her own story, or simply doing things that her able-bodied peers take for granted.

Drawing provides Ava with a form of escapism, and she often chooses colours to reflect how she is feeling. She is naturally cheerful so she gravitates towards brighter colours – a stronger colour palette is also easier for her to work with: she can see the contrast between the colours more clearly. Above all, however, she would like viewers to feel happy when they see her work: brighter colours naturally help to lift peoples’ spirits.

People can often assume that being disabled can dampen a person’s ambitions, but Ava is proof that this is not the case. She feels it is harder to be taken seriously as an artist, due to her disabilities, but through her work she shows that she has demonstrable talent and she has high hopes for her future.

Ava would like to produce a range of children’s books which she would illustrate. She often discusses her plot ideas with her mum, who also reads to her, because although Ava loves to read, it can be a tiring and frustrating process due to her visual impairments. Ava’s mum, Laura, also signs current affairs in the news to her. Ava receives the news with great interest, but she does get frustrated by the prevalence of inequality and injustice. She produces art in response to the stories her parents sign to her: it is an important connection Ava cherishes, being naturally cut off from a lot of environmental sights and sounds.

Her stories would feature a strong female lead. She enjoys watching films, particularly Japanese-influenced drama and has been experimenting recently with making her own short films, working frame by frame to produce thrilling and fast-paced stories.

Ava has spent much of the year shielding due to Coronavirus and has, at times, felt utterly fed up. But she has been productive: drawing and animating, and using her enforced home time to her advantage, creating, for example her first pop-up shop. She is designing a calendar to be produced next year and has been tirelessly perfecting her animation skills to create better short films.

After the Garstang Arts exhibition, Ava was preparing to exhibit her work at other collaborative events, but lockdown put paid to those plans. However, she remains determined to find opportunities to display and collaborate where she can next year. Exhibiting at the Garstang Arts Centre was an empowering experience for Ava, and she is delighted that the Arts centre purchased a piece of her work to have on permanent display.

Ava likes to work alone when creating her exhibition pieces – it takes a lot of time and focus. However, she does also enjoy working with her sister, who has a very different style to her. She says it makes for an interesting comparison, and, of course, it can be quite a fun, competitive activity they both enjoy.

When she isn’t drawing, Ava also adores baking. She tells me she makes a mean Victoria Sponge and chocolate fudge cake, but in the interest of a balanced diet, she has this year taken to growing vegetables in the raised bed her family created. She’s successfully grown carrots, onions, peas and even an avocado plant. She is also keen on dress design: her mother carefully recreates her designs on a mannequin, but, she jokes, she doesn’t think anyone would want to wear them!

You can view more of Ava’s work on her Facebook page or follow her on her blog