iArtist EDAR504

Bio:  Jeannie Baker (Illustrator and Collage Artist)

Jeannie Baker was born November 2nd, 1950 in the United Kingdom.  Jeannie is the daughter of a welder – father.  Jeannie has had strong artistic influences from an early age, with her higher education studies  involving Croydon College of Art from 1967-1969; Brighton College of Art, B.S. (with honours) in 1979.  Jeannie resides in Sydney, Australia, is an Australian citizen and her occupation is as a professional illustrator.

Jeannie has been recognised for her talents and has received an array of awards from Children’s’ book Council of Australia, Australian Wilderness Society and International Board on Books for Young people to name some examples.  Jeannie Baker’s work as a freelance artist and illustrator has her works exhibited globally.  Representation of the calibre of her works include Brettenham House, Waterloo Bridge, London in 1975; Portal Gallery, London in 1975; Gallery One, Hobart in 1977; and Jeannie has a permanent collection on exhibition at Australian National Gallery and Droomkeen Museum of Children’s Literature in Victoria, Australia.

Role of the Artist:

Through art visual language is expressed.  Artists express themselves, communicate with others through designing, creating, and making, rather than only through written or verbal modalities. Although the role of the artist is always changing a key constant for Jeannie Baker is exaggerating reality in her art because she believes if she doesn’t then one can easily capture her meanings through a simple photograph or drawing of a scene.  An artist role example is Jeannie Baker keenly interested in rainforests as a conservation issue, wanting to ‘stab our collective dull conscience’ through her art (McDonald, 1988). 

This demonstrates ideology evolvement based on artist intentions, her own views of her role, her ideas, and goals of what she (the artist) planned to do for her artworks.  It is suggested the more clarity and specificity an artist presents through their artworks in relation to their intentions the greater success of understanding being achieved by their determined audience.  This document examines two actual collage artworks of Jeannie Baker’s – Where the Forest Meets the Sea (1984) and Grandmother (1977).  Additionally three book collections containing works of Jeannie Baker will be explored in this paper to demonstrate her differing and evolving artist roles and subject matters.  These books are Home in The Sky (2001), Grandfather (1977), and Belonging (2004).  

The first example is Jeannie Baker’s book Home in The Sky (2001) set in New York City.[1]  The book’s idea came from a roof top experience Jeannie had whilst residing in New York.  The panoramic scenery Jeannie witnessed at the dizzying height of a derelict building she sat upon formed ideas about what one could see if flying over head in New York City.  Jeannie Baker saw creations people had made on their own roof tops – gardens, play grounds, graffiti tag sites, a pigeon coop.  Although the story is of a pigeon flying around New York City it demonstrates connection to the various environments of New York City, and between living organisms.  The story highlights individuality, people and hobby differences, accommodation variances, and transportation. It is dynamic because of the graphic and pain staking details in her art.  Importantly all of the works in the book were created and made only by Jeannie Baker.  The next book to be explored is Grandfather (1977) by Jeannie Baker. [2]                                                                                                                                                                                           

Grandfather (1977) is a simple story of a young girl spending time with her grandfather in his second hand store.  The young girl seems to be learning the value of family, and some family history along the way in the book.  Perhaps more subtly is the suggestion of the value; history itself can provide albeit through the various clocks (as the story displayed), the cracked, torn chairs with items snugly embedded into them, or old post cards and photographs describing their own stories.  The respect and regard these items are held in, in the story, represents something – perhaps a message in terms of we need to appreciate each other, like the story shows between grandfather and child and with the items in grandfather’s store.

To lead on from this is the third story – Belonging (2004).  Jeannie Baker portrays her role in this story without words and as a longevity story.  By this the story grows alongside its key character from infancy to her adulthood.  The book also shows

“Re-greening the city: the role of community, the empowerment of people and the significance of children, family, and neighbourhood in changing their urban environment.”  [3]

It is a powerful role Jeannie Baker is fulfilling, with very clear intentions of hers demonstrated throughout the story examples being family connections, and individual growth.  Importantly as mentioned previously the story is artworks only – no actual written text to follow.  It effectively captures evolving life changes through a window and in a 2D format so you the observer absorb, notice, and determine what these are from your perspective.[4] Jeannie Baker certainly provides a sense of inclusiveness for her audience using this methodology.  As can be seen three different artworks and stories by Jeannie Baker represent her roles in important but differing ways between each story.  Expanding further from the role of Jeannie Baker (the artist) is exploring her actual artworks (subject matters) in each story.

Subject Matter:

Jeannie Baker’s artwork from Home in The Sky (2001) displays contrasts between the urban spaces, landscapes of buildings, train transportation, and a park.  All of the pictures in the book are collage creations which took almost two years for Jeannie Baker to complete.  One of the reasons the project took such a great length of time involved collection of materials from the environment.  Examples include leaves, grasses, and pigeon feathers.  The core subject in the story was about a domestic pigeon on a journey in New York City.  There was great attention to detail for each scene in the book.  The park for example incorporates New York City buildings in the background with a park and lots of trees in the foreground.  Within the park there is a lot of activity occurring from family picnics, to group roller-skate dancing, through to several individuals pictured in separate activities including sun tanning, cycling, and reading.  Another outstanding attention to detail scene is on a train.  The litter and newspapers in the scene added elements of meaning and authenticity to the scene.

The story of Belonging (2004) takes its audience on an unwritten experience of someone’s life (Tracy) from infancy through to adulthood.  Encumbered in the entire story are the environment in which the story is set and the changes to that environment.  The story is endearing from the immediate relationships demonstrated, through to that of friends and the community.  The artworks are relational in context to the main character Tracy, such as playing in her yard.  Similarly, Grandfather (1977) has a main focus of a young girl, but it does not have the longitudinal story line as Belonging (2004) does.  Instead it sweetly captures a story through the main character’s eyes.  An example is an elderly female customer entering the store wearing a fox fur shawl and the little girl disliking the customer because she sympathises for the fox instead. 


Regardless of the distinct differences between the role of the artist and the subject matters, a constant is shared with all of them – colour constancy and colour interaction.  These assist Jeannie Baker in creating experiences for her audience.  Colour constancy is the subtle soft difference requiring Jeannie Baker’s attention and understanding in various ways for her artwork.  Jeannie Baker took almost two years to complete her artworks for her book Home in The Sky (2001).  The collection of required materials involved great thought and patience.  For example the grasses and leaves were bleached with chemicals and then soaked.  They were then sprayed with colours to match as closely as possible to their natural colour.  A second example from the same story involves the tree trunks being created from clay (Baker, 2001).

Her collage constructions in all of her artworks come from a combination of natural and synthetic materials.  It takes time to collect these materials.  The first example of Jeannie Baker’s collage art is from her book Where the Forest Meets the Sea (1987).  It was a project that constituted four years of intensive effort for Jeannie Baker to complete.  As part of this project Jeannie Baker created art collages, wrote a book, and made a short film.  Materials involved a digital camera which proved difficult to record effects due to lighting, varied breadth and forest scale.  Baker found herself relying mostly on her drawings, her memory, and further research to develop her artworks.  The greenery vegetation creation underwent a process of its own.  It involved using chemicals to draw out its colour, then another lot of chemicals to uphold its preservation to be life like and finally mixing oil with paint and applying it to the greenery by airbrush, to return colour.  The examples here are still photographs captured from her actual collage artwork (1984)[5] and the comparable in the book (When the Forest Meets the Sea, 1987)[6]

A copy of the artwork from the book is on the left whilst a photograph of Jeannie Baker’s actual collage is on the right.  The original art piece (1984) displays the young male character naked, as in the book small shorts were added.  This is suggested to omit the naturist perspective from the desired audience group – young children.  Most of the colours due to print effects in the book differ quite significantly, altering the depth of perspective one can have.  The book cannot capture the same levels of appreciation, intensity, detail, and is obviously not 2-dimensional, like the artwork. 

The little character has actual hair affixed to his head in the collage and although in the book the character has hair the finer detail is absent.  The tree trunks in the collage are defined, life-like looking with tiny vines, twigs, flecks stuck on branches and moss.  Once again the book’s picture does portray a sense of magnitude with the forest but fails to capture all the minute but significant details.  The book however does capture and translates nicely the vibrant colour of the greenery. The final point of difference discussed here is the ability to see how the collage has been constructed and affixed to a timber base, before then being affixed to a background of timber.  It represents the pristine and ‘exaggerated’ form of reality (a role Jeannie Baker took on for her artworks).  The second collage to book example is Grandmother.  The collage was created in 1977[7] and the book was published in 1978.[8]


In the second example above the collage art piece is on the left and the book example on the right. One needs to consider once again printer technologies especially in the 70’s for this comparison.  The true life experience for the audience is sadly denied when exploring the two examples.  Clearly there are significantly colour differences between the two.  Starting with the gate and fence in the collage it is deeper, darker, grainer textured looking in comparison to the book whereby it is sunburnt looking.  Although the weathered effects are seen in both the detail of being grainy and dirty are lost in the book through its faded appearance (possibly print technologies used).  The rusty hinges and locks in both though are captured well with even the tiny screws being visible.  The lock itself looks more authentic in the book in fact because in the collage the detail of its fragility and flimsiness is seen. 

The steps in the collage have actual soil on them and you can imagine as one walks up the steps how dirt comes off the sole of your shoes and remains on the steps.  This is lost in the book and the idea not even a consideration when looking at the steps.  The greenery in the book is unfortunately lost creating a garden image that looks neglected, half dead and dried out.  This does however lean focus in the art (of the book) more to the black cat in the scene.  The book with its faded, sunburnt imagery emphasises the cat, its eyes gleaning toward the audience.  What the books fails to capture spectacularly is the furry aspect of the cat, its tiny white flecks through some of its fur, or the 2-dimensional appreciation for which the collage is. 


Picture exert of park scene from the book Home in the Sky by Jeannie Baker (2001).

[2]  Picture of Grandfather & child from the book Grandfather by Jeannie Baker (1977).


4 Picture from the book Belonging by Jeannie Baker (2004).



[5] Jeannie Baker’s forest collage is from Dromkeen National Centre for Picture Book Art collection, 2012.

[6] Picture from Jeannie Baker’s book Where the Forest Meets the Sea, 1987.

[7] Jeannie Baker’s garden with black cat collage is from Dromkeen National Centre for Picture Book Art collection, 2012.

[8] Picture from Jeannie Baker’s book Grandmother, 1978.