Born in Edinburgh, Jane Lee McCracken has been making drawings for as long as she can remember. After finishing the crossword Jane’s Grandmother would often draw elegant women in the margins of the newspaper for her, using a ballpoint pen. This inspired Jane to use Biro as her preferred drawing medium and ultimately create images from her childhood experiences. She listened to stories from both world wars that her Grandmother told her and saw how it still affected her greatly. Watching war films with her father and meeting Charlie Chaplin when she was a small child generated a lifelong passion for films.
Receiving postcards from exotic places her father visited through his work and reading about the animals he saw, contributed to Jane’s fascination for wildlife. All of these were inspirational to her interests in war and loss, nature, film and travel and can be seen reflected in her work.
After completing a BA(hons) in Graphic Design at University of Humberside and freelancing as an illustrator for several years creating illustrations for the BBC and various UK publishers, Jane developed her art practice and began to exhibit her work. She worked as a park keeper in Camden to fund her art practice, and then became one of only a few female guards / tube drivers on the Northern Line in the late 1990s. Both positions were often challenging but provided invaluable life experience and inspiration for her work. Creating small pieces of art on Post-it notes during her lunch hours, while working in an office in London, further cemented her use of Biro.
Jane has worked as a full time artist since 2006. The simplicity of picking up a Biro and drawing complex works of art not only on paper, but also on objects, is something Jane finds both liberating and challenging. Her art is a tapestry of images that includes personal possessions, film references and people and animals in her life, particularly her dog and muse. Together they are used to symbolise and explore the more complex and onerous sides to life.
Jane lives in the North East of England with her husband and their Northern Inuit dog Lily.
Jane constructs intricate multi-layered Biro drawings, sculptures and installations incorporating her drawings and designs products. Her work is impassioned by childhood memoirs, fairy tales, forests, wildlife, films and documentaries. Along with her continuing interest in war and loss Jane's artwork is both beautiful and representational of life's brutal reality. Her meticulous drawings take several months to research and make, and incorporate complex and symbolic drawing layers. Her working process often includes photographing television screens as films or documentaries are played. This produces inspirational images to work from, giving her drawings a cinematic quality. Her work provokes consideration of loss and destruction, creating memorials of lives lived, both human and animal and ways of life and environments lost.
Since graduating Jane has exhibited nationally and internationally in both solo and group exhibitions, including her solo installation The Woodcutter’s Cottage at the Mercer Art Gallery, Harrogate. Her products are available from stockists including the National Glass Centre and Wolf & Badger at their flagship store in SoHo, New York. In 2020 she created Chimpanzee Community Mural at BALTIC featuring drawings by 120 children inspired by BALTIC's Animalesque exhibition and the chimpanzees of Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue and Protection. In 2021 she was invited to make ceramic tiles featuring her drawings for the Making Paradise group exhibition at the Aga Khan Centre Gallery, London.
Art, Environmental Education and Conservation
Jane has worked in partnership with the Born Free Foundation since 2014 through her Drawing for Endangered Species art and environmental education workshops, and has fundraised through her art for various conservation organisations including the Wolf Conservation Center New York, Save Wild Tigers, WCS Malaysia and Chengeta Wildlife as well as fundraising for Coyote Watch Canada, Butterfly Conservation. She is also partnered with Newcastle United Foundation and Foundation of Light through her Urban Wildlife project.
In 2019 Jane founded Where Did All the Animals Go? (WDATAG?) international art and environmental education project in partnership with Born Free. She organised an exhibition featuring children's Biro drawings of vulnerable species and the Endangered Species Conference both held at Thought Foundation where Will Travers OBE, President and Co-Founder of Born Free was headline speaker at the conference. Over 600 people participated in the exhibition.
From 2019-2021 throughout the COVID-19 pandemic Jane organised and curated the Where Did All the Animals Go? exhibition of her drawings and 700 global children's wildlife drawings, including children from Kenya, Malaysia, Guyana, USA and the UK, at the Great North Museum: Hancock, Newcastle upon Tyne. The exhibition is now on permanent display at the museum. Following the installation of the exhibition Jane founded Drawing for the Planet global art, environmental education and conservation charity.