I met Jane MacKenzie when working in my lab for my PhD. She was a little my senior in both age and position - in fact we kept our friendship quiet in the department until we left!

We both drank, we both loved to talk, we were both down to earth and said things how they were. I remember when she was round at my flat and we were doing the usual - drinking wine, smoking, talking late into the night and early morning, talking. I told her how I'd started painting in oils after work and didn't think it was any good but I was enjoying the process. She asked to see the canvas and I handed her a half completed one of my hands. She looked at it saying nothing for what seemed like a long time.

"i like it. A lot" she said. She asked me what I do with my finished work and I told her how I put them into my cupboard and start another one. I'll never forget her reply. "So you paint pictures and put them all in a cupboard and nobody sees them?!" She then asked me why I didn't get them out and allow people to see? It felt like a challenge which made me take photos and put my work on an artist's website. An Italian curator wrote to me through that website and I took part in my first exhibition.

Jane recently died, long before her time. I'm grieving and will do I think for a very long time. She was the closest friend I've ever had and she understood me like no other.

Steph Hall Figurative Artist
Marti Jones Dixon Figurative Artist
Emma Mitchell Jewellery Maker