Arts and Entertainment

Renown watercolor artist holds workshop

Paul Jackson paints mountains, explaining the technique to students. From left are Marcia Barrett, Pam Kaufman, Patricia Flesner and Carol Wilhelm. - Sequim Gazette photo by Patricia Morrison Coate
Paul Jackson paints mountains, explaining the technique to students. From left are Marcia Barrett, Pam Kaufman, Patricia Flesner and Carol Wilhelm.
— image credit: Sequim Gazette photo by Patricia Morrison Coate

Last weekend eight local artists at the Cutting Garden Art Center near Sequim enjoyed the expertise of Paul Jackson, a nationally and internationally renown watercolorist who teaches about 20 workshops a year worldwide.

“He’s an excellent teacher and so gregarious, said Madeline Bryant, workshop coordinator and one of the artists attending the workshop. “The significance of him coming to Sequim is that we have such a huge base of artists here that we can support an artist of his level. He brings so much energy.”

Cutting Garden owner Catherine Mix, herself a fine watercolorist, had taken one of Jackson’s workshops when he was teaching several years ago near Vancouver Island in British Columbia. She said it was a major turning point in her watercolor career of 20 years.

“Paul is known for his ability to paint very dramatic light and his glazing technique,” Bryant said. “He holds onto colors as he builds up layers of colors.”

In the airy art center, Jackson works on a scene of a mountain, lake and canoe, giving a running commentary in his soft drawl on how he’s painting and interspersing tips and techniques on how to achieve certain qualities in watercolor. From a small circular palette, he swirls his brush in the color he wants for the mountain, makes a few strokes and dips his brush in water, repeating the process over and over.

“I’m drawn to watercolor because it has soul built in,” Jackson said. “It’s one medium that starts to paint for you when you put water on paper. Then magic happens in the transparency of this medium and you’re never fully in control of it. That’s the most exciting part.”

Jackson’s first major at Mississippi State University was genetics, but in 1985 he discovered his passion for art — and he laughed, saying, “I failed art in high school!” After graduating from MSU, he earned a Master’s of Fine Art degree at the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1992 and taught there for 2 1/2 years. He still does portraits of its dignitaries. When he was just 19, he was accepted into the American Watercolor Society, in good stead with Georgia O’Keefe, Jackson Pollock, Andrew Wyeth and Winslow Homer.

“When I was 30, I got signature membership, the top of the top,” Jackson said. “The AWS artists have to judge themselves because nobody else is qualified.”

Now 46, Jackson has received top honors in national and international competitions and has contributed his art to scores of magazines, books and newspapers. He designed the Missouri state quarter, featuring Lewis and Clark. He’s also a signature member of the National Watercolor Society and an honor member of the Missouri Watercolor Society. Jackson is the author of a bestselling instructional book, “Painting Spectacular Light Effects in Watercolor” (2000) and a portfolio of his work, “The Wandering Watercolorist” (2013).

A self-described adventurer since his childhood, Jackson and his wife, Marla, also an artist, travel the world.

“’The Wandering Watercolorist” has to do with our perpetual motion,” Jackson said. “We are truly the definition of perpetual motion.”

Although he’s painting less because of all the traveling, Jackson still paints large format (40 inches by 60 inches) works that he sells to private, corporate and governmental collectors.

“I don’t have any plans to paint smaller than 40 by 60 next year. I like the large format because watercolor is easier big than small. Traditionally, watercolor was a tiny medium but it doesn’t have to be — bigger is better,” Jackson said.

Asked what the best part of his career is, Jackson said without hesitation, “Freedom. Flexibilty and freedom. It’s not a job but a lifestyle and we get to meet the neatest people on Earth every week.” And the worst? “Having to leave. We make these great friendships and never, never get to flesh out the relationship. We have friends everywhere but never enough time.”


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