Letting go of expectations with Jonathan Paul Jackson

Tuesday Night Painting #15

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Jonathan Paul Jackson, In the Garden of Eden #3
2017, mixed media on paper, 48.25 x 48.25 in

Hello painters, 

Lots of things to share with you today. First I have for you a brief conversation I conducted over email with the Texas based artist Jonathan Paul Jackson. I also have a lot of links to share with you all and some thoughts about how to stay motivated when you're creating (and when you're not).

2020 is, depending on your perspective, crawling by or screaming by. Either one, you can kiss June goodbye. But that's okay for me, because July has always been a very productive month.

In past years, I've used July to begin short, one-month long projects. I find it can be helpful to have a strict start and end date to your making for a variety of reasons. You can use it as an excuse to experiment and explore new things, or take a detour and play around with some other ideas.

For example: one July I decided I would sit down and make a series of drawings in a sketchbook using marker. I placed restrictions on my making: the sketchbook was 12 x 9 inches, and I always used the same thick, felt-tipped black marker to draw with. My goal was straightforward and I didn't have any excuse to waste time in the studio. I simply had to pick up the marker and start drawing.

The author Jessa Crispin sums up this mentality: 

I’m very Midwestern in that I just do the work that is in front of me. I just did the work that was in front of me for six and a half years. Somehow, there were just always readers, and I’m appreciative that they exist.

Despite my insistence that my hometown of Pittsburgh is not part of the midwest, I have to admit this philosophy describes my ideal approach: sitting down and doing something small each day.

It's also important not to worry about the quality of what you're doing, just that you're doing it. Then you can start stacking up those experiences on top of each other and begin making the work you want to see in the world. Take this advice from Khatzumoto:

You rarely get instant, full victories. Everybody knows that. But what almost no one knows is that you can and do and will get instant partial victories. All. The. Time.

Jonathan Paul Jackson, Indigenous Contemporary No. 78
2019, Oil pastel and acrylic on cardboard, 48 x 36 in

Jonathan Paul Jackson, Snake in the Jungle
2019, Oil pastel and acrylic on cardboard, 48 x 36 in

The work of Jonathan Paul Jackson came to my attention via this artist feature hosted by Big Medium, a Texas based arts org. The number one reason Jackson's work stuck out to me was because of the texture he's able to inject into his works. I've always told my students texture is an underrated aspect of a painting: most artists are thinking about how the painting looks visually, but if you can figure out ways to activate the other senses as well, the work becomes that much more compelling.

Jackson does this in a number of ways: there's the ribbed cardboard backgrounds combined with the slickness of the oil pastel laid on top. Then there's the collage pieces, with wispy brushstrokes blended beautifully over top of photos of plants and flowers.

I spoke to Jackson over email about his work and his process:

Tim McCool: Your work involves a lot of mixed media, combining acrylics, pastels, collage. How did you arrive at this particular working style?

Jonathan Paul Jackson: Just a lot of experimenting. Adding and taking away till it just feels right. I wanted to make art I had never seen before. So I started studying a lot of art history... a lot. Because to make the art of the future I had to study the art of the past.
Red flower num 23 Alternate version 3
2020, Acrylic, oil pastel, collage on hand pressed paper, 11 x 14”

Flower bed alternate version num 001
Acrylic, oil pastel and collage on hand pressed paper, 11x14in

When I come up with an idea I google it to see if it's been done before... "
TM: What steps do you take to come up with your ideas? Do you have a system to create work, do you make work in series, or do you work a little bit more randomly and intuitively?

JPJ: Well when I come up with an idea I google it to see if it's been done before and if it has I figure out if I can make it my own. If I can make it my own, I move forward with the idea then I just start to paint or collage or whatever the idea calls for. If I am able to elaborate multiple on one style then that's how I start a series. 
Antelope on the plains
2020, Acrylic and oil pastel on paper 45 x 45”
Tropical Imagination No. 003
2019, oil pastel and acrylic on wood, 22 x 48 in
This is your weekly reminder that this newsletter is free but not cheap and typically I would ask for donations for myself to help keep this thing running. However, for the rest of this month I want to encourage you to donate to support black lives and communities of color
TM: What time of day you usually like to work? Do you like to keep your studio neat or messy? Do you like to work with music, podcasts, TV, etc, or do you like your studio to be quiet?

VI: My studio is a sun room, so I get a lot of great sunlight all day. But I enjoy working in the early morning. I enjoy working all day, really. While I am working it's a mixture of messy and neat. When I stop working for the day I clean up behind myself so that when I wake up I can start to work without hesitation.

As far as what I listen to it just depends on where I am in the painting and if I am struggling/frustrated. Then I like the studio to be quiet so I can concentrate on working through the painting. 
The artist at work in his old studio
And in the new sun room studio
TM: Is there a piece either recently or in the past that you've struggled with a lot? And if so how did you finally resolve it?

JPJ: Oh yeah mos def, I struggle just about everyday when I paint. I work on 5 paintings at one time most of the time. So there's a lot of room for struggling, haha. 

But I know if I just keep working on it eventually I push through the struggle. I have learned to let go of expectations when I paint, expectations get in the way of experimentation and making art is so much about experimentation. 
Color meditation #234, 
2020, Acrylic on paper, 9 x 10”
Expectations get in the way of experimentation and making art is so much about experimentation. "
TM: 2020 has obviously been a ridiculous year so far (possibly an understatement). Have you changed the way you are making art or thinking about art recently?

JPJ: 100%. I have had to rethink how to sell work at a more consistent rate. Which has been tricky but I have figured it out. 

TM: Without giving away all your secrets what are some steps you've taken to make sure you can continue selling work at a time like this?

JPJ: The name of the game right now is CONTENT !! People are stuck in their homes glued to their iPads and phones, so my advice to any artist that wants to try and sell is post as much  content as you can: You working on art, you talking about your art, your studio, etc etc.

Some people are still working so they are generating income and would like to support an emerging artist. So if you were waiting for a time to put yourself out there the time is now !! 
Untitled 8
2019, mixed media on canvas, 14 x 11 in
Untitled 4
2019, mixed media on canvas, 12 x 9 in

TM: You've spoken before about studying a lot of color theory and a lot of art history. Can you list some artists from the past that you've looked to for inspiration?

JPJ: Henri Matisse, Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, Willem de Kooning

Many thanks to Jonathan for sharing his work with us.

Jonathan Paul Jackson (b.1984) is a visual artist from Houston, Texas. He works in all mediums of art, including painting, sculpture and illustration. You can see more images of his work at Foltz Gallery here.

Here you can read about his upcoming artist residency at the Willow House in the West Texas town of Terlingua, TX. (Viva Terlingua!)

Follow the artist on Instagram here.

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Painting by Carrie Moyer
Read about the recent ups and downs of painter Rudolf Stingel. The Italian artist's work was recently selling at auction for millions of dollars, but the bubble has burst and Stingel owners are worried their investments will not pay off in the future. Stingel's stock rose after a big exhibition at the Whitney Museum.

Read this Austin Kleon blog post, All good things must begin, about the author Octavia Butler. I recently read her book Parable of the Sower (which you'll "enjoy" if you want to read something very dark and very dystopian). Butler wrote encouragements to herself on the covers of her notebooks, setting her sights high. I do something similar with sketchbooks. On the first page of all my sketchbooks I write or draw something silly and encouraging to remind myself to take it easy.

View this collection of videos from the Lesley University MFA program. The program hosted several artists to talk to their MFA students about many topics, but luckily they are hosted online for the public to view. If you only have time to watch one, make it the abstract painter Carrie Moyer

18 pieces of wisdom from the comic book artist Moebius. Some of these items are specific to comic book writing, but I think you can find motivation in these words for your painting as well. For example: "Drawing is a medium of communication for the great family we have not met, for the public and for the world."

Black Artists in Boston say that they are
being locked out of their artist studios by Northeastern Univ, and have planned a protest  for this weekend.
And so we reach the end of another Tuesday Night letter. I'll start you off with a recommendation from our featured artist, Jonathan Paul Jackson, who tells me that the new Childish Gambino album, 3.15.20, is "sonically so beautiful, he's able to paint these beautiful narratives that are just really great for creating."

Childish Gambino - 3.15.20 (full album on YouTube)
Bonobo - Migration (full album on YouTube)
Bassnectar - Journey to the Center

Enjoy, and see you next time!
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