Artist of the Month: Jack Montmeat

Paloma (oil, 28×22) by Jack Montmeat was a Portrait finalist in the 24th Annual Art Competition. Montmeat is our May 2008 Artist of the Month.

Residence: Ivoryton, Connecticut


Start in art: I grew up in Old Lyme, Connecticut, and began taking classes at the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts at 13. I eventually went to school at the Columbus College of Art and Design in Columbus, Ohio. The schools were very different—the former was focused on academic figure drawing and the latter on composition and design. I’ve tried to fuse the two concepts. I now paint portraits for a living, usually in oils, pencil or charcoal, depending on the project.

Inspiration for this painting: The portrait of Paloma was a commission. I was able to control everything in terms of composition and lighting, and Paloma was very good at holding a pose.

His process: Because of the age of the sitter, working from photos was essential. Once I had set up the scene using north light, I took a few pictures.

After I select a good pose, I begin drawing with charcoal on white paper. The preliminary drawings can take more than a week—I try to get it absolutely correct. I tone my canvas using raw umber and transfer the drawing. I do the underpainting in a sepia-umber tone. Once this is dry, I begin the painting the darks, working into the half-tones and then the lights.

My palette for this was Cremnitz white, yellow ochre, genuine vermilion, permanent rose, Indian red, ultramarine blue, transparent sepia, and ivory black. Typically, I’ll finish the face first and then work on everything else. With the dress, I was able to be more abstract and build up the paint; I used a palette knife to apply the whites. I spent much time looking at Russian artists, specifically Valentin Serov. Paloma took about five weeks to complete.

Why he creates art: The inspiration to create art is essentially subconscious. Certainly, you must learn technique to better express yourself, but to gaze upon someone’s face and feel the need to reproduce it in some way is a mysterious desire.

It’s all about who you know: During my senior year in college, I was in the habit of doing drawings from Old Master paintings at the Columbus Museum of Art, which was on our campus. I had been drawing there for a week and almost nobody had come through, but one day a man came up with his son and told me he liked my drawing, a copy of a Dutch portrait. He went into great detail about how he was part of the Wyeth family and how his son was going to be the fourth Wyeth. I didn’t know who he was and was a bit skeptical, but about a week later I opened a magazine and saw a picture of him—Jamie Wyeth.

Edited by Grace Dobush, associate editor of The Artist’s Magazine.

Artists of the Month are chosen from our Annual Competition entrants. To learn more, visit our competition page.

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