Contrast is the Key

Venus, Lili & Madonna (watercolor, 21 x 31)

In addition to painting wet, in watercolor, I paint dry, in pastels. One of my pastel teachers, a realist painter, insisted that we have at least one really dark area, somewhere in a strategic location?preferably close to a light value and/or the focal point, if we’d chosen to have one. I remember the lesson?which is really about contrast?and put it to use in both watercolor and pastels.

Brussels was my home before I moved to California. In Brussels, it rains 250 days a year; when I first visited California and saw the light, I fell in love. I react to light; I know I’m moodier when the day is overcast. For me, yellow and earth tones are happy. When I visited Claude Monet’s home and gardens in Giverny, the yellow and blue color scheme in the dining room gave me an electric jolt.

I experience a similar shock when I finish a painting; I know it’s finished if it makes my eyes pop. It?s a physical sensation: I can really feel my eyes tremble?if there’s high contrast and intense colors. It’s sometimes easier to identify an effect than to achieve it. Watercolor is unpredictable, and its unpredictability is a challenge. There’s a lack of control, especially when an artist first tries her hand at it. The task is to learn how the paper, the paint, and the water interact, and it takes time. When my students get frustrated, I tell them that I didn’t dare to use pigment to its full intensity until I became more accomplished in technique. There’s an evolution in my work toward depth and darkness of color, toward intensity, but it’s never too late to begin.

Paul Jackson did undergraduate work in painting and illustration at Mississippi State University, then received a master?s degree in painting and graphic design from the University of Missouri, Columbia. His work has won numerous first-place and best-of-show awards throughout the United States and Canada. In addition, his paintings have appeared in a long list of publications and can be found in such collections as those of Walt Disney World, Peavey Electronics Corp. and the John C. Stennis Institute for Government at Mississippi State University. Jackson currently lives and works in Columbia, Missouri, where he recently opened his own gallery, Illumia, a Paul Jackson Gallery. To see more of his work, visit his Web site at:

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