By Mark Beale
MB: Hello Jason and congratulations on winning Best of Show at the 2017 National Exhibition!
JS: Thanks Mark. It was quite an honor.
MB: I wanted to ask you a few questions so our members could learn more about you and your experience and approach to painting. So, thanks for agreeing to speak to me and for sharing your knowledge. First, tell me a bit about your background.
JS: Well, I am originally from Tennessee and began drawing everything around me as a young child – cartoon characters, trees, just everything. Eventually a high school guidance counselor saw some of my drawings and helped me get a partial scholarship to Nossi College of Art and Design. I later attended Tennessee Tech University, where I got my BFA. I started the MFA program following graduation but stopped after one semester and began to learn and paint on my own.
MB: So, you started working as a full - time artist then?
JS: No, I needed to get a job and began working as a curator at a museum when my wife and I moved to Arkansas – that’s where her family is from and where we live now. It wasn’t until 2009 that I became a full – time fine artist.
MB: Did that help you develop more quickly?
JS: No, in fact I think it’s a myth that you have to be a full - time painter to be taken seriously or produce good work. I think some of the best work being produced today are from folks who are not full – time artists.
MB: Why do you think that is?
JS: If I had to sit in front of a canvas and focus on feeding my family it would hamper my work. Some of the best artists today are those who don’t have that financial pressure. It makes their work unencumbered by marketing and financial priorities. They are free to focus purely on their craft and they grow faster.
MB: Lets talk about priorities. Do you have an over – arching philosophy of painting that guides your work?
JS: That’s a great question and I would have to say “no” at this point. Initially I was focused on putting the right spots of color next to each other, with the correct temperature, value and intensity, to create a painting.
MB: Sort of the Hawthorne method of impressionism?
JS: I guess you could call it that. But, then I abandoned that approach and began to focus on atmospheric masses. I would block in the major masses and then add details to the masses to complete the picture and now I have abandoned that.
MB: So how do you approach a painting or subject?
JS: Honestly, I don’t know. The way I’m feeling at the time will usually direct me to some approach.
MB: Are you intentionally leaving your mind open and following your gut and experience or are you at a crossroads?
JS: Crossroads is a good word. I am at a crossroads. As soon as I think I have stumbled upon some truth, it turns out to be incorrect. I try to keep an open mind, but honestly, I would say I am confused at the moment.
MB: Well, your work certainly doesn’t show it. It is absolutely masterful. Let’s take a specific case. How did you approach your winning painting “Beaver Lake Revisited”?
JS: I had painted at that site several times before and the water level is usually much higher with less of the rocks exposed. I just happened to go there when the water level was very low and I was captivated by the translucency of the water and the light – play on the rocks. I actually stayed pretty true to what the scene looked like that day and painted a small plein air study. I took lots of pictures and then brought the study and photos together in the studio to complete the larger work you see.
MB: You certainly succeeded. It is truly beautiful. I see something new in it every time I look at it.
JS: Thanks Mark, I also have lots of canvases I destroy, so it doesn’t work all of the time!
MB: What advice would you give aspiring masters?
JS: Draw, Draw, Draw! I would also say learning the fundamentals of design are the foundation of every good painting.
MB: Did that foundation come from your college training?
JS: Unfortunately, no. After getting out of school I studied a lot on my own and experimented to find out what seemed to work and I keep searching. I feel that there are parallels between being a writer and being a painter. Some painters are struggling to describe their subject because they haven’t learned grammar. The grammar is drawing and design. Those are the foundation.
MB: What are your goals for the future?
JS: I hope to concentrate on working more in the studio, giving workshops to help others, and to spend more time with my wife and 4 daughters.
MB: Well, thank you Jason for agreeing to share your thoughts with us and congratulations again on your Best of Show.
Mark Beale is a painter in Charleston, SC and has exhibited at numerous museum shows and the historic Salmagundi Club in New York City. His work has been twice included in the National Parks 2 - year traveling exhibit and his work can be viewed at bealefineart.com.