Abstract Category First Place
by Amanda Metcalf
For Suzanne Jack, abstraction can come as easily from altering one’s perception as from
altering reality. “Water Gems” had its start during one of her periodic visits to the Great Smoky Mountains. The artist, who lives in Knoxville, TN, likes to get to the Smokies in the morning so she can spend a good eight hours photographing, painting and indulging her senses. In this case, she stepped out into a stream, then perched on a rock before starting to shoot photos from different angles. The photo that inspired “Water Gems” encompassed no more than several inches of real space.
In the distribution of the shadows and in the movement of the water, the picture accurately recorded the original scene, though the artist used artistic license to intensify the colors. The painting’s abstract quality arises from its topographical view, looking into and through the water as it glides over the stones. “The extreme point of view is something we’re just not used to.” Jack says.
The artist describes her search for subject matter as an open-ended journey where “I just wander and respond and discover.” She explains: “I take time to find something that relates to me and to the point and place where I am. Then I take time to view it at different angles.” What does Jack look for? “Energy, movement and lighting, especially luminosity. Water embodies those qualities, and pastels lend themselves to depicting them.” For that reason, painting the dry medium with a wet subject matter is a logical choice. “I just respond to pastel; it’s so immediate.” she says. As for water; “I become engrossed in just looking through the water—looking down and looking into it. The process relates to looking at yourself from different points of view or from where and who you are at the present moment.” Jack paints both en plain air and in her studio.
Once she’d selected the photo for “Water Gems”, she used Rembrandt caput mortum red (deep rust color) to cover Arches paper, then wiped the surface down to produce a richly colored ground for the subsequent layers of paint. She finds that this underlay works especially well for blues, like the ones in this water scene. Then, she continues to layer and build until she feels the depth, warmth, coolness and quality of light she’s looking for.