Ken W. Jackson "Patterns From Life" by John Peowrie

Ken Jackson is a native of London ON, where he maintains his home and studio. As a child and living in the suburbs, he preferred solitary ramblings in woodlands to games with boys his own age. "I was not a lonely child but one who enjoyed  being alone". This early love for nature shows consistently throughout his work; yet also becomes apparent in his talent handling of single figures, set unposed, in  their natural environment. Where the studio portraiturist shows the underlying character of the subject by setting, costume, lighting and idiosyncratic gesture, Jackson catches the  personality of the sitter as he or she seems to move through space as though unconscious of being  observed. The resultant likeness in each case is photographic or, realistic in the best sense.  His early career, after leaving H.B Beal Technical School graduating in commercial art, began with four years in commercial design and advertising, where he gained experience in drafting and the design of a variety of labels.  The exactness, order and routine that was required, though distinct from fine art, was a good foundation for a young man in his early twenties.  Then there came a change when he was engaged by CFPL. TV (London) and he was now called upon to design sets, brochures and diverse advertising matter.  Here he stayed for six years and during this time had a burning desire to paint on his own.  There was only one more job after this, with an advertising agency, where he remained for less than a year.  He left on his birthday giving, as he says in his own words "the best birthday present ever - to myself!" Since then he has been a full-time artist.

To show major examples of an artist's output is a necessity when one wishes to call attention to the artist's skill.  However to illustrate an aspect of his work by showing something that he does solely for himself will shed light sometimes where it is needed most.  The small watercolour "Halloween" was painted by Jackson after he had created two fake graves in his front yard "welcoming" the kids for "trick or treat".  As they crossed the verandah to his front door, perhaps glancing backwards to the sinister pumpkin, an old white-painted rocking chair suddenly creaked into movement (activated by a wire pulled from inside the house) upon which screams-or delighted giggles, came from the kids.  The painting is a simple commemoration of Halloween, 1985.

Jackson once described himself as "a Romantic", by referring to his way of looking and experiencing certain people, animals, places and things.  Most notably I think of his art in scenes, often close up, of settings in which walls, architecture, shelving or objects are lit by light from and open window.  Though at first glance the subjects appear prosaic, with the second look they tell a different story and one realizes that they show the personality of the possessor, whether it be a bowl of shells, a glass bottle, a bird looking in on a window ledge, flowers n a vase or a candlestick.  As one looks, and above all thinks about this group of paintings, one is struck by the simple uniqueness of the objects depicted.  They are unequivocally personal, satisfying in the viewer a profound sense of the aesthetic.  Here his proficiency in tempura shows
 brilliantly, detail is balanced with the masses of light that neither flood nor darkly illumine the scene, but permeate with just the right degree of intensity to create a mood of pensive reflection in the viewer.  Typical of this group is "Memories" 22 5/16 x 29 3/16 in egg tempera.

About 1980, he began using egg tempura with satisfying results, preferring, as most other artists, egg yolk as the binding element.  Today, when he chooses this medium, it is with his own mixture of ingredients.  When speaking of tempera to me, he used the image "as of stained glass windows - laid one upon the other".  It is a fitting analogy as his work is clear cut, precise and exact yet alive, whether lit by the brilliance of the sun or the muted light of the moon.  He uses a wider range of brushes per painting than most artists. likewise with palette.  And whatever the medium of is choice a large part of the masses is built up with colour gradually, as he "stipples" the ground before laying on a new wash of watercolour or egg tempura paint.

It  is  not possible to write of Ken Jackson and his art without mention of Andrew Wyeth.  Wyeth holds a high place in his estimation and he is the first to admit to his influence.  I see this as not a bad thing at all because of the capacity for Wyeth to "stretch" a colour into seemingly endless tones, and his draftsman like ability to render exactly what he wants to see, makes him a "painters" painter.  However, it is just these qualities that Jackson himself possesses along with a refreshing modesty as he compares himself with others, placing Wyeth in the lead.

Like many artists, he is "at home" outdoors and every so often he travels to a national park to spend time walking or canoeing.  there, along with hs sketch-book, he uses his camera with all the skill of a professional photographer and effective usefulness of the mature artist.  Though his paintings of wilderness areas are few, his love and feel for landscape is obvious, and the quality, whether it be rhythm, composition or colour, is the same for outdoor as for indoor scenes.  In the watercolour "Springbank Sanctuary" 22 1/2 x 30 1/4", the easily recognized buildings belonging to the Waterworks Dept., London, Ont.  are shown with just the degree of impersonality - so different than, for example a farmhouse where the personality of the owners or occupants show by perhaps the distinctive choice of colour of paint on the external woodwork, or the machinery left outdoors, or a child's toy forgotten for the moment.  Here the browns of the water in the bottom right corner take the eye across and into the painting where, just discernible, is the reflection of wall and buildings cut by the sharp finger of snow covered ice, and beyond in the middle distance, the scene melts effortlessly into the vegetation and trees, where, though partially obscured by mist, is an undertone of faint green.  Could this perhaps be symbolic, as the acute observer will already have identified the season as late winter.  As a rhythmic painting possesses movement, the migratory birds in the air, show movement of a different kind.  The fact that their line extends beyond our vision seems to emphasize distances beyond the confines of the frame.

Where a central focus or pivotal point in "Springbank Sanctuary" is in the buildings which lie roughly one hundred yards distant, the central object, the tree of "The Coves" 18 1/2 x 28 1/2 (also watercolour), is perhaps not more than ten paces from where the artist sat.  In both instances the individual quality that appealed to the artist in the first place has been caught. And in this, as in the main body of his work, Jackson's ability to paint so convincingly the separate textures of water and ground are beautifully rendered.  The late sunshine fall day leaves us with no illusions the water will be warm.  It is the quality of handling the entire surface of the painting, without either "forced" or "dead" areas, that leaves the viewer with the knowledge that the ground is well and truly covered.

These factors are the elements that make his work popular with the many corporations and organizations, not least of which are Government agencies, that invest in his art.  And finally that group of people who treasure their originals because, quite simply, they enjoy the art of Ken Jackson.




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