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Q&A with Award Winner Blair Jackson

Amid the wealth of abstraction in our July All-Media Exhibit, juror Jerry Coulter selected one piece for best in show: a photograph masquerading as a painting. The photo, Clyfford Still’s Latch by Blair Jackson, was awarded the Larry Kirstein Award for best in show. Coulter said of the piece: “This photograph is a complete statement. The composition has a totality of subtlety. Every part contributes to the whole. The photographic surface is so slick, yet the impact is so textural.”

Complete statement or no, we asked Blair to tell us more about her photography and her drawing (she is President of the Metropolitan Washington Colored Pencil Society). Read our Q&A, below, and see the exhibit through August 5!

Clyfford Still's Latch by Blair Jackson.
Clyfford Still’s Latch by Blair Jackson.

When and where was the photo taken? What caught your attention about the latch?
Blair Jackson: The photo was taken in Georgia in April 2012. It was in the rear of a shop of new and used furniture, leading out to an alley. I browsed around the shop, but the only thing that caught my eye was that door and latch. I fixated on the scene immediately.

What brought Clyfford Still to mind? Did that happen when you took the photo or looking at it later?
The name Clyfford Still’s Latch came about because the image looked to have been created with thick layers of paint applied with a palette knife, which was, of course, the artists’ signature style. It reminded me of a Clyfford Still color field painting from the 1940’s-60’s.

Why do you work in digital photography and colored pencil — what is it about those mediums that keeps your interest? Do you see common threads between drawing and photography?
I draw from my photos, but otherwise, the mediums are kept separate. In my minds’ eye, I can automatically tell which photo should stand alone as a true photographic image and which would readily convert to a successful drawing. Both mediums require precise attention to detail, which keeps my brain in buzzing overdrive.

The availability of having a camera with me makes creating art something that I can ALWAYS do, where ever I am. I like the constant availability of it as an art. I can create art anytime, any place.

Drawing in colored pencil is a constant challenge. Creating fictional scenes from various photos, blending and layering colors so that they burst upon my board, attempting to achieve what can only be seen only in my head, and the slow progression on a drawing keeps me continually interested. Colored pencil drawing is a slow process, as I am usually creating full color coverage with a pencil tip.

Middle Son with Paint Swatches, colored pencil by Blair Jackson.
Middle Son with Paint Swatches, colored pencil by Blair Jackson.

What’s your goal with a photograph or a drawing, and with this photo in particular? What do you want people to see?
I would like people to see the beauty in something that one would not necessarily think of as beautiful. That is sometimes a personal challenge… to create something worthy of attention, that would be, otherwise, over-looked.

What’s your creative process like when you’re photographing?
I shoot photos everyday. I always carry a camera. I sometimes walk or drive about with the main intention of shooting photos. In fact, I seriously love doing that. But, I have a camera ready, even while doing mundane tasks. And, that alone can turn mundane tasks into a more interesting experience.

How do you edit and print your photos?
I use Photoshop now. I spent years in darkrooms, and that gave me the basis for what I now do on the computer. I love seeing what images I captured, how I can best crop and enlarge them. The colors are always challenging and choosing the correct paper for my intended result takes thought and experimentation. I print on an Epson printer.

What are you working on now?
I will exhibit 10 photos in Charlottesville at the newly constructed Martha Jefferson Outpatient Care Center in Pantops from mid July-Oct. I just dismantled a photo show at NIH in Bethesda.

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