Portrait of an Artist: Kate Jackson/Watermedia and collage

February 8, 2009 

Age: 59

Residence: Merced

Daily job: Artist

Family: Husband is musician and music teacher, son is local musician and music teacher. Other son and wife live in Phoenix.

Background: I was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, suburb of Los Angeles. My great-grandmother was an artist who made cotton figurines at the holidays, which were displayed in the windows of downtown Beverly Hills stores like Sax Fifth Ave. She used to paint sycamore leaves with me in shiny oil-based color. I didn't like the smell, but loved the beautiful colors we made the huge leaves. I always did art of some sort, even if just in my room at home, I got serious in college and worked in graphic design and marketing as a young adult.

Arts experience: In my early 30s, I began taking watercolor classes in the L.A. area, then moved to Santa Barbara, where I continued taking adult ed classes with master teachers from the schools around the area. I worked with a pastel figure painter, an abstract watercolorist and a watercolorist known for bold color. Beyond the black and white of graphic design with gray washes, the color and fluidity of watercolor astounded me!

Advice for young artists: Do your own thing. Don't copy anyone except for initial exercises. You don't really need lessons if you can just get all the materials you need and keep doing your art. Then, to hone and refine, take classes or work with a group of artist friends. Performers and visual artists alike have to practice, practice, practice. A teacher can help you be sure you're not practicing something wrong, or can help you with some great tips and hints.

Favorite music/art/performance: That is really a tough one because I go to so many wonderful plays, concerts etc. However, the biggest one in the last 20 years I enjoyed was George Winston, the pianist, at a high school in Modesto. Everyone was asked to bring canned goods that his organization would donate to the local food bank, and we were treated to an amazing concert of piano and slat key guitar. One guy on the stage, barefoot, at the piano is a rare and fabulous treat! Of course, I loved Roddy Jackson's performances in England too, but I'm a little prejudiced!

Life plans: To keep on creating art ... get it out there for people to respond to my ideas and expressions, and hopefully enjoy teaching my grandchildren and great-grandchildren a love of art making.

How do you reach people unfamiliar with the arts? I do demos at the Big Valley Arts Festival every year in Merced, sometimes at the county fair, and I teach classes for the Merced College noncredit division. People come in who've never painted or done any art, and now that they are seniors, they are ready to start.

What would surprise people about your art? That I once was afraid of color.

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