Accessing the energy of the desert, which reminds me of my native Africa, South Africa in particular, I think of myself as a 2-D artist resident in Tucson, and enjoying creating in oil, ink, and pastel – encaustic as a medium still on the horizon.
I am convinced that a marvelous occurrence back in 1972, as I was trying to escape apartheid, plays a large role in my creations – that being a near-death experience. My ability to follow creative vibrations serves my images well.
On the morning of August 23rd, 1982 (07:22 to be exact) I touched the hot, grey cement of Kennedy International. Freedom at last! In the years that followed, my creativity was enhanced as my longing for Mother Afrika - grew and grew. With that longing came an urge create, drawing on memories and emotion.
Upon moving to Tucson (April Fool’s Day, 2001) I suddenly realized this was where my creativity could flourish – and it still does – Great Recession excepted (!)
My nurture in South Africa, deeply instilled a love of Nature and mountains. That energy finds its way into my art regularly, reflecting my absolute love for trees (any tree) and, of course, mountains. Here, in Tucson, I find partial solace in the beauty and isolation of the surrounding desert. I can not find that energy in the works of man.
Major influences in my art development have been the Impressionists such as Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, Edward Manet, Camille Pissaro and post-Impressionists such as Master Vincent van Gogh; Paul Cezanne, Édouard Vuillard; and Georges Seurat – with Constable and Turner peeking over my (spiritual shoulder) at the canvas from time to time.
While the Great Recession sorely slowed my creativity and art output, I am nearly back on an even keel now.
I am commissionable (within certain boundaries) and with a signed and agreed upon contract and retainer.
Each medium I work in has a different challenge. Oil, while slightly toxic to the artist, probably gives me the most satisfaction in creation. Long may I stand in front of images of John Constable, Claude Monet, Jackson Pollock et al. just to see the marks their brushes made in creation – it send chills down my spine. But with oils, clean-up is always a pain – as is the post-creation period.
Depending on the mood I wake-up in, it could be an ink creation day. Recently I have found a fountain-pen designed for artists. That is allowing a wonderful sense of detail, in minutae, I might add. But over and over, I find one truism throughout my art – the foundation – or “ground” (in art-speak). A good watercolor paper or canvas palettes are essential for ink renderings.
Aah, last but not least is the sensuousness of pastels – as long as I have woken up in the pastel mood! Here a good Wallis or Sennelier ground is essential. I tend to expect pastels to merge much like oils do – and still retain their ‘essence’. Sometimes it works, sometimes, with pastels, it doesn’t.
I was more than fortunate in my home-town as a high-school student, to find the
Impressionist, David Botha, painting en plein aire in the streets of my home town, “Aaha!”
Botha would whoop: “…it’s Mrs Bybee’s boy! Come to bother
me again, boy? Here, look, see the windows in that old thatch roofed church across
the road…? A bit of magenta, a touch of purple, maybe a little bit more red,…
too light, needs a touch of Prussian blue… there! Shadow for the window…
gives it depth.”
That, of course, was then. This is now – and now I am the one to label myself a Southwest Impressionist.
Struggling as I did with life-drawing at the University of Arizona, as I stood
at the easel with charcoal, the Prof. tapped me on the shoulder:
“…Why don’t you try that in ink?”
“Ink?” My knees went weak - I nearly collapsed. “…I haven’t used ink since primary school in South Africa.”
“Too old to learn?”
“No! Of course not!”
Now it’s one of my favorite mediums – but I’m still bottom of the ladder when it comes to rendering the human figure.
Before the Recession I exhibited at Tucson Museum of Art – Artisan’s Fair, and have been hung in galleries in Tucson and Jerome, AZ.
While there are conflicting spiritual views on this, I am convinced we are all here to learn some lesson or other. Mine? In IT-talk it is ‘Pushing the envelope”. In mountaineering it is “stepping off the edge of the ledge” [metaphorically, of course! Don’t try this at home!] In plain old Standard-American English, it is challenging yourself, going beyond the comfort level you (or I) are used to.
And that, going beyond the comfort level, is the challenge I find offered to
me in my art. “…but, but…, it is just a blank canvas.”
“Not after I put my marks on it, marks that I make – my way.” Say I.
In closing, something truly personal, the words I heard after being asked to
leave The Non-Physical Realm in my (near-death experience). A mantra resorted to
often as I face the blank canvas, the blank pastel paper:
“…but… I am scared of messing up…”
“But, how will I know where to go, what to do?” I query
“Ask… and it Shall Be Manifested unto You.”
Ask – and in no uncertain manner – Guidance comes.
Now… where did I put my palette knife?
My Book: Memories of Eternity - A Guide to Death Consciousness for Boomers (And Others.)
This title will be available early in 2017 as a guide to anyone anxious about dying, and what death cold hold for the spirit in transition.
Please send Jack your contact e-mail address for publication information as soon as Memories of Eternity becomes available.
Jack Bybee had a wondrous event [near-death experience] occur in 1971, as he was attempting to escape apartheid (South Africa.)