Artwork and Words by John JacksonDespite my best efforts as an artist, only once every five or ten years does a creation of the body, mind, and soul emerge and rise above the others. Most often surprisingly, but always welcome.
I had started working in charcoal abstractions about 18 months ago. Recently hopped over to experimenting with its cousin, graphite. As per my usual routine over the past year or so, I taped a 52” x 42” slice of heavy paper onto a board and placed it on my easel. Picked up a large number-6 graphite stick and started scribbling. Freedom. Scary but exhilarating. After a while, I stepped back to get a view from about 15 feet away. It wasn’t working. Tried some more scribbling. Still wasn’t working. That’s OK. I’ll get a fresh look at it in the morning.
The next day I took the board, paper, and scribbles outside, laid it flat on the ground, and sprinkled some graphite powder onto the surface. I enjoy working in the comfort and convenience of my studio, but working outdoors in the open air provides a connection to the elements that is difficult to explain. A relationship between one’s self, nature, the artwork, and the process that is both primal and precious. I started rubbing the graphite powder all across and into the surface of the paper, over the scribbles from the day before. Some of the scribbles peeked through from beneath the powder, and together they began to take on a different, more integrated identity. The two applications merging, embracing each other. Now, something was starting to happen. The image had my full attention. No daydreaming. Intrigued and eager, I scribbled more over the rubbed-in powder. Spontaneous, improvised, intuitive scribbles all over the surface in different directions, speeds, and pressures. Then another layer of rubbed-in powder. I repeated the process of layering the rubbed-in powder over the scribbles and vice versa. With each layer, it became more and more powerful and started to stir something in my soul. It began to take on its own aura, strength, and being.
Staring into the deep, dark layers of shimmering gray, I began to reflect, contemplate, feel something. Not sure exactly what, but something. Each distinct layer of gray speaking to me in a silent voice. Could the vast, mysterious flaws, subtleties, and depth of the surface possibly be echoing the vast, mysterious flaws, subtleties, and depth of existence?
I’ve always found comfort and beauty in the darkness. Probably explains my nocturnal nature. Speaking of darkness, after a while of rubbing the graphite deep and hard into the surface of the paper and subsequently my skin, I looked down at my hand. It had become a shiny, dark, silvery gray from the burnishing. Picking up the jar of graphite powder, I noticed that the label warned, “This product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer.” After that, I used a chamois to rub the graphite powder into the surface. It took a full day or two to get the graphite out of my skin.
As I finished working on Graphite Drawing 1, I knew it was a rare and special artwork. One that may end up in my top three when all is said and done. I had taken it where I wanted it to go. Or maybe it took me where it wanted to go.
John Jackson’s Graphite Drawing 1 is on view, along with four other new artworks, through July and the July 7 Art Crawl, 6 to 9 p.m. at The Rymer Gallery, 233 5th Avenue North. www.therymergallery.com.