I presented a talk at the downtown Napa Main Library on July 12, 2019 about how and why I make my animal portraits. In my talk, I reveal a pivotal moment from my childhood, something unique about how I think and how that shapes my art, and I describe my process in depth. Please enjoy this recording from the opening reception, as well as a write up from the Napa Country Register.
Art in the Library featuring Jamie L. Luoto runs throughout the month of July 2019. Click here for more details.
It is an awesome responsibility and honor to create a portrait of remembrance. I was touched by my collector's love for her two dogs, Odie, who had recently passed away, and Orca. The pair shared a special bond and this piece is a terrific example of how individual identities meet and meld into a unique relationship, a sort of evolved oneness. Ultimately this piece is neither about Orca or Odie, It's about how they related to one another as individuals and the choices and life they shared together.
CONCEPT & THUMBNAILS & COLOR PALETTE
In the case of a commissioned portrait, I begin with research and interviews. I explore the subjects behavior, diet, and home. I think of breeds the same way we think of our own human ancestry, and I consider stories about the subject, as well as how they relate to the members of their family. With this information I imagine who this creature might be and sketch out ideas of how they would appear in a portrait of themselves. For example, Orca and Odie kept checks and balances on one another - Odie's loving and free spirit complimented and challenged Orca, whose herding background informed her practical nature and desire to keep tabs on her family, especially Odie!
My approach to color in a commissioned work is both a consideration for my collectors taste, while also taking into consideration the different emotional or symbolic interpretation a color can represent. For example, we decided on a cool jewel tone palette. In Orca & Odie the outdoors, and in particular water, in it's many forms were important to the pair. Within the range of jewel tone colors, I created an abstract geode looking background representative of the cool and fresh alpine feeling of dancing water and twinkling snow. It's important to know my color palette before I begin painting with gouache — unlike acrylic and oil, gouache doesn’t allow one to simply paint over something unliked. The colors I select are part of the story the painting tells and emphasize the animal’s identity.
Before I begin painting, I draw a realistic rendering of my subject(s) in graphite. In Orca & Odie I had to consider the relation of their size and builds for accuracy and correct proportions. Orca has more pointed features, but a thick and ample coat of fur, whereas Odie had a boxy, muscular build with very short fur. Once the drawing is finalized, I erase my pencil work until it is just barely visible. The faint pencil marks are essential because I use my line work as a map to block in color, but it is important that I erase enough so that the pencil marks do not show through the paint.
I typically begin by blocking out the background color or the outfit, and then I apply a number of translucent washes to the face to develop the structure and depth through gradual shading. As my work progresses, the opacity of my paint increases, my brushes get smaller, and the painted details more exact. I spend hours painting individual hairs and blending until I am satisfied with the detail in my work.
How do I know when I’m finished? There is a certain level of precision detail that appears finished to me. I no longer see areas wanting for more — more hairs, speckles, sheen, shading etc… it’s a combination of experience and a gut feeling.
My portraits go beyond a likeness of the subject, they celebrate individuality, capture the spirit, and encapsulate stories, all of which bring the piece to life.
I'm eager to present my newly painted animal portraits. Although this series has always focused on individuality, in previous years the works have thematically centered around locations, such as Sonoma County or the Arctic. This year is a little different because I focused on female identity as I developed three portraits of North American animals - Bald Eagle, Mountain Lion, and Black Bear.
When human women are depicted as strong it is almost always along with sex appeal - the "strong and sexy” cliche - as if female strength and capability are synonymous with sex appeal. The bald eagle, mountain lion, and black bear are all seen as strong animals, at the top of the food chain. When we encounter one we don’t automatically make assumptions about the animal based on its gender. We appreciate their strength, beauty, power and ferocity.
We marvel at the amazingness of both female and male animals, never questioning their abilities, motives, or intelligence based on gender. So why do we tolerate and accept the gender limitations we impose upon ourselves as humans? By anthropomorphizing these female animals, and giving each a unique identity, I seek to question why our society often struggles to present strength, intelligence and beauty without sexual undertones.
Male dominance in western art, and in particular portraiture, has been a critical element in denying women ownership over our own identity. It also has caused some of the most significant crimes and injustices against women to be ignored, dismissed, or worse glossed over as something entirely different. Sober Jockey confronts this head-on by singling out and reinterpreting Henri Fuseli's, The Nightmare from a female perspective. In doing so it directly confronts issues of violence towards women and the shock, trauma, stress, depression and haunting that so often comes with it. A scene which for so long has been presented and interpreted as a “Nightmare” is now shown to be a reality for the protagonist, as it is of course for so many millions of women.
Sober Jockey will be exhibiting, as part of Art in an Age of Anxiety, at the Arts Guild of Sonoma in Sonoma, California between August 30th through October 1st, 2018. Opening reception Saturday, September 1st, 2018. See Details Here.
Art in an Age of Anxiety
August 30 - October 1, 2018
*Opening reception Saturday, September 1st 5:00pm-7:30pm
Arts Guild of Sonoma
40 E Napa Street
Sonoma, CA 95476
Open Sun, Mon, Wed, Thurs 11am-5pm
Open Fri & Sat 10am-6pm
I'm honored to be included in Persistence, an exhibition at the Museum of Northern California Art celebrating and recognizing women artists. "Persistence" has become a byword for women standing up and I'm passionate about promoting the work of female artists past, present, and future. This was my kind of exhibition.
I created this space to showcase my past work, chronicle my current projects, and share my inspiration.