Monday, May 4, 2009

Jack of All Trades

I am blessed to know and be surrounded by talented people both at and outside of work. I’ve chosen to highlight three truly creative and inspiring individuals in the next few weeks, starting with Jack Simonetta. Jack is an amazing person, a caring friend, and coworker. He is a graphic designer and owner of PB&J Gallery together with his partner Bob Burkhardt.

I remember always having markers and plenty of paper to draw on as a child. I would pick a color and just doodle one endless line around and around in overlapping circles. Then I would meticulously color each space created, one color in each area, until the whole thing was a tapestry of color.

What is your earliest memory of any sort of artistic endeavor?

Tough one. Maybe it was in kindergarten. There were cardboard building blocks that I would always gravitate to. I remember stacking them to make “buildings.” I still like to play with blocks!

When you started exploring your artistic talents as an adult, what medium and style did you first adopt?

There wasn’t one medium or style that I did, although it was mostly 2-D drawing and painting. In college, I did a lot of expressive, fauve-looking stuff, simple with bold colors. Matisse was my idol.

Tell me how your style has changed over the years and if there was a connection to something changing in your personal life.

When I was a young adult and afraid to express myself, or wasn’t even sure how to express myself, my art was at times very dark and introspective. I was attracted to German Expressionism of the early 20th century, its use of color and stark shapes. Hands are very expressive, so I did a lot of hands, sometimes covering eyes, mouths, faces showing a lot of grief. These past 10 or 15 years I’ve learned to get emotions out in healthier ways, not holding things in as much, forcing them out in my art. Because of this, my art has become more free, lighter at times, but still expressive. It’s as if there’s more room in me to express more things than just the darker side of me.

Another conscious way my style has changed is that it might be getting looser, less controlled, more spontaneous. It’s been a conscious effort to not render things exactly how they are, but to interpret them through my experiences. I want people to bring something of their own when viewing my art. Sometimes I do return to a more controlled style, I think, to prove to myself that I can draw “correctly.” One of my goals is to work abstractly and still evoke emotion from people.

I think this conscious change in style has to do with my personal quest of figuring out for myself what this world/universe is all about. I read a lot about living each moment rather than in the past or in the future. I read a lot about Buddhist teachings, as well as other religions, and history and space to try to form some answers for myself. These have all affected my art in my push toward a less controlled style.

In addition to using all sort of different mediums on paper and canvas, I know that you also sculpt. How long have you been sculpting and what are you working on right now?

I’ve been sculpting for about six years. My newest sculpture is an oversized soapstone hand.

How do you deal with writer’s block, so to speak? How do you get the creative juices flowing again when you feel like you’ve hit a wall?

I’ll usually sit down and not think about representing something. Just play with the movement of my hand with a brush, using whatever color attracts me at the time. I guess it’s a sort of visual meditation that clears my head of trying to think of what to do next. Not that it shows me what to do next, but it lets me continue creating something until the next thing finds me.

Tell me what was the inspiration for your latest watercolor series?

Somewhere in my mind, I saw a visual of cliffs coming down forming a small pass-through. I did a quick watercolor while I was working on a series of women’s faces just to get it down. When I returned to the subject later, it changed into cliffs going into the sea. The last piece I did was using thinned down acrylics on canvas emphasizing wash-like brushstrokes, kind of like finger paints.

What would you like to master in the next five or 10 years?

Tapestry weaving. The craft-like quality of weaving attracts me. I bought a book on it once, and Bob even bought me a portable loom, but it looks like an art that you have to be taught, not try to figure out from books.

Top to bottom: A relaxed Jack; “Sunset Marsh,” probably the first painting of Jack’s that I saw and admired; “Remixed,” one of Jack’s many fabulous paper collages (of which I own two); “Adulation,” one in a series of men’s faces; “Reaching for the Moon,” a sculpture he recently sold and shipped to Texas; “Scylla Charybdis,” one of several in his most recent watercolor landscape series.