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American watercolorist Paul Jackson, left, gives a tip on shading to Darlene Derksen Friday afternoon at Beltrami Electric Community Room. Eighteen artists, many well established painters from Bemidji, attended the three-day workshop. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Paul Jackson watercolorist: Area artists learn from master painter

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Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Although the official biography for Paul Jackson states that he started painting in college, Jackson admits to drawing and coloring as a little boy.

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His story is one of rejection by all those professional artists and teachers who told him to find another interest. When asked if painters are born and not made, he disagreed with the premise and said that he was born to be a scientist. He failed art in high school, went to college on a science scholarship and took a watercolor class as an elective.

"I fell in love with watercolor. It found me first, I think," said Jackson. "My art career is a story of rejection mostly. Everything I ever applied for, I got rejected from. In the sixth grade, I applied for the gifted classes in art and was rejected. I was rejected from the art school at Mississippi State and took the classes anyway. I was rejected from graduate school (MFA) at the University of Missouri and took the classes anyway. I couldn't see myself in genetic engineering, but I could see myself painting all the time and I loved doing it."

Jackson, 42, was selected by the American Watercolor Society with a signature membership at the age of 30. He did achieve a Master's in Fine Art from the University of Missouri and was the grand prize winner in the "Paint Your Way to Paris" competition. He is acknowledged as one of the Master Painters of the World in "International Artists Magazine." His work can be seen on covers of magazines not devoted to the arts like Forbes Magazine and TWA's Ambassador Magazine or newspapers like the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and The Kansas City Star.

Jackson is now working on two new books, his first book, "Painting Spectacular Light Effects in Watercolor" is now out of print.

This never-give-up attitude translates to his watercolor class now being conducted at Beltrami Electric's community room. The class of 18 people consists of novice painters to internationally recognized artist Jane Freeman. Painters of all levels of expertise and interest agreed that his teaching method of support, encouragement and praise makes for a valuable learning experience.

A first time painter, Sue Knutson of Bemidji, said she did not know anything about paints, what to bring to the class and how the experience would be. Enthusiastically displaying sheets of paper with color splotches, all identified, shows the ability of an instructor to nurture the most novice of painters. Geri Stace, the first prize winner in the beginner category of this year's Artists of Minnesota show in Duluth, lives on Turtle River from May to September. She is taking the class to improve her technique. Nicholas Jackson, a graduate of Bemidji State University who has started his own graphic design business this year at his home in Nymore, is trying watercolor for the first time. He studied with Natalia Himmerska from the BSU art department. Debbie Aune from Gatzke, Minn., who teaches art in grades K-12 in Greenbush and Middle River, uses the summer to take art classes as a gift to herself.

"He is amazing and so full of stories," Aune said. "Ask him tell you the one about the pope."

Bemidji area painter like Pat Shough, Judy Selby, and Terry Honstead are sprinkled within the group, chatting with each other and with the instructor as they all paint the same photograph of a still life. DeeAnn Naajar is trying her hand at watercolor painting instead of her usual wood carvings.

Shough suggested that this is a good way to hone skills. "We are learning layering colors and painting glass," she said. "Not painting on glass, painting so that it looks like glass."

Another professional painter, Darlene Derksen, came from Canada and is a member of the Manitoba Society of Artists. "I'm learning a process of planning a painting and learning that taking the time to plan a painting is very important," she said. "I've always been an intuitive painter and work in all media including quilting."

The class began Thursday and will conclude today. It was funded, in part, by a grant from Region 2 Arts Council.

"Oh yes, the pope story," Jackson said. He was asked by Pope John Paul II to donate one of his watercolors to the Vatican art collection. He declined to donate the picture because he needed money at that time.

"Just think - my painting could have been seen alongside Michaelangelo!" Jackson said.

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