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Local visual artist details his message during Bemidji Library’s annual Book Festival

Graphic illustrator Nicholas Jackson teaches a workshop "From Concept to Life: Visual Story Telling" on Wednesday afternoon to a full room of artists and writers at the Bemidji Public Library as part of the library’s annual Book Festival that is being hosted this week. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI — Being able to draw is a means of escaping the hardships of life for Kathryn Engle.

Engle, 75, has seen a lot in her time: new life, love and even death. After losing her son nearly a year ago to cancer, Engle said she has found that once her pencil reaches paper, all her heartache can disappear, if only for a short time.

Engle was among other longtime and beginning artists gathered Wednesday afternoon to hear from local illustrator and designer Nicholas Jackson during the Bemidji Library’s annual Book Festival.

In continuation with the festival’s theme of promoting fine arts, Jackson’s two-hour interactive workshop drew attention to nearly 20 community members as he shared his graphic designer career, various drawing techniques and also answered questions.

"As illustrators, we aren’t just drawing pretty pictures, we are telling a story," Jackson told the audience.

A Bemidji State University graduate, Jackson began freelancing as a graphic designer in the mid-2000s and eventually started his business — Nicholas Jackson Art and Design — specializing in illustrating children’s books.

Creating pieces for clients such as National Geographic and Sullivan Learning Systems, Jackson spoke Wednesday about the importance of fleshing out an idea and not rushing the creative process.

"I can rarely do a piece in one session," he said. "The best pieces usually come together after two or three sketches."

Jackson conveyed a sense of conflict in the graphic design art world, describing the sometimes troublesome nature of creating art pieces digitally.

"I don’t like at the end of the day how I don’t have a tangible piece I can hold; I really like the traditional aspect," said Jackson, who is also the worship director at Evangelical Covenant Church. "I have both feet in different places, one in the traditional form of things and one in the computer world."

Draw from emotion

No matter traditional or digital form, Jackson stressed to his class the importance of detail, something in which he said he is a "firm believer."

A father of two with another child on the way, Jackson is passionate in passing his artistic abilities to his children, Avery, 9, and Mary, 7.

Jackson’s wife, Christina, said one of the reasons she appreciates her husband’s work so much is its uniqueness.

"The vibrancy speaks loudly and allows you to respond to it," she said.

Learning to draw at a young age, both Avery and Mary made a point to stress the importance of drawing with a light hand.

"He (Jackson) told us to do it really light," said Mary while sketching her family. "I don’t really like to sketch light."

Offering his son the chance to help in his work, Jackson draws some of his inspiration from Avery, taking suggestions from him when he provides them.

"I want to be an artist someday," Avery.

Building on these same principles, Jackson reiterated to his audience to keep in mind the reasons why they are drawing a particular subject. "You have to think about the kind of emotions your work is supposed to convey," he said.

And for Engle, the emotion is comfort.

"I’ve had a lot of grief in my life, and this allows me to forget that for awhile," Engle said, pointing to her sketch of a dog. "I just want to feel good about something I’ve created."

Engle also finds peace in charcoal drawing and watercolor painting, with an appreciation for creating landscapes.

While she’s taken a few art classes at Bemidji State University, Engle said she hopes to enroll in more to further her hobby.

"I just want to learn," she said. "This allows me to get lost."

Bemidji Library Book Festival 2013


10:30 a.m. Stephen & Trisha Shaskan, Children’s Authors at Bemidji Public Library.

2 p.m. "Writing For Young Adults: Do’s and Don’ts of the New Publishing Landscape with Will Weaver.

5:30 p.m. Area Author Showcase at the Calvary Chapel Fellowship Hall, 500 Irvine Ave. NW.

7 p.m. William Kent Krueger & Brian Freeman, Adult Mystery Authors at the Calvary Chapel.


10:30 a.m. Patrick Mader, Children’s Author at Bemidji Public Library.

2 p.m. "Contracts & Copyright: Traditional, Self and E-Publishing & Publishing Services" with Susan Carol Hauser.

4:30 p.m. Spoken Word Soiree with the Minnesota Poet Laureate at the Bemidji Community Art Center with Joyce Sutphen.

7 p.m. Anton Treuer, Adult Author at American Indian Resource Center-BSU.


10:30 a.m. Poetry Workshop at Bemidji Public Library "In the Mouth of Language" in collaboration with Bemidji Community Art Center with Joyce Sutphen.

5:30 p.m. Poetry Reading with the Minnesota Poet Laureate at Headwaters School of Music and the Arts in collaboration with Bemidji Community Art Center with Joyce Sutphen.

Pre-registration is required for the 2 p.m. weekdays and 10:30 Saturdays workshops. Space is limited. Contact the Bemidji Public Library at 751-3963 to register.