Painting a Kaleidoscope of Color with Jason Anderson
When we saw Jason Anderson’s work, we just had to find out who was behind the canvas. His eye-catching art is inspired by the beautiful and varied landscape of his coastal surroundings and his experience as a stained glass artist.
Anderson is a full-time artist based in Dorset, UK. His use of color combined with his bold application creates a compelling composition of large sweeping impasto strokes that blend seamlessly into areas of smooth vibrant color.
We got the chance to chat with him about his painting process, how he developed his unique style, and how he goes about marketing his art via social media.
What led you to decide to be an artist? When did your artistic story begin?
I left school at 16 to start my art career as a stained-glass artist.
I served under the renowned (stained-glass) artist Roy Coomber for 5 years and was involved in some major restoration projects including York Minster, Gloucester, and Wells cathedrals.
The restoration work forced me to experiment with many different styles, while the design work taught me to compose a subject around very defined slabs of glass (i.e. color). This imprinting had a huge influence on the way I see things and probably goes some way in explaining why I paint the way I do today.
You have extensive (and pretty unique) experience as a stained-glass artist. What drove you to seek that out in the beginning and in turn, what influenced you to make the switch to oil and linen?
Convenience initially. The stained-glass studio was just around the corner from where I grew up… so when it was my placement as part of a technical illustration course — it was a no-brainer.
I soon fell in love with the environment and work and really enjoyed my time there. It was a delight to follow my watercolor design all the way through to the installed church window — with light beaming through it.
My progression into oils was again was influenced by circumstance.
Last summer (2018) it was so hot in my (perspex roof) studio that the acrylic paint was drying far too quickly — so I thought I’d give oils a try. It was a revelation for my work!
The extra drying time allowed me to move and blend paint around the canvas. Suddenly I could create the paintings I had always envisaged.
Now I prefer to use linen over canvas as it’s more environmentally friendly and has increased durability. I also use water-based oil paints (and natural oil mediums) for this reason. It’s about the little choices.
The texture you create (both visually and texturally) is incredible. It’s dynamic yet mathematical. What’s the process you go through with each painting? Is every stroke pre-arranged? And how long do those thick layers of oil take to dry?
I paint with a palette knife as I love the textures and shapes it creates. Like the impressionists, I’ve found that if the colors and tone are right, the form isn’t that important. Your brain simply fills in the gaps. This creates two visual experiences. From a distance, it’s a scene. But up close it’s all about the shapes and color.
Using a knife lets me create bold straight lines that give each structure a certain strength and impact — especially when they blend into a smooth background.
The raised texture tricks the brain into thinking that these areas are closer to the viewer, which adds depth and perspective to the painting (a technique termed ‘perceptibility’ by Rembrandt’s student, Samuel van Hoogstraten).
I always start with a black and white pen sketch. It helps me see if the composition is strong enough and prevents me from dwelling on detail. I then sketch out the painting with a large brush and start to add the big areas of color in the background. Then I build up the subject with a knife. I don’t really know what colors I’ll be using when I start out — I just keep adding colors until the painting feels balanced and ‘full’.
Each work takes around 2–4 weeks to dry depending on how thickly I have painted.
From what I’ve seen, you have two distinctive styles, one abstract and the other more realistic. What’s the reason behind your experimentation with such different styles?
I used to paint realistically with acrylics… but as my style has developed with the oils and my abstracts, I have found it increasingly more difficult to paint in this way.
The reality of being a professional artist is that initially, you must paint what a lot of people want — and often that’s a realistic painting that looks like a photograph.
As you develop as an artist and your profile builds you can start to experiment and move onto impressionism and abstracts. Having this foundation as an artist allowed me to ‘earn my spurs’ and understand color and composition far better.
Ultimately it’s made my abstracts more convincing — there is no better teacher than nature.
You’ve gained an impressive social media following and are quite active on Instagram. Do you have any pointers for other artists in building (and keeping) their social following?
My Instagram following was mediocre up until recently.
It was only once I started painting and posting my new style of abstracts that it improved. For me, this proves that you must be true to yourself and paint what feels right for you. People will either like it or they won’t.
I now only post 1–2 paintings a week — making sure they are good strong compositions presented in a professional way (framed, in a room etc.). Bombarding people with tons of ‘works in progress’ or (personal) things unrelated to your art or profile is a sure-fire way for me to lose followers as I’ve built up my profile in a very specific way. I always remember that you’re only as good as your last post! (note: some people choose to do the opposite and build up a following based on their works in progress etc. It all just depends on what your specific followers respond to).
How do you think technology is affecting the way we create art and make a living as artists?
Technology has a huge impact on art and how artists promote and sell their work.
Social media is the perfect platform for artists as it’s so visual.
When I started out, Facebook was my biggest seller of commissioned portraits and traditional landscapes. Now that I am focusing on abstracts, I have more success with Instagram. I think this is down to the different markets of each platform — Facebook loves traditional ‘realistic’ art, and Instagram loves more expressive abstracts!
With this in mind… I still feel that it is important for artists to hold and show their work in galleries as it gives you professional credibility.
A lot of people criticize galleries for their commission rates, but they have bills to pay. I owned a high street business once, and I found myself just making ends meet and working only to pay the multiple bills (rent, business rates, utilities, etc.) that came in each month.
I have no problem with galleries taking their cut as they’re the ones taking all the risks. It’s one of the best deals you’ll get as an artist — you only pay if you actually sell something!
In your most recent paintings, the ocean, the sky, and the sunset/sunrise make common appearances and are dramatically juxtaposed with a silhouetted city skyline. What’s behind this inspiration?
I love the sea and everything about it. I remember as a child being transfixed by the sparkling turquoise water and reflections of the boats in Weymouth harbor (my favorite place in the world!) — so I can’t really help myself 😊
I also love the contrast of our relationship with nature, which is why I often end up including some element of humanity (e.g. a boat or skyline) — I want to remind people that we are simply tenants on this beautiful planet.
What piece are you most proud of and why?
I am really proud of all my work — I will never let anything go that isn’t exactly how I want it. However, if I had to select one (at the moment) it would have to be ‘Relic’.
The style of my work is constantly changing, so I sometimes keep paintings that are unique in some way e.g. the subject, technique or even the process… and this applies to ‘Relic’.
‘Relic’ is only a small piece at 40cm x 40cm… but it is such a simple composition and I painted it so effortlessly — I simply love everything about it and just couldn’t part with it.
When you set up an exhibition, how do you display your work? Do you consider style, color, size, and layout? Talk us through your process and feeling.
The only exhibition I have set up was at ‘Dorset Art Weeks’ last year — where you turn your home into a gallery for two weeks and you let people walk in off the street.
Often, I will discuss with a gallery how many pieces they’d like (versus how many I can realistically produce) and the owners decide how best to display them.
With this in mind… I like to choose a selection of sizes and shapes to cater to different places in the home and budgets. Most of the pieces I paint are square as I think these are better suited to abstracts — the orientation can suggest a subject e.g. a landscape.
I also like to paint the pieces in a series to keep the style consistent.
Follow Jason Anderson on Social Media
Download D Emptyspace for iOS: https://apple.co/2MhsxCs
Android version coming soon!
Follow D Emptyspace for more company updates and art-curated content!