I Paint Flowers to Keep Me Fresh January 17, 2018

Sunflower – Jacki Kellum Watercolor Painting on Fabriano Artistco

I love flowers. I am an avid gardener, and during most seasons, my yard is filled with flowers. When it is too cold to grow flowers outside, I go to the flower market at least once every week, and I buy them. I buy flowers simply to enjoy them, but I also buy flowers to paint them. The ability to see and to apply color freshly and spontaneously is key to my artwork. I paint flowers to increase my agility and to keep me fresh.

Janis Joplin – Jack Kellum Watercolor

When I prepare to paint anything complex [i.e. my Janis Joplin], I do extensive value studies in pencil, When you look at my best watercolors, it appears that I did absolutely no preparation and that I just slapped the color on, at will. That is actually an illusion. I work very hard to get the values correct–before I paint. Then, I throw away about 50 near-misses.

You might say that most of my final “good” paintings — my keepers– only require a couple of hours of work–sometimes only minutes–but in reality, my best paintings have taken a lifetime to complete.


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Paint White to Learn to See Color January 13, 2018

This week, I am painting white tulips, and I am asking my students to paint white, too. In my opinion, if a person can see all of the variances of hue within the color white–and if he can also paint those variances–he can paint almost anything.

Too many people–and that includes too many painters–only see one type of white. In a similar way, they only see one type of black. That is an invitation for disaster.

The very definition of ‘blackness’ is as broad as that of ‘whiteness,’ yet we’re seemingly always trying to find a specific, limited definition. Issa Rae

On a philosophical note, I am especially leery of people who tend to clump their life experiences in narrow boxes–labeling them as either black or white. Those people are static. They are locked in–shut down–and limited. I believe that these types of people are reacting to fear, but the black-and-white people don’t realize that. They are usually in denial and are not able to acknowledge their limitations. The result, however, is that these types of people view life as flat and toneless.

For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment. Viktor E. Frankl

Painters who cannot perceive variations in shadow and color are equally toneless. Their paintings and drawings lack life.  In art, the only way to defend against this problem is to learn to truly see when you paint. And then, you must paint what you see. There is no formula. There is no recipe. Painting is living and looking in the moment–at its very best.

The creative process is not like a situation where you get struck by a single lightning bolt. You have ongoing discoveries, and there’s ongoing creative revelations. Yes, it’s really helpful to be marching toward a specific destination, but, along the way, you must allow yourself room for your ideas to blossom, take root, and grow. Carlton Cuse



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Why I Paint with Bright Colors — Especially Red January 12, 2018

Fiesta – Jacki Kellum Watercolor of Gerbera Daisies

I often frequent my local garden market, and I love it when they have a large assortment of gerbera daisies. It is a spectacle. Like a magnet, the brilliant display pulls me from across the room. I always want all of the daisies for my garden. One plant will not do. One color will not do. To emulate the riot of colors in the display, I want and need the entire bunch. I love color, and when it is in perfect form, my art is a kaleidoscope. I even drag brilliant spots of red and pink into the leaves of my florals. This helps add movement and harmony to my art, but my main reason for doing this is to evoke emotion.

In the Pink – Jacki Kellum Watercolor

“I believe in pink. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing, kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day and I believe in miracles.” – Audrey Hepburn

Rooster – Little Napoleon – Jacki Kellum Watercolor

Too many people only see black and white — right or wrong. In my experience, that type of life-view is terribly narrow, and the people who cannot stretch themselves to see more of the variances of living are missing a great deal. Like Audrey Hepburn, I believe in Pink, and I also believe in Red and Yellow and Orange and Blue.

Not long ago, I demonstrated painting a close view of a tree trunk surrounded by October leaves. As usual, the class was appalled that I had used a lot of blue in what was supposed to be a brown tree. I explained that I use blue because I love color.  Color is a communicator.  The colors chosen to paint a tree or the sky around that tree determine much about what the tree will communicate in a painting.

“Art is not what you see but what you make others see.” – Edgar Degas

For many years, I have told students that if they only want a pretty, accurate representation of a scene, they should buy a good camera.  The camera can do much that I could never do with paint–and it can do it much more rapidly and with much less expense.  A camera simply slices a piece of life and preserves it–just the way the lens sees it.

A camera is a machine–it reproduces what it sees and it does that without bias or emotion.  If the scene is beautiful, the photograph should be beautiful. If the scene is ugly, the photograph will be ugly. The camera mimics what it sees.

The artist has the option to move beyond a mechanical rendering.  The artist has the option to omit unnecessary details and/or to exaggerate others. In doing so, the artist begins to tell a personal story.

Scientists and sociologists have studied the impact of color for many years.  It has been noted that since ancient time, colors have been used to evoke emotional responses.  Because I want my art to have an emotional response, I paint with exaggerated colors.

December River – Jacki Kellum Watercolor

In the above painting, December River, I purposely exaggerated the blues to convey the cold, dreary mood of winter.  Red, being the color of blood, is the color of energy–of life.  When I paint, I use a lot of red–and I do it very deliberately. I use red to infuse my subject matter with spirit–with emphasis–with punch. My paintings are a continuous battle of darks and lights–regressions and egressions–of deaths and life.  I use color to express that battle, and in every painting, I count on red to not only win the battle but to fly the flag of victory.


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Learning to Love the Shadows: Thoughts about Embracing My Past January 10, 2018

Snow Orchard – Jacki Kellum Watercolor

I currently live on the New Jersey Shore, and a few days ago, this entire area was besieged by a brutal snow storm. I usually enjoy watching it snow, but this time, the snow was deep and relentless. I didn’t get out of my house for days, but I spent a great deal of time looking out my windows and tracing the shadows that crawled across the ground. I felt the need to paint the shadows, and I thought about how shadows are part of life.

Most of my art is bright and spontaneous, and it seems to be carefree. Years ago, someone said to me, “I can tell by your art that you are a very happy person.”

I responded: “Looks can be deceiving. Perhaps what you see in my art is that I am trying very hard to be happy.” And that is the beauty of art. On the very best of painting days, I can begin to understand and to rewrite my own positions on life.

“Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.” Carl Sandburg

I am a writer, as well as a painter, and I primarily write about my own life. For a long time, however, the ghosts of my past scared me away from telling my story. Thank goodness, I finally moved beyond that spot, and what I have learned is that I don’t need to be afraid of the dark patches that have waved throughout my life. Whether we are willing to acknowledge it or not, all of us have these shadows. They are simply part of being alive.

 “Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind.” Nathaniel Hawthorne

Ultimately, I agree with the great Mississippi writer:

“The past is not even past.” – William Faulkner

Like the ribbons of darkness stretched across a snowy forest, our memories undulate throughout our lives. When things seem desperate, it might help to remember that even the shadows bear witness to light.

“When walking through the ‘valley of shadows,’ remember, a shadow is cast by a Light.” – Austin O’Malley






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Colors Should Sing January 9, 2018

Red Gerbera Daisies – Jacki Kellum Watercolor

“The beauty and mystery of this world only emerges through affection, attention, interest and compassion . . . open your eyes wide and actually see this world by attending to its colors, details and irony.”
― Orhan Pamuk, My Name is Red

For as long as I can remember, I have loved color and picture making. When I was a tiny girl–long before I knew that people could buy paints and paint pictures–I would sit at my grandmother’s feet, as she patched colorful scraps of fabric together to make quilts. I enjoyed sorting through the left-over materials and cutting out the images and the colors that most excited me. Then, I’d place my clippings side by side, reassembling them until I found the arrangement that simply seemed to fit. Even as a very young child, I experienced the alchemy of color, and color has become my life’s work.

Blue Bud Vase – Jacki Kellum Watercolor

My art has a carefree look, and it probably appears that painting is effortless for me. But that is not the case. I am extremely particular about what I produce. I want my paintings to be more than mere images–I want them to speak, and I want my very colorful pieces to be a party.

Snow Orchard – Jacki Kellum Watercolor

“It felt as though the whole globe was dressed in snow. Like it has pulled it on, the way you pull on a sweater. Next to the train line, footprints were sunken to their shins. Trees wore blankets of ice.
As you may expect, someone has died.” ― Markus Zusak, The Book Thief

But all of life is not a party, and I expect my art to have enough depth to tell all of my stories–the more somber ones, as well as the feasts. I currently live on the New Jersey Shore, and this entire area was recently besieged by a brutal snow storm. I usually enjoy watching it snow, but this time, the snow was deep and relentless. I didn’t get out of my house for days, but I spent a great deal of time looking out my windows and tracing the shadows that had fallen across the ground. I felt the need to paint the shadows, and I thought about how shadows are part of life.

The Rooster – Little Napoleon – Jacki Kellum Watercolor

“Brush strokes write poetry harmonized through the cords of an artist’s imagination.
Color, contrast, simple compassion splattered across paper leaves tainted with the melody of the silent wind.
Gasping, grasping, simply glancing at the souls of those who were not blessed with the visionary sight of inspirational artistry.” ― Laura S. Al Bas

If used correctly, color can be a brilliant communicator. It can sing a sad song, but it can also dance a jig. In the same way that I don’t expect myself to always feel the same way, I do not try to box my art into one specific look. I paint according to my mood and according to the experiences of my day. When I paint, I only have one universal requirement: I want my colors to interact and to comingle in ways that speak and excite.

Janis Joplin – Jacki Kellum Watercolor

Quotes About Color

“Why do two colors, put one next to the other, sing? Can one really explain this? no. Just as one can never learn how to paint.” ― Pablo Picasso

“Let me, O let me bathe my soul in colours; let me swallow the sunset and drink the rainbow.”
― Kahlil Gibran

“White is not a mere absence of color; it is a shining and affirmative thing, as fierce as red, as definite as black. God paints in many colors; but He never paints so gorgeously, I had almost said so gaudily, as when He paints in white. ” ― G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

“Color directly influences the soul. Color is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand that plays, touching one key or another purposively, to cause vibrations in the soul.” ― Wassily Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art

“How do you know, when you think blue — when you say blue — that you are talking about the same blue as anyone else?

You cannot get a grip on blue.

Blue is the sky, the sea, a god’s eye, a devil’s tail, a birth, a strangulation, a virgin’s cloak, a monkey’s ass. It’s a butterfly, a bird, a spicy joke, the saddest song, the brightest day.

Blue is sly, slick, it slides into the room sideways, a slippery trickster.

This is a story about the color blue, and like blue, there’s nothing true about it. Blue is beauty, not truth. ‘True blue’ is a ruse, a rhyme; it’s there, then it’s not. Blue is a deeply sneaky color.”
― Christopher Moore, Sacré Bleu: A Comedy d’Art

“Sometimes it’s important to work for that pot of gold. But other times it’s essential to take time off and to make sure that your most important decision in the day simply consists of choosing which color to slide down on the rainbow.”
― Douglas Pagels, These Are the Gifts I’d Like to Give to You: A Sourcebook of Joy and Encouragement


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