Please help us congratulate Jerry Markham for winning first place in the recent bi-monthly PleinAir Salon. In this exclusive spotlight, Markham shares his secrets to success.
PleinAir Salon Artist Spotlight: Jerry Markham
My Painting Process
My process hasn’t changed much over the years, but the subject matter and style have. Originally I painted mostly landscapes. With living close to the Rocky Mountains in Canada, there has always been an abundance of inspiration for painting outdoors. When I first started painting, there were a few artists who were a huge influence as mentors and they always encouraged me to paint outside and from life as much as possible, as it would teach me to “see” accurately. It was the best advice. Over the last 20 years my subject matter has expanded to include wildlife, people, florals, urban scenes, and really anything I feel inspired to paint, and my style is much looser.
Taking on a variety of subjects allows me to tackle different challenges related to the craft of painting, experimenting with compositions, lighting, and the way paint is applied. I like to start out quite loose and somewhat abstract, trying not to get too bossy with the paint. I try to capture the essence of a subject more than the specific detail. I feel a looser painting allows the viewer to access it through their own filter and imagination. For myself, I have found paintings like this more interesting to view, so I try to paint that way. It is a challenge to keep it loose yet keep the drawing accurate without getting too tight with the process, but I am continually working on it.
How I Got Into Painting Full-Time
When it came time to decide what to do with my life after high school, I took the advice of my stepfather who made his living playing in a band for years. I told him I wanted to be a painter and he said, “Find something you love to do and the money will come.” That stuck with me, especially when I told other people I wanted to be a painter and they asked if I could make a living doing it.
I attended art college for a semester but they didn’t teach what I was looking for, so I left and sought out local painters I admired and they graciously took me under their wing. They encouraged me to paint at least five days a week, if not to do something every day. That was a good lesson for me and I took it to heart. I painted every day in the evenings and worked as a commercial roofer during the day.
I then got a job at an art supply store that also had art classes, and it was great to be able to take classes with different people. As things started picking up on the painting side, I worked a couple evening and weekend part-time jobs so I could paint during the day.
I have been painting full-time now for about 15 years and still spend time every day in the studio when I’m not traveling. I also enjoy tackling other creative projects like trying my hand at sculpture, and other mediums like woodworking and building projects. Something I see every day when I walk into the studio is my grandfather’s chair and a sweater he wore whenever we did woodworking together in his shop. It reminds me of his integrity and the hard worker he was, and that inspires me to continue to push myself and work harder.
Some days it feels like a long road with many challenges, but it has been an amazing journey. I am so grateful to people who shared their experience along the way and taught me not only about painting but the business side of it as well, and to my wife who is a true partner. She helps me with everything, aside from the paintings themselves, which allows me more time to paint.
Inspiration for “Just the Two of Us”
Down the road from where I live is a pond that attracted a couple of swans this past year. Every time I drove by, it was full of ducks and two swans. I decided I wanted to tackle painting a large piece with the contrast of white against a dark background, where the swans were in more detail but becoming looser the more it moved from the center of interest to the edges. I also like playing with water and big brushes, so it was a fun challenge.
My Advice for Entering Art Competitions
Having been a juror for a few competitions and shows, there are a few things I have learned. The first is not to worry about the results, win or lose. There are many great painters, and selecting the winning piece is very difficult. On a different day my choices may have been different.
Also, enter your best work and take good photos without glare, cropped correctly, color corrected, etc. — poor photos will get you eliminated quick.
That being said, I like to enter as many competitions as I can. There are many benefits to entering other than winning. Some competitions show many if not all the entries, so people may still see your work. Often the jurors are gallery owners or involved in other shows, so getting work in front of their eyes is never a bad thing.
Some people think it’s impossible to win with so many great entries, but you never know if you don’t try. It’s very helpful to us as artists to have sources like Plein Air magazine who offer outlets like this to share our work and that support the artistic journey.
Connect with Jerry Markham:
Markham’s paintings can also be seen at any of the galleries listed at https://jerrymarkham.com/galleries/.
Watch a clip of Jerry Markham’s still life painting process of “Orange Arrangement” here: