Mon | Jan 25, 2021

Capturing Jamaica in pastels

Published:Thursday | June 18, 2015 | 12:00 AMAmitabh Sharma
Ray Jackson, pastel artist extraordinaire, holds a painting capturing a group of men in discussion.
Celebrating women, 'Matriarch', a pastel work by Ray Jackson.
One of Ray Jackson's many creations capturing Jamaica's heritage. Here he has painted the courthouse at Spanish Town Square.
Work in progress: Ray Jackson's charcoal sketches, which the artist says would be subjects of his future paintings.
Ray Jackson captures the emotions of Bob Marley, on each loc is listed the a song that Marley sung.
Ray Jackson at his studio, capturing many emotions of the people and the rustic countryside.
Ray Jackson captures two elderly women in the countryside, walking home after church service.

There are landscapes, and then there are landscapes. The latter capture lives, emotions, encapsulated by the richness of the flora and fauna. The viewer will be transported into that scene, feeling the breeze and participating in the conversations of the subjects.

Ray Jackson's works bring to life their expressions, capturing Jamaica and its people in all their glory.

He is regarded as one of Jamaica's greatest pastel artists - a technique where hands are used instead of paintbrushes.

Jackson uses his hands to paint symphonies.

He is an unassuming, humble and down-to-earth person, who does not need any boisterous introduction. The work he has done and continues to do speaks for itself.

His work showcases Jamaica's countryside and remote communities. Jackson specialises in acrylic, pastel, pencil and watercolours, and uses a mix of subjects, juxtaposing the rustic countryside with animated expressions of the people.

"I travel around the countryside, observing people, photographing places and then recording them," he said.



In the pastel painting technique, the artist uses chalk or oil pastels. The colours are blended on the paper to get the perfect hue. A mark is made on the paper and then rubbed with the finger. No paintbrush is used and this can be done only on a special kind of paper.

"The key is to get the right smudge to make the right shape and contours," Jackson said.

The most difficult part in this form of painting is to get the details, which is, at times, done by using a kneaded eraser (an eraser with a consistency of a plaster dough), which makes detailing more challenging.

The key is to smudge the paint using the right technique in order to bring the subjects to life; and because the work is done on paper, the surface is very delicate.

Through the fragility of this medium, Jackson manages to capture life on this island, the complexity of colours of nature and the simplicity of expressions of the people - some profound, some joyous and others serene.



He said that his regular travels take him across the length and breadth of the island, giving him constant inspiration, which he uses to add character to his work. It could be a beach from one parish paired with a subject he saw elsewhere, but the result is always a perfect blend.

Jackson said his pieces also provide inspiration, which blend into the next creation, like the gentle current of water flowing in a stream, passing by cobbled stones, creating a perfect synergy.

"I always learn something from the work that I do, and whether it is the subject matter or the medium itself, they are carried to the next creation," he said.

Through this evolution, over the years, Jackson has created a repertoire of art that are stories within themselves. His passion for this art form, which is embedded in his DNA, makes him strive to continue treading this path of creativity.

"Money is never a factor," Jackson said. "It is the love of this land that drives me, and being an artist is a lifelong profession. You don't retire, but you journey on."

Jackson's explorations continue. As author Ernest Hemingway said, "It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end."