Jesse Lane Texas, USA, Labyrinth, colored pencil, 29 x 23" (74 x 58 cm)
Grand Prize is a four-page editorial feature in American Art Collector magazine Drawn to Life
In the colored pencil drawings of Texasbased artist Jesse Lane, the overall narrative is one of the most defining factors of the work. The pieces are autobiographical in nature—with many being self-portraits— and rely on themes of personal struggle, recovery and discovering newfound strength. The stories are open-ended, which allows the viewer of the pieces to interpret their own meaning and connection to the artwork.
Lane has worked hard at honing his skills over the years. He says, “People refer to artistic ability as a gift. But the truth is, art was never a gift for me. When I was 14, my art teacher told me I was the worst in class. I began with little self-confidence, but I was driven. I started out drawing anime and then progressed to realism and narrative portraiture.”
Over the years, his work has become bolder and simpler with highly detailed figures against stark backgrounds. Lane adds, “I isolate my figures in pool of light, disappearing into darkness. I especially enjoy the beautiful subtleties of skin tones. With each piece, my skin tones become more intricate and refined.”
Working in colored pencil is something that Lane enjoys because of the precision it relies upon when drawing the complexities of the human form. “Most people are surprised when they find out my pieces are drawings, not photographs,” he explains. “While each image I create is simple, it is also quite detailed. There are so many splotches of color and tiny wrinkles in skin.” In 2016, Lane had his first solo exhibition at RJD Gallery titled Face Reality. The morning after the exhibition closed, the Sag Harbor, New York, gallery was destroyed by a fire and five of Lane’s major pieces were lost.
“I had to start over. I had to face reality,” Lane recalls. “I felt small and the challenges seemed overwhelming. But as much as the fire upset me, every day I still had the option to go into my studio and create new work. Sometimes triumph isn’t having some sort of amazing comeback, but pushing through unfortunate situations and getting through to the other side. Sometimes stubbornly persisting is the most important thing someone can do. And sometimes pushing forward leads to new success and new art. Since the fire, I’ve taken more time with each piece and I’ve reached a new artistic level.”
Lane used the fire as a catalyst for his aptly titled work, Face Reality, which hangs in the gallery’s new location in Bridgehampton, New York.
Labyrinth was inspired by a haunting feeling of loss… and the road to recovery. The man’s hands are holding his head as he’s is trying to regain a sense of self. Water runs down his face, suggesting healing. His eyes are shut, providing a sense of inner contemplation as well as mystery. I think there’s a labyrinth in all of us.
My Design Strategy
Even though the eyes are shut, they are still the focal point. Almost everything in the image circles around the eyes. The most light and detail are on and around the eyes. The face emerges into light and disappears into shadow. The shadows have a lot of purple in them, which adds contrast to the yellow highlights.
I created the image to be very simple, yet elaborate. There are many tiny wrinkles and splotches of color, but they all add up to form a very simple image. The composition, lighting, color and details all work together to establish the eyes as the focal point.
My Working Process
I begin by blocking in a small black area on white Bristol board. This helps me judge my values as I work. I first render the focal point, usually the eyes. This lets me know if anything I do later competes too strongly with the focal point.
At first, I work in light layers of pencil. These layers start out as big blocks of brown or tan. I continue by adding smaller splotches of color that give the skin a more organic look. These are pinks, purples, yellows, orange and at times gray. In the end, I add very fine points of color though stippling, which is muted by the previous layers. The result is a textured, constantly changing skin tone.
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