Paint Studio at the Denver Art Museum

Paint Studio Demo Artist Jaeson Simmon

Jaeson Simmon will be in the Paint Studio demonstrating oil painting December 19–20 and 26–27.

For Denver-based artist Jaeson Simmon, art has always been a part of life. He grew up watching his mother, an art-school grad herself, creating the drawings on the walls, windows, and blackboards of restaurants, and was set up with his own art supplies by the age of two or three.

Continually changing and morphing, Simmon’s art was primarily in black and white media in high school, with the addition of color in the form of pastels and then acrylic painting in his college years. His most recent evolution, three years ago, from acrylic to oil paint has seen Simmon experimenting with injecting abstraction into his realistic depictions of figures and landscapes.

Image courtesy and copyright Jaeson Simmon.

Hilary Gibson: What do you think your demonstration in the studio will look like?

Jaeson Simmon: Well, in my work I have been playing around a lot with figurative elements and color. Right now I’m trying to take the figure and make it less about the person and more about the paint on the canvas describing them. It’s not abstract figurative work so much as disassembling the figure with color, muting it down and flattening it in some areas and bringing it out in others. So I think I might show how I get into that process.

HG: What is it about paint and the process of painting that intrigues you?

JS: There’s something just perfect about the brush dragging across a board and the smell of the paint. I like the rigidity of boards, I thickly gesso the ones I use and sand them for a smooth surface. Canvas has too much give and is just too textural for my taste, it affects how the paintbrush moves over the surface….With paint, everything is dictated by what happens in the moment and that's why I love it so much. If a splash of paint drips down the surface, then everything else changes and I have to adjust what I’m doing to incorporate it into the whole…It’s almost a collaboration between the painting and myself. There is a sense of random chance and rolling with it. I like that element of chaos.

An artist once said sometime like “paintings kind of fly through the air and if you’re there at your easel you can capture them, but if not it will find someone else.” Also, because of how you can work a painting in segments, it becomes a composite of moods—grafting together different moments.

Image courtesy and copyright Jaeson Simmon.

HG: What does your typical day as an artist look like?

JS: There’s a lot of staring! I probably stare at my piece more than I paint. Especially when I’m at the very beginning. I start with an image—I do my own photography—and getting that is always pretty straightforward, as I take pictures of a model and get an idea of what I want to do. Then when I start painting it’s usually a lot of throwing paint around and then stepping back and looking for those paint splashes and drips and marks to react to.

I also have two very obnoxious and energetic dogs, a seven-year-old border collie/husky mix and an eleven-month-old puppy, who are a big part of my day. If I’m staring too long they start to demand attention and walks! They’re a big part of my process too, I guess, because the last thing I do before varnishing my paintings is to go back and try to remove as much dog hair as I can from the painted surface.

HG: What inspires you?

JS: Definitely other works and artists. I like cruising people’s blogs and looking for art that is in a similar vein to my own. Two artists whose work I’m especially interested in right now are Jeremy Mann and Andrew Salgado, among others.

Inspiration can also come from anywhere—the subtlety of light in a given moment. I particularly like how the sky looks as you’re driving at night. There is a particular bend between I-70 and C-470 that is so pretty late at night—the oranges of the lights of the city and the purples that hang over the horizon. If you could bottle that, it would be worth millions. My camera is a means to an end in moments like that, but the way your eye perceives the light is so different than how someone else sees it and so different from how a camera sees it.

Hilary Gibson is an intern with the studio and artists programs in the department of learning and engagement. Her favorite section of the DAM to wander around in is the exhibition of western American art in the Hamilton Building. When not at the museum, Hilary spends an inordinate amount of time eating green chili and driving between Denver and her home in Pueblo, Colorado.

Read more on: studio creativity painting