Jacky Pearson

by Sue Wild

You probably know Jacky! She is a popular tutor, teaching at art clubs across New Zealand and has taken workshops for Watercolour New Zealand for fifteen years – sometimes two or three in a year. One of her students wrote recently “We knew that we had been privileged to be taught by an expert watercolour artist and outstanding teacher.” As a teacher, Jacky shares her knowledge openly and clearly, generating excitement and enthusiasm for the medium. “Teaching pushes you. I bounce ideas off my clever students, so we are a symbiotic friendly network. It’s important to me to teach.” Jacky is a core strength in the development of watercolour painting in New Zealand.

When the Covid-19 pandemic arrived and New Zealand locked down, Jacky looked at her calendar of workshop bookings in New Zealand and Australia, at the list of galleries showing her work and knew her income would grind to a halt. She had to think laterally. She realised this was the opportunity to do what she had been planning for some years – to film her own teaching. She purchased equipment and with generous advice from local businesses began Zoom lessons and was very soon teaching classes in Australia, Holland, the UK and around New Zealand - without leaving home. “Two months ago I didn’t know what an HDMI cable was,” she says. “Now I have cameras on magic arms and I’m giving webinars!” Now – as always – Jacky is working on achieving a balance: a balance between online teaching and person-toperson classes, a balance between teaching time and personal painting time.

Jacky was born in Walsall, in central UK. She recalls lying on her stomach on the floor of her Dad’s sailing club rooms, drawing people and boats. She loved to paint her menagerie of small animal pets – guinea pigs, rabbits and chickens. She was told you don’t earn a living as an artist, so took a career as a soil scientist.

After her degree in Geography and English from Wolverhampton University, she took postgraduate research in soil conservation and multispectral remote sensing at Southampton University. Jacky and her husband Tony immigrated to New Zealand in 1991.

As their children grew, Jacky developed her art into a business. “Now, I wake up every morning so happy that I will be painting the composition that’s in my head. I feel very lucky!” The knowledge from her work in physics informs her painting and teaching. “My research on optics gives me an understanding of how light and shadow work. Everything in life adds to what you do.” Jacky was inspired and encouraged by such artists as Ted Lewis,Ted Sherwen, and Joseph Zbukvic. In recent years she has had the pleasure of socialising and painting outdoors with many revered Australian watercolour artists.

A highlight in her life as an artist was winning the prize for Best Watercolour in the Royal Easter Show in Auckland in 2009. Since then she has won many awards at national and regional events, including the important People’s Choice award. Jacky is continually refining her techniques and her methods of teaching them.

As a capable writer she has been published in New Zealand, Australian and international magazines and books, including the American ‘Splash’ series. She is currently representing New Zealand in The Alfredo Guati Rojo National Watercolor Museum in Mexico City. Her paintings hang in a number of galleries. Jacky has a programme in the Australian Colour in your Life series, painting a portrait. This can be viewed on YouTube.

An outstanding proud moment for Jacky happened on a glorious day in Wellington. His Royal Highness Prince Charles walked the Wellington waterfront to meet the people. A small group of watercolour artists were in action – by arrangement – and Jacky handed the Prince a card she had made for him with a painting of wet Wellington. She was delighted when he asked for her advice on how to paint rain!

Jacky was the New Zealand host for the recent 24-hour global conversation on watercolour, ‘Go with the Flow’. This event had world-wide participation. Jacky: “I got the impression that because watercolour is accessible but also dubbed as one of the most challenging mediums, when life slowed down people who enjoy a challenge were going after it. The pandemic has given artists the time and space to excel. The event connected me with artists in Iran, China, Pakistan and Kazakhstan… so exciting!” Jacky observes that the standard of watercolour painting in New Zealand is “right up there” on a world scale.

Jacky defines her painting style as realistic-impressionistic. “I am aiming to add more abstract shapes in my paintings. I like to paint abstract marks along with detail. I don’t want to lose detail. I am trying to be more bold, more fluid and exuberant in my paintings. I am naturally a tonal artist, but I love to explore colour. I want to celebrate life. I get moved to tears by beautiful music. I want to paint like that.”

Composition is the kingpin in painting, as good syntax is essential to good writing. “I lean on the golden mean because it has been used for ever and is in nature, then I go from there.” Jacky believes in getting the academic side of the medium right – knowledge and control of colour, pattern, edges, line, hierarchy of shape. “Learn these and you will be set free to paint.”

A Watercolour World First? - Collaborative painting in Bathurst

Jacky Pearson is a member of Watercolour New Zealand and has taught watercolour in Australia, England, India, Belgium, the Netherlandsand at many venues around New Zealand.

In July 2018 she taught at The Art Scene Mitchell Winter School in Bathurst, Australia. The week comprises classes in drawing, print-making, oils, pastels, watercolour, mixed media with 27 tutors. As part of the evening social entertainment and fundraising, seven of the tutors painted a 1 metre by 1.5 metre watercolour. The team were David Taylor, Chan Dissanayake, Joe Cartwright, Robert Knight, John Haycraft, Jacky and Jane Blundell.

The group met to consider their subject and plan the action. They pored over a variety of photos and selected one of William Street in central Bathurst, with a moody early morning atmosphere and the church spire as a focal point. John was assigned the task of drawing and the rest split into pairs to tackle the painting. Robert and Joe did the underpainting, Jacky took the background buildings, church and central island with Jane painting the large side trees; David and Chan did the cars and added tones to the large trees. Finally David and Jacky washed in the foreground shadows. The painting was signed by all seven.

There was no rehearsal. Jacky described the team as all chiefs and no Indians. The painting took about an hour with much politeness and diplomacy. Jane gave a running commentary to keep the 300 strong audience bubbling, augmented with much side-line banter from the other twenty tutors!

The sale of the painting raised $7500 (AUD), enough for seven scholarships. Paul Malouf, director of the school, donates these scholarships to people in physical or mental strife who need their spirits raised by the wonder of creating artworks.

David Taylor suggested that a single watercolour created by a team of seven may be a world first!

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