Self-taught artist to lead drawing workshops at
Bothwell Arts Center
by Lou Fancher
Never underestimate the power of time passing and YouTube. If there's one human example of this truth, it's 26-year-old figurative artist Jacob Hankinson.
Hankinson, a largely self-taught, instinctive artist, is completing his first year at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. The Livermore-native's artwork has won awards and attracted increasing attention at shows and galleries in Northern California.
"Not all paintings are art," says Linda Ryan, manager of Livermore's Bothwell Arts Center and an early supporter of Hankinson's work. "Some (artists) are just technically good. Jacob's work shows his innate sensitivity and love of light. Some of his strokes are reminiscent of (British artist) John Singer Sargent's freedom of brushwork, but are still magnificently his own. Most sensitive painters tend to cover their strokes -- Jacob's stand out for all to see."
But as a student at Livermore High School in the early 2000s, Hankinson says he stood out more for lack of focus.
"I was a poor student," he admits. "I took art classes every year but never considered a career in art. I took classes at a community college and never completed them. I stopped drawing for several years and took odd jobs."
Even so, he remembers as biographical highlights learning how to use blue and yellow crayons to make green in kindergarten -- and one Mrs. Dunn, a high school art teacher who provided encouragement.
"I'm mostly self-taught," he says. "I was always drawing people. Making things up or copying 'Wizard of Oz' and 'Alice in Wonderland' and other books I had. My uncle had given me 'Bridgman's Complete Guide to Drawing From Life,' and I copied it over and over."
Ryan first met Hankinson at a "Teen Art Night" her daughter organized. "That group held a show at Claudine's Hair Salon during ArtWalk when he was, I believe, 15 years old. His figurative work back then was already good."
Hankinson approaches the human form like an abstract artist, capturing a body's ovals, squares, rectangles and other geometric components in a drawing, then rapidly creating depth with shading. In paintings, skin colors and fabrics that look realistic from a distance reveal themselves as a saturated fantasy composed with flecks of brilliant red and orange amid murky olive greens and near-black blues.
With a keen eye to composition and variance between soft and hard edges that move a viewer's eye through the often one-figure canvases, Hankinson's brush strokes activate a figure lying supine or merely sitting still with an arresting, kinetic energy.
"I look at models abstractly. I only think of them as people later on," he says.
Remarkably, his swift resurgence as an artist happened while working as a clerical assistant for a law firm and doing graphic design on the side in 2012. Hankinson essentially "woke up," realized what he wanted to do with his life, and began reteaching himself to draw.
"The Internet was a good source of painting. There was a wealth of information from great artists doing a painting from beginning to end. I realized there were actual steps I could learn."
YouTube became his teacher. Compiling a portfolio of drawings and paintings, Hankinson returned to school.
"It was odd being in classes with 19-year-olds, but now I have a classmate who's 63, so it's getting easier to be one of 'the old guys' at the school."
Thankful for a community of Livermore artists that he calls "so supportive," Hankinson began teaching the skills he taught himself to others at the Bothwell and the Figurehead Gallery before it closed in 2013.
Hankinson will lead a live-model figurative drawing workshop on four consecutive Saturdays beginning June 6 at the Bothwell. It will begin with an introductory lecture and basic techniques for shading, drawing live models and how to hold a pencil. "It sounds silly, but I'll teach people how to hold it properly. It's vital," Hankinson says.
The following three lessons will cover subjects including recognizing anatomical landmarks, moving from 2D to 3D, understanding how light effects form and putting it all together in the final session's longer drawing exercises.
"I'll spend time with each student. The lecture is informational for beginning artists and a reminder for advanced students. If you can draw the rhythms and shapes of the human form, you can draw anything."