Galveston County artist Fontaine Jacobs loves to paint portraits :Q&A with Mary Vinnedge
Award-winning Friendswood artist Fontaine Jacobs paints with oils, acrylics, and watercolor, which is currently her favorite medium. “I like the speed and spontaneity of watercolor,” she says. She also likes the speed of working with acrylics, although for portraits, Jacobs prefers oils for their blend-ability. Jacobs is mostly self-taught but has taken a few workshops.
She sells at the Texas City (611 6th St. N.) and Galveston (2117A Postoffice St.) galleries of the Galveston Art League, the Watercolor Art Society-Houston (WAS-H), and online at www.FontaineFineArt.com. Jacobs is active in several art organizations and is webmaster for the all-volunteer Galveston Art League and for the Clear Lake/Dickinson-based National Society of Artists. She teaches at College of the Mainland, WAS-H, and in her home.
Some of her top awards include Best of Show for Guarded Gaze, given by the National Society of Artists; first place for The Origami Artist, awarded by the Galveston Art League’s gallery in Texas City; third place for Abstraction, WAS-H; and first place for Gator, Lone Star Art Guild.
Jacobs has been a rolling stone, living all over the U.S. ― including 20 years in California ― and traveling extensively in the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Australia. “Travel introduces one to new things and makes a person open-minded,” she says.
For as long as she can remember, Jacobs has been drawing and painting. “When I was young, my family ― all right-brainers ― gave me some encouragement, but thought I was a bit different. Now my sister has been my biggest supporter, with the walls of her house full of my artwork. My husband is also a big supporter of my work. He is a great critic, and if my art business goes into the red, he says, “Chalk it up to entertainment. You’re happy.”
Below she shares additional details about her art and her life.
Q: How do you improve your skills?
A: Painting as often as I can and taking workshops. I also find my teaching experiences have helped improve my skills.
Q: What’s the most rewarding aspect of creating art?
A: Painting centers me, challenges me, and gives me a sense of self.
Q: Do you work outdoors and indoors?
A: Yes. Plein air, or painting in the open air, improves my color recognition, allows me to simplify my work, helps me to paint in a short time frame, and allows me to see how light appears in different situations. But painting indoors is what I typically do. I like painting in the comfort of my studio. I don’t have to deal with the weather, or worry about changing light or forgetting needed supplies. I can also add or take away light if I am painting a still life. If I paint from a reference photo, I can adjust the contrast/hue saturation/brightness from my computer or magnify a certain area to get greater detail.
Q: Can you share more details about your use of photography?
A: I use a Nikon 900 bridge camera for reference pictures sometimes. It is lightweight and captures what I am seeing well. With its zoom lens, it also lets me get photos from a fairly long distance away. I also use my camera to record a plein air setting in case I don’t finish the painting in one sitting. For portraits, it allows me to catch a person looking nonchalant rather posed.
Q: What are your biggest art challenges?
A: Determining when a painting is finished and knowing when to stop.
Q: Do you follow any rules in painting? Do you have an epiphany to share?
A: I try to follow the rule of thirds [composing a painting with interesting elements placed along an imaginary grid of two horizontal and two vertical lines ― as in tic-tac-toe ― that forms nine equal rectangles], but I often break that rule. I did a lot of design work as an art director, so the principles of design are crucial. Contrast is most important to me — it can make or break a painting. Instinctively I put my focal point off-center.
After having breast cancer, I no longer fear making mistakes or have angst about the outcome of a painting. Life is too short. I think that has made me a better painter. Instead of being afraid, I lose myself in my paintings. Painting becomes a form of meditation for me.
Q: Are portraits difficult for you? Do you ever start over when things aren’t going well?
A: Portraits are my favorite subject. They have never been difficult for me ― they are fun. As for starting over, I love problem-solving. In oil and acrylic, I just paint layers until I get it right. One of the reasons I like watercolor on Yupo [a synthetic “paper”] is because you can wipe off what you don’t like. So usually, no, I keep painting instead of starting over. Canvas and paper are too expensive for me to start over.
Q: Describe your cancer portrait series.
A: I paint portraits of those who have — or have survived ― cancer. I put the portraits into competition for about a year and then present the paintings to the survivors after that time. As a seven-year cancer survivor, it allows me to give back and paint my favorite subject matter — people. [Editor’s note: Jacobs also holds fundraisers for cancer research, the most recent occurring Oct. 20, 2018, at the Galveston Art League Gallery in downtown Galveston. She raised nearly $4,000 that evening.]
Q: Do you have a favorite art reference book?
A: Color Mixing Recipes for Portraits by William F. Powell.
Q: Do you often enter competitions?
A: I enter as many competitions as my budget allows [to cover entry fees]. It humbles and toughens me. I value the opportunity to get critiques from professional judges. It also allows me to promote myself and get my name out to art buyers.
Q: Why are memberships in art organizations important?
A: I join as many organizations as I can, but only if they are a good fit. If they are well-run, have quality programs, and have great artists, I can benefit from them and they from me. Some organizations are poorly run, and just act as a profit center requesting money from the artist without providing them much in the way of benefits. I steer away from those.
I belong to five. The Portrait Society of America has challenging competitions and gives the opportunity to get one’s work critiqued by nationally known artists. The National Society of Artists has great monthly programs along with regional and national competitions. I volunteer as an NSA board member and do their web design. The Galveston Art League provides juried shows, monthly exhibits, and workshops; I volunteer as a GAL board member and revamped their website so it would function efficiently. I also hold workshops and participate every two years in Galveston Art League’s Featured Artist program. WAS-H provides monthly local competitions and also has regional and national competitions; I am currently teaching there. And the Art League of Baytown has regional and national competitions; I teach classes and hold art demos with this group.
Q: Who’s your favorite famous artist?
A: I love many styles of artwork from representational to abstract. For that reason this question is almost impossible to answer. My favorite all-time artist is John Singer Sargent. He was a master at both oils and watercolor and painted portraits and landscapes in both media. He did plein air brilliantly, sometimes while he was on a boat!
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