Can you keep a secret?

Robert C Jackson

Bob Jackson is probably working in his 204 State Street studio even though the lights are out and it looks like no one is in there. Jackson chose this prime location, not to draw passersby inside but because of the room’s high ceilings and natural northern light—manna to painters who work on large canvases.

Signature soda crates in Jackson's studio

The studio is neat and tidy with his signature soda crates visible where they are stacked floor to ceiling in the back room. Children’s toys that serve as props fill a glass display case in the corner. Because Jackson works on large canvases, he needs a studio with high ceilings—these ceilings are a perfect ten feet—and the room is large enough to accommodate the canvas, leaving Jackson enough room to roll around on his chair. He moves forward and backwards and from side to side inspecting and painting the current canvas on the easel.

Jackson jokes that his style betrays “a split personality.” “I paint in a traditional still-life manner but with a sense of humor,” he says with the ever-present twinkle in his eye. Jackson loves posing and reposing objects in his compositions. “I feel like a sculptor,” he says. “I like moving things around to get the right look,” he continues. His paintings are full of American nostalgia, to a slower time in life when there was time to enjoy and appreciate silly things that made us smile. His southern childhood (thanks to dad’s transfers all over the south during Jackson’s formative years) put a stamp on him as indelible as the stamp he now puts on his creations. His southern charm shines through in person and in his paintings

Props galore in the studio

Jackson has incorporated dogs, apples, and balloon animals as points of interest in his compositions. His latest inspiration has his hand prints all over the formal arrangement of soda crates. If gives him great pleasure to know that people smile when they see his paintings. “A patron told me that I changed his way of collecting. He said people who came to his house never commented on any of the artwork hanging on the walls. But since he brought home Jackson paintings, visitors go right over to it and start talking about it,” he shared. “That’s what I want people to talk about the art. So now I look for other provocative paintings that will encourage discussion.”

Jackson wasn’t always a painter. He doodled in class (more than he should have, he admits) as a student studying electrical engineering at the University of Delaware. His now wife Suzanne gave him his first set of oil paints for Christmas his senior year. He had no idea what to do with them. His first composition was a still life of his paintbrush, one of the new tubes of oil paint, and a bottle of mineral spirits. In the spring semester, he took an Art 101 class. His professor, Bob Straight, recognized Jackson’s talent and asked him, “If you follow a career path in painting, what are your plans to make money?” “Most art majors end up teaching or working as a barista. You’ve got to have a plan,” he counseled. This early advice has kept Jackson focused on always developing his talent while making wise decisions that will assure his efforts are profitable. He is proactive and is always thinking about the next business move he should make.

During his stint with Motorola just after college, Jackson took art classes at the local community center. After four years, he responded to a magnetic pull that competed with his art and became associate pastor at his huge contemporary church. After four years, the family returned to Delaware. When they needed more room because another child was on the way, they moved to a house in Kennett Square, which also had space for a studio. Those arrangements worked for a while until the number of visitors to the house who also dropped in to Bob’s studio while he was working became problematic. Solution: a studio downtown.

"High Stakes" by Robert C. Jackson. Photo Courtesy of the artist.

Jackson’s paintings are part of collections in museums in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Michigan, Indiana, and South Dakota, and he participates in group or solo exhibitions all over the country annually. When asked, Jackson answers that there has been no “big moment” in his career that he can recall. He says, “It’s the little moments that keep me plugging away. I love bringing a smile to someone’s face.” Jackson enjoys being downtown and participating in the Kennett Borough’s various programs like the monthly First Friday Art Stroll. So, drop in then and say “hello.” He’ll be glad to see you and will probably even have the light on.

 

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About Lora B. Englehart

Lora has a passion for art, gardening, yoga, music and dancing. She continues to research the life of locally born abolitionist and 1998 National Women's Hall of Fame inductee Mary Ann Shadd Cary. She is a dedicated community volunteer, working with the American Association of University Women, Wilmington, DE branch (programs chair), Chadds Ford Historical Society (former board member) and Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art. Lora lives in Birmingham Township with her husband Bill and son Brad. Daughter Erika lives in Pittsburgh with husband Bob and baby Wilhelmina. She is a former French, Spanish and ESL teacher, bilingual life insurance underwriter and public relations coordinator for Delaware Art Museum and Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art.

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