Art Jacobs’ name suits him. From the depths of his soul, he is an artist.
It began at the age of 16 when, without formal training, he created portraits of Benjamin Banneker and Phillis Wheatley. They were displayed at a banquet in honor of Black History Month in Dayton, Ohio, and were well-received.
“I’ve been doing portraits ever since,” Jacobs said. “It’s a personal venture. I enjoy creating. It’s a part of me.” To him, art is just another outlet to mirror who he is as a human being.
Jacobs was born into a military family. They traveled often and finally settled in Delaware. Jacobs joined the Air Force after high school. During his 24 years of service he was stationed in Turkey, California, Germany, North Dakota and then Fairchild in 1998. He retired in 2004 and now works as an operation supervisor at an addiction treatment center. All the while, he fine-tuned his portraiture skills.
Over the past 25 years, he has drawn more than 50 commissioned portraits. In Spokane, his charcoal portraits of legendary jazz musicians were featured at the now-defunct Ella’s Supper Club. In 2008, he was commissioned to complete a portrait of contralto singer Marian Anderson, who performed at the Fox in 1941, for permanent display at the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox. He has taught at the Corbin Art Center, at Spokane Community College’s IEL Seniors Program, at Michaels Arts and Crafts in Spokane Valley, at the Community Center at Fairchild Air Force Base, and privately.
Working in pencil, pastel and charcoal, Jacobs’ portraits contain depth, personality and elegance.
“It has been said that between 85 to 93 percent of communication is nonverbal. If that is the case, a well-done portrait can speak volumes,” he said.
The creative process, to Jacobs, is exhilarating, enchanting, satiating and challenging. It demands inspiration, discipline and the ability to problem-solve. And immersion.
“I recall once drawing late into the evening. Not realizing what time it was, I saw a light reflecting off a wall that caught the corner of my eye and I thought, ‘What kind of light is shining that bright this late in the evening?’ ” Turns out, it was the sun rising, he added, “Time passes ever so swiftly during the creative process.”
When Jacobs creates, it involves his total being. “It is a soul experience,” he said. “It can leave me exhausted yet with a sense of accomplishment.”
For a long time, it has been Jacobs’ dream to share his passion with others. When he turned 50 last month, a gift to himself as well as to others was the opening of the West Plains Art Center.
Happenings at the center include art exhibits and classes like Family Craft Night on Saturdays beginning on May 5, basic drawing skills and still life drawing classes beginning on April 28, and beginning drawing for youth, also beginning on April 28.