By Julie Horner
A great rigged ship plowed through outer space, floating along in full sail aided by rocket thrusters. An astronaut tripped slowly down the plank into the vast starry vacuum while a great white shark and all the pirates looked on, big glass bubbles around their heads (the shark’s bubble was full of sea water, of course). “Everything was ridiculous but rendered with very precise detail…painstaking.” Space Pirates, the gigantic 4’x5’ original painting by Boulder Creek artist, Yeshe Jackson, hangs at Gilded Lily on Mission Street in Santa Cruz.
The SLV native met me at the Boulder Creek Brewery Outpost one sunny spring afternoon for a bit of refreshment and to chat about his art – now a full time occupation – his bread and butter. “Imagine an endless chasm and envision stepping over the edge with trust. Each month gets better,” he says.
Yeshe took his first art class at SLVHS during his junior year. It was an end-of-semester acrylic paint project that became the life-changing experience. When it was time to declare a major at Humbolt State, he said, “Art was the one thing that came to mind that I was good at and that I enjoyed.” And he didn’t do math. “Not that I couldn’t do it, I just didn’t want to do it. Art is real, a valid major…I went for it.”
And after graduation did the whole starving artist thing while trying to find his artistic niche, working in construction and taking what seemed like a pretty cool opportunity as an apprentice tattoo artist at the Gilded Lily in Felton. But tattoos didn’t work out. “I got zero clients, I was starving. Clients had been coming in for free tattoos but that dried up.
During long afternoons with no one to ink, he hand-painted “flash” designs (mockup tattoos in watercolor). “A lightbulb went off. If I’m not doing tattoos, why not work on my art?” Canvases were on sale “so I bought two” and he started painting landscapes from a few photos that local landscape photographer, Neil Simmons, had let him have.” Someone came into the shop, saw the work, and asked if it was for sale. He sold the piece for a couple hundred bucks.
Now he paints prolifically from his home studio – “taking out all the crutches from under and digging a little deeper” – capturing the movement of life in his own interpretations of local landscapes, underwater creatures, swirling sea and breaking surf.
Recently momentum is off the hook for Yeshe’s “Pint and Paint” events, which he started almost a year ago at New Bohemia Brewing in Capitola. Nubo hosts twice a month and the events always sell out. He’s started a series at Boulder Creek’s lille aeske, Ben Lomond’s Casa Nostra, and other venues public and private.
“I’m still getting my feet wet, willing to try a bunch of different venues. These events help crack the shell on some people who haven’t painted in a long time or maybe never in their life. And having a pint or two is not a bad thing to do, helps people loosen up.”
$45 gets you free beer, a 16×20 canvas, brushes and paint, he provides all the materials. “You just show up and get to take home a painting.” It’s a great way to meet people and network. “Too many people spend too much of their time mind-numbing in front of the TV,” he says. “It’s so much more fulfilling to spend an evening creating something – we all have so much more potential than we realize. If you’re reading a book, painting a picture, sculpting – anything – there’s something about that that’s so much more satisfying.”
The success of Pint and Paint is a testament to the locals. “People want to support you, no matter what it is, like the wind at your back.” And there’s no better life than doing what he loves to do. “I couldn’t fathom or even stomach the idea of not being an artist. When I think about art I think about possibilities for the future, and I have to be thankful – it feels pretty amazing.”
On the Web: squareup.com/store/yeshe-jackson-art
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/yeshepaints
Julie Horner is an Irish folk musician and writer living in the Santa Cruz Mountains, California.
Santa Cruz Mountains Local on the Web: http://santacruzmountainslocal.com/
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/santacruzmountainslocal