With the Wind at His Back – Yeshe Jackson Art

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.
Email: leap2three@gmail.com
Santa Cruz Mountains Local on the Web: https://santacruzmountainslocal.com/
On Facebook: www.facebook.com/santacruzmountainslocal

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Smoke and Glass – Sean McLean Photography

By Julie Horner

7:00 a.m. December 29, 2014. The early sky above the Boulder Creek Coffee Roasting Company was cast in Easter egg hue, the morning sun still below the mountain. In a personal test of will and strength I had agreed to meet Boulder Creek photographer, Sean McLean, on location to experience what he does best. Sean said, “Given that my niche tends to be coastal AND the long range surf forecast looks promising, how about we drive together down to Steamer Lane?” Excited, I asked if we REALLY needed to meet so early. He said, “Oh my friend, I’m usually at the lane before the sun has risen…the light goes all to pieces by 9:00.”

As it turned out the weather was good for boating, fishing, and going to the beach, but not so promising for waves after all. We decided on Plan B: A bone-chilling stroll through the mist-shrouded redwoods at Henry Cowell State Park.

I met Sean last summer at the Santa Cruz Mountains Art & Wine Festival in Boulder Creek. He was photographing the local bands and the scene on the green, families and singles, diapers, dancing and dangly earrings as the end-of-summer revelers drank in the last of the hot days and whatever was on tap among the local brewers and vintners who had enthusiastically thrown down in support of the local vibe.

Between last summer and this winter Sean landed an excellent freelance position as a photojournalist with Santa Cruz Waves, the place to go online for local coast 411. I was curious. As we pulled into Henry Cowell on that frigid December morning, I asked Sean if he surfed. He laughed, “Oh God, badly. I surf like I dance, and nobody wants to see that!”

Sean loves people, and he loves to photograph them in action in landscapes where they’re doing what they love. He said, “I take photos that tell a story…that invite the viewer in to explore and connect.” Sean focuses on trying to capture what’s on a subject’s mind – the interaction with the world. He is attracted to magic and wonder and things that make you go, “Ooo!!”

A completely delicious image to Sean? “A glassy backlit wave with a surfer either riding it or in the act of dropping in. This provides a warm blue-green light inside the wave that often frames the surfer’s upper body. The spray at the top of the wave can emphasize the power of the ocean – or it can completely negate it. The water has texture too; bumps and ridges of light and blue…the sea is alive and it’s not just about the surfer in the water.”

Sean posts his photos on Santa Cruz Waves online gallery every Saturday morning. He says, “Usually that’s surf action around Steamer Lane but it’s pretty much up to me. This area is rich with landscape, coastal, sunsets, wildlife, and the occasional human being.” According to Sean, there’s beauty, adventure, and friends everywhere. “This is a hoot!” He’s just a really friendly guy out shooting surf.

He’s also a big-time planner, consulting weather and tide reports and calculating when and where to be with his equipment to seize that moment when something spectacular happens, for that shot that’s “off the hook.”

Back at Henry Cowell the sun had finally sent dazzling tentacles of warmth into the forest canopy and the trees were smoking. It was one of those off-the-hook moments. As I stood shivering, my breath suspended in puffs, Sean was showing me how to use my own camera, which I’d brought along in case I could scrape off a little of his magic frosting. Sean said, “It’s all about the lenses…basically picking the brush to paint with.” Sean is quick to strike up conversation with anyone who is curious about what he’s doing. A tourist couple approached us and Sean dove right in to telling them about all the amazing hiking they could do during their stay. “I love to share. I mean, this is Santa Cruz County!”

On the Web: http://www.mcleansphoto.com/

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mcleansphoto

On Santa Cruz Waves: http://www.santacruzwaves.com/author/seanmclean/

(c) 2015 Julie Horner – Originally published in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin, February 2015

Julie Horner is an Irish folk musician and writer living in the Santa Cruz Mountains, California. Email: leap2three@gmail.com

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Tina Saso Photography – Community, Captured

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By Julie Horner

What caught my eye was the recent iconic photograph of local American roots musicians, Sugar by the Pound. It was a Marilyn Monroe moment. The photographer had captured the very essence of femininity and strength and sheer porcelain beauty in a series of relaxed looking shots; in-the-moment expression and sense of playful movement, the honesty of cotton fabric against smooth skin and the function of well worn instruments.

The photographer is Tina Saso, a San Lorenzo Valley native who now calls Boulder Creek home. That series of photographs was taken just moments after Sugar by the Pound had wrapped up their set at the Boulder Creek Harvest Festival. They’d ducked into a friend’s yard to shake off the heat of the day and the high of being “on” in front of hundreds of folks enjoying the lingering warmth of a long, hot summer in the Santa Cruz Mountains. You can see in those photographs Tina’s ability as a genuine people-person to put her subjects at ease, feeling themselves and having fun so that personalities shine through.

It’s a natural impulse for Tina to photograph family and friends. Drawn by everyday people, mamas and babies, the rustic and the well-lit, she becomes the story teller and a recorder of moments in time. She told me that she especially enjoys photographing her subjects on-location outdoors, incorporating the environment whenever she can. Wilder Ranch, Henry Cowell State Park, and Boulder Creek’s Camp Joy Gardens are favorite locations, providing color- and texture-rich backdrops for her subjects.

Tina enjoys a deep connection with Camp Joy, having spent many days of youth with Leifin and Towhee Nelson on the acreage. Now their children run wild in that wondrous landscape, and Tina can be found chasing the kids around, adding her personal perspective to capturing what they do among the orchard trees and arbors.

“I have always been a social person and love working with people of all ages.” According to Tina, her enthusiasm for photography is complementary to that love. She is passionate about lighting and composition and facilitating the perfect environment for feeling joy, to reach that moment together at a shoot “when magic is happening.”

While her favorite experiences involve photographing individuals in a natural setting, she also has a keen eye for large compositions involving company staff and is in high demand as an event and corporate photographer. Her expertise includes evocative wedding portraiture and exquisitely pristine landscape and nature photography. Capturing life as she sees it: From the glow of the mother-to-be to the delicate form of the newborn asleep; children innocently at play to teens and adults at ease in the everyday.

Several times a year Tina hosts professional photo sessions by appointment at Camp Joy Garden. I can think of no finer place to create family memories through portraiture, to bookmark a place in time for loved ones framed by the beauty of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Email: tinasasophotography@me.com

On the Web: http://www.tinasasophotography.com/Tina_Saso_Photography/Welcome.html

On Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TinaSasoPhotography

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Sugar by the Pound by Tina Saso Photography, Boulder Creek CA.

(c) 2014 Julia Horner

This article was originally published in the Santa Cruz Mountain Bulletin, December 2014. Julie Horner is an Irish folk musician and writer living in the Santa Cruz Mountains, California. Email: leap2three@gmail.com