Monday, December 10, 2012

One of the artists behind the incredible RiverWalk art is from rural East County

Shipping to Cuba by Jean Blackburn
If you have visited Bradenton's RiverWalk -- and many of us have, and greatly enjoyed it  -- you have seen Jean Blackburn's art work.

It is among "Postcards from the Friendly City," and one of them, "Shipping to Cuba," is shown here. It's a fantasy in the best sense that makes you smile, feel good, and remember the adventurous spirit of your childhood.

Members of the Palm-Aire Art Association got to know Jean a little better recently when they visited her studio in rural east Sarasota County.

Here's what Charleen Gorbet, a member of the association, wrote:

The trip was a whirlwind of sensory perception as Jean took us through the various techniques and media she has used over the years.

Many people have seen Jean’s work, perhaps without knowing it. Her vibrant monoprints led to a commission from Whole Foods to design tiles for the facade of their downtown Sarasota flagship store.

“But don’t look at them, they’ve faded,” she said. “Look inside, on the walls of the dining space at the front of the store…those are the original works.”

Bradenton’s newly-opened Riverwalk commissioned  four of Jean’s works to celebrate the theme “Postcards from the Friendly City.”

 Drawing on extensive research into the history of the Manatee River, Jean created whimsical scenes of early Bradenton life.  These are mounted along the boardwalk, together with four other works by artist Don Brandes.

 A work in progress in her studio illustrated the technique she uses to paint the moving water of the Myakka River near her home.

“These are not photoshopped,” she said emphatically, showing photos filled with vibrant blue, green and orange colors.

She takes thousands of high-speed photographs, watching for the right time and light to give those wonderful colors.

“I’ll even sit in a tree for an hour, waiting for the right slant of sun,” she laughed. Next comes the painstaking work of selecting from a photo one small corner of interesting movement and light, then transferring that in all its complexity to oil painting on a large birch panel. The result is an intriguing abstract that will change the way you look at moving water.

New work in recent years was inspired by children’s art. In this series, called “Growing Up,”she uses gesso and acrylics on birch panel to create a surface that is repeatedly sanded and etched with a wood-burning tool.  Child-like figures are surrounded by simple images that might be dreams, memories, or wishes. The resulting work has a naïf, almost ethereal appearance.

Jean’s website is being renovated, but her Water Series and other work can be seen at

Here's a Bradenton Herald story where Jean Blackburn worked with local students:

Jean Blackburn in her studio. (photo provided)

1 comment:

  1. I was lucky enough to be on the field trip to Jean's home and studio on the Myakka River. She was a gracious hostess and it was so interesting to hear about her recent trip to Cuba where she was speaking about US Community Art. She has a wonderful passion for life and her ever-evolving art.