"Over the past 15 years, I have been developing images by repeating the shapes of elongated leaf forms," says Louisiana artist Karen Jacobs. "These series generally focus on plants, such as pampas grass, palm, bamboo, daylily, and iris. As the individual paintings progress, metaphors that were not consciously planned emerge. The juxtaposition of old and new growth enriches the significance of the paintings. The layers of leaves offer a contrast between the graceful aging of old growth and the assertiveness of the new, young blades."
For Jacobs, who has focused on the same subject in several extensive series, the identity of her subjects is less important than what the forms suggest. "The patterns, rhythms, and repetitions in nature become the most important elements in my painting," she explains. "Years of avid gardening have provided me with an awareness of the underlying beauty found in the intricacies of nature. Filling an entire sheet of watercolor paper with the movements of grasses and leaves causes the viewer to focus on an entirely different sort of beauty. The washes of transparent color reveal the rich depths of layered and repeated growth."
The painting shown here in various stages of development illustrates how Jacobs begins her creative process with close-up photographs of grasses and a light pencil drawing of lines on a full-size sheet of watercolor paper. Then, working from light washes of transparent color to dark and more opaque mixtures of paint, she fills in the spaces created by the overlapping of these shapes.
Jacobs usually paints on 300-pound Arches cold-pressed paper that has not been presoaked or stretched. Because she layers her paints, Jacobs uses staining pigments such as the phthalos and alizarins in the early stages of painting. She prefers Winsor & Newton Sceptre brushes in sizes 2 through 6, a 1/4" flat, and a 1" flat for laying in washes.
Paintings from her various series have been well received by the judges of regional and national art competitions, such as those of Watercolor USA, the Rocky Mountain National Watermedia Exhibition, the Mississippi Watercolor Society, the Watercolor Society of Alabama, and the Louisiana Watercolor Society. Recently, the New Orleans Museum of Art chose one of her paintings for reproduction on a poster. Jacobs works out of her home studio in Destrehan, Louisiana, which is located in the Greater New Orleans area.