Ella Jack, a native Oklahoman, was a watercolor painter whose works are featured in collections all over Oklahoma. Jack was hired by the Oklahoma State University Art department in the 1950’s as a painting instructor. One of Jack’s most famous colleagues was the Indiana native artist, Doel Reed. Doel Reed taught at Oklahoma State University from 1924 to 1959, ending up as the head of the art department. Reed, like Jack, got most of his inspiration from nature.
Jack’s many layers of watercolor in this untitled painting create dimension, allowing her to create very dynamic image of flowers. Watercolor is a very expressive medium because of its transparency and how each layer of paint is visible through the layer above it. It also allows the light not to just be reflected from the uppermost surface, but from the paper beneath it as well. Jack used a great deal of layering as well as thick brushstrokes, which give the painting a somewhat abstract quality. The background and table on which the flowers are set are much more abstracted than the flowers themselves. This draws the viewers’ attention away from the setting and allows their attention to be focused on the flowers in the foreground. Jack used very large brushstrokes when painting this piece, which truly capture the look and feel of the very large petals and leaves of these flowers. In this watercolor, the cool greens, blues and whites are instantly warmed up by Jack’s dynamic use of browns. By using these colors, Jack captures the cool, crisp nature of the flowers, while also incorporating the feeling of warmth they create.
Ella Jack influenced many people by her art and had many colleagues at Oklahoma State University who influenced her as well. Janette Dickerson, fellow artist and student of Jack’s, was greatly influenced by her and her works. Dickerson wrote about how she grew up painting and that it was Jack that encouraged her to observe and paint the things around her. B.J. Smith was another colleague of Jack and fellow painter whom she worked alongside. Smith started the first full time art gallery, the Gardiner Art Gallery, at Oklahoma State University and served as the director at from 1965 until his retirement in 1994.
This post is excerpted from a research paper written by Katie Worthen, a student in ART 3683: History of 20th Century Art, in Fall 2009.