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OGDEN — Ogden-based artist, sculptor, and retired Bonneville High School art teacher, David W. Jackson’s foray into art might have a familiar ring to those who remember the “Draw Me” advertisements of yesteryear.
“I started when I was 12," Jackson said. "I did one of those little matchbook 'Draw Me' character things for the Art Instruction School of Minneapolis. It was a quite a learning experience for a kid, but it focused me. I could see this is something I wanted to do, and it went on from there."
Jackson continued pursuing art and focused on wildlife. His career goal was to be a full-time professional artist. While at Weber State University, his professional trajectory changed when someone suggested teaching as an option.
“I decided to get into teaching because you hit that stage in your life where you find some cute gal, you decide you want to get married and have a family,” he said. “I didn’t want to raise a family on a starving artist salary. Someone told me I’d be a good teacher, so I said, 'You know what? That sounds good,' and I went into teaching.”
For 27 years, Jackson taught many of the art classes at Bonneville High School in South Ogden.
“I was teaching what I loved and that made it even better. I was teaching the things I needed to know to be a better artist," he said. "It really worked good all the way around, plus it helped me develop people skills in working with a lot of different types of personalities."
He also discovered teaching art was really more than just teaching technique — it also included teaching self-confidence.
“It was easy to turn kids on to art — even kids who didn’t think they were good at it. It is surprising how you could teach somebody a few simple steps and show them (they) can do this... there’s a lot of this stuff that can be learned — it doesn’t all have to be talent.”
That very belief might have been reinforced when he inherited the pottery program at the high school. He said that he didn't do much with pottery, but the teacher transferred to a different school so he was designated as the pottery teacher.
Yet, it turned out that the pottery classes led Jackson to an important turning point in his career. He said he'd never really thought about doing sculptures until he was having his students create some out of clay.
“It came very easily. There was something magical about having your hands on clay, whether it’s on a wheel or modeling it to sculpt something. It was a whole different thing from holding a paintbrush or pencil in your hand, so it opened my eyes,” he said.
While Jackson was teaching, he also kept up his professional art career. He would often paint, sculpt and travel to art shows around Utah, Arizona and various locations.
“I always had paintings going — I would get to school at 6-6:30 (a.m.) and I would paint until school started at 7:30 and school ended at 3 (p.m.) and I would paint until 6. Or, I’d sculpt a lot of my different bronze sculptures,” he said.
According to Jackson, working at school was also a benefit for his students.
“Kids could see the progress on the professional side, so they’d come into class and they’d see the progress on a big oil painting or see the clay going on a big wildcat,” Jackson said. “One of the wildcats went on to Weber State University … a lot of those kids who went on to Weber State remember seeing that in class."
When offered a retirement package, Jackson knew it was a tough choice, but he said the “opportunity was there.” Looking back on his teaching legacy, he reflected that the art classes helped shape lives.
“It touched a lot of kids in a lot of ways beyond the classroom, not that all of those kids went on to be artists, but surprisingly enough, there is a lot of them that did — teachers, potters, sculptors, painters, illustrators, it’s kind of cool to see you have a little bit of legacy of turning somebody on to something that they turn into a career or profession, and they blame you.”
Jackson’s professional career largely focuses on wildlife paintings and sculpture, but he’s expanded his subject matter over the years.
“I started off focused on wildlife, but now on some of my trips to Europe, I’ll be painting villages of Switzerland, or old farms on the outskirts of some of the villages, painting the Alps ... or spending time in the streets in Tuscany in Italy. There’s something to be said of the atmosphere of wherever you're at and letting yourself get absorbed," Jackson said.
As an artist, Jackson said he truly enjoys his work, life, and the people he meets in his travels.
“I’ve been fortunate to do something that I can share with people all over the place,” he said. “When somebody gets a piece of my art for their wall, we just became family. It's a great experience to share a piece of yourself ... it’s something that is very personal."
Jackson also has a book detailing his journey and art called “Enjoying the Journey: The Art of David W. Jackson”.
To learn more about Jackson’s art or connect with him, visit http://www.davidjacksonstudio.com/.
Emily Howsley is enjoying her adventures in the wild blue yonder of Texas.