In the latest installment of our occasional conversations with Fort Worth newsmakers, local artist Jacob Lovett, spoke with arts and culture editor Marcheta Fornoff about the process behind his oil paintings and his new exhibit “Blinders” which will open Sept. 10 during Fall Gallery Night

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. For the unabridged version, please listen to the audio file attached to this article.

Marcheta Fornoff: You have an upcoming show called “Blinders” at Love Texas Art. I’m assuming the name is “Blinders” because you do a lot of work with horses and rodeos, but I’m wondering if there is another meaning to that name as well. 

Jacob Lovett: Essentially the idea that came up whenever I found all these reference photos from a friend of mine (Steve Wrubel), he’s a photographer and another one of my friends was also doing some stuff with her business, and she had mentioned the word blinders. I really like that word and also kind of work a few different ways that, like the horses have blinders on whenever. But the idea of blinders was kind of taking the subject matter and producing something that has a little bit more meaning deeper down with the truth and a visual journey that we’re kind of all on and trying to figure out, like not everything’s black and white. There’s usually three sides to every story.

I think that a lot of people get stuck in the headlines or the crazy posts that we see on social media and whatnot, and we never look past that. We just kind of (stick to one) side or the other — left or the right side of whatever it might be — and this kind of has a deeper look into things. There’s usually a gray area between it all.

I wanted to utilize my Fort Worth roots and have a subject matter that people are familiar with. But then to, I guess, talk about deeper structures behind these things … not just taking everything for what it is. 

Opening reception

Time: 6-9 p.m.

Date: Sept. 10

Location:  Love Texas Art
501 Houston St
Fort Worth, TX 76102

Fornoff: It’s interesting that you’re talking about grayscale because in some of your other work you have a lot of color, but in this series, it really is all grayscale — black and white. 

Lovett: I wanted to utilize just black and white. So I only use a black paint, white paint, and then I mix everything to get all the different shadows, highlights and whatnot …  That also puts an emphasis on actually viewing the work itself. There’s no more distractions besides black, white and then all the grays in between. It kind of highlights the meaning behind the series as well. 

Fornoff: You mentioned growing up in Fort Worth. Was there anything else that influenced you to focus on horses and riders? 

Lovett: No, not not really. 

I mean, the friend of mine who had these photographs, they’re just beautiful. He put them in a different way with his fine art prints, and he’s also a rodeo photographer. You can see the raw image and then what he does with that, so I wanted to put a twist on it as well.

I think that every artist kind of steals from other people and there’s really no new original ideas, but just kind of like a kaleidoscope of the same idea. The reason why I chose that subject matter was because people from Fort Worth or even Texas or anywhere around the West, people were kind of enamored with the West, especially nowadays with shows like “Yellowstone,” and “1883,” coming out and hitting national and international audiences on all that good stuff. So the reason I chose that was just basically because it was something that I was rooted in. I’m not a cowboy by any means of the name, but I always had a fascination with them growing up and their ideals, their morals and the way that they live life is very inspiring to me. 

Fornoff: Yeah, you were inspired by cowboys, so logically you went to school and got a degree in marketing?

Lovett: (Laughs) exactly. I didn’t start painting until about four years ago. I never picked up a brush, never did anything like that. One day my friend messaged me and she was like, “Hey, can you paint a picture of my brother for my family?” and I ended up doing that. (I) looked up how to paint on YouTube, gave them the piece. (It) took me like a week or two to finish and the feeling that I got when I gave it to them and also the feeling that they got when they received the painting, something clicked there.

I wanted to see if I could do something a little bit better because it was pretty decent for the first go at it, but nothing I thought in my standards was, you know, excellent. So I went and found an artist here in Fort Worth by the name of Laert Aleksi (Xhaferi), and he has a studio (that) was right next to my house at the time. (I) just walked up there one day and ended up knocking on the door saying, ‘Hey, I want to learn how to paint,’ and he said, “Come by next week.” And for like three and a half years, I went once a week for two hours a week. I started doing things on my own. When I posted that first painting that I did, (there) was great feedback from a lot of people, so it just kind of fueled the fire within me.

All the inspiration that I have is kind of pulled from different points in my life. A lot of the things that I was doing earlier were like pop culture. I was boxing at the time, so I did a couple boxing paintings. I love sneakers, so I was doing a couple of sneakers here and there … I’m sure next year it’ll be something completely different, but the same style to keep continuity the same.

Fornoff: Yeah, you have these mesmerizing process videos that you post online. Can you talk about what it takes to go from like a blank canvas to the finished product?

Lovett: For me, it always starts with a photograph. I’ll put it in Photoshop, I’ll scale it to the size of the canvas that I’m working on and from there, I will draw the image that I see.

After I’m done doing that, I will use a technique called velatura or underpainting. Basically, it’s about 90% oil, 10% oil paint, and I’ll cover the entire image or the entire canvas, depending on the background, with a single color or multiple colors, depending on what the finished product is supposed to look like. So with these, it’s all been black oil paint, and after that, let it dry and go in and start painting all the major details and the major areas of the subject. And after that, hit the background for a few more details. It’s kind of an interesting process. There’s so many different ways to do it. That’s just kind of how I learned, and it’s been working for me. 

Fornoff: Do you pencil stuff in before you go in and paint (the under layer)?

Lovett: It will start with the photograph before and then I would draw the entire canvas of whatever the subject matter is … And that is just to make sure that all my proportions are completely correct. My style is realism, so if the proportions are off, it’s going to look a little funky, especially if you’re doing a horse. Everybody kind of knows what a horse is supposed to look like, so (I) try to keep it as to what it’s supposed to actually look like, you know? 

Fornoff: This is your first solo show since you picked up the paintbrush four years ago?

Lovett: Yeah. So last year, I became a full time artist while opening my studio (Muse). This will be like the second year of me professionally being a full time artist. Before that, I was doing it as a hobby. A couple people (would) ask me for paintings and commissions here and there and (I’d) sell a few things, but I was actually working two jobs while I was doing that to help pay for the art classes and stuff. But yeah, this is my first solo show for my professional career, you know. It’s really exciting.

Fornoff: Is there anything I didn’t ask you about that you want to mention or you think it’s important to know? 

Lovett: I think that covers most of it. The solo show is going to be at Love Texas Art Sept. 10 through Nov. 6. On opening night (Sept. 10) I’ll be there from 6 to 9, that’s during the Fort Worth Gallery night. A bunch of different galleries … are going to be open as well, so come out and check them all out, and see my show.

Fornoff: Thank you so much for your time. 

Lovett: Of course.

Marcheta Fornoff covers the arts for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at marcheta.fornoff@fortworthreport.org or on
Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.

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Marcheta Fornoff

For just over seven years Marcheta Fornoff performed the high wire act of producing a live morning news program on Minnesota Public Radio. She led a small, but nimble team to cover everything from politics...