Revealing the story behind each portrait
● By Kerigan Butt
Fisher works in a variety of mediums, shown in the works that are hanging on his studio wall.
By John Chambless
The way he tells it, Jarred Fisher has always wanted to be an artist.
“I would draw anything as a kid,” Fisher recalled recently. “Cereal boxes -- Frankenberry, Count Chocula, whatever. I would draw the guys on the boxes. I copied out of books, all that kind of stuff. My parents always supported me and bought me art supplies.”
Fisher's family was one of the first to move into Landenberg Hunt (their address is number 3), and he grew up as the star of his school art classes. “It was always my favorite class,” he said. “It always made sense to me.”
By the time he was in his senior year at Kennett High School, he had learned everything the school had to offer, so his teachers wrote him an independent study class. “Halfway through the year, I had already been accepted to all these art schools,” he said. "I knew what I was going to be doing."
Fisher chose the Delaware College of Art and Design in Wilmington, Del., and graduated in 2007 with a degree in fine art, with honors. Now, he's pursuing the path taken by every young artist – beating the bushes, talking to everyone who'll listen, and pursuing his artwork on a daily basis. It helps that he's an exceedingly gifted artist whose work is just beginning to blossom.
During an interview last month in the room he uses at a studio in the townhouse he shares with girlfriend, Annie Putnam, in Pike Creek, Del., Fisher showed boundless enthusiasm for both the arcane points of art theory and the down-to-earth approach he takes to make sure as many people as possible see his art. Hanging on nearly every inch of wall space were examples of his works in various mediums – oil and pastel paintings of horses and still-lifes, as well as sublimely skillful drawings of nudes that almost seem to breathe.
Tacked by the door are two flyers for Nelson Shanks' Studio Incamminati in Philadelphia, a very selective working environment that Fisher attends during the week. The two glowing portraits by internationally renowned Shanks “give me something to aspire to,” Fisher said with a smile. At the Philadelphia studio, he works eight-hour days on perfecting skills and mingling with everyone from gifted beginners to internationally acclaimed artists who get studio space at the school. That kind of one-on-one contact makes the long hours very rewarding, Fisher said.
The art schooling he has received was invaluable, he said, but he noted that many art schools tend to provide the basics and then steer students toward “big shapes and big colors,” the sort of contemporary, abstract direction that puts bold statement over fine craftsmanship.
“I like contemporary, I like progress, but don't get rid of the traditional things,” Fisher said. That includes being proficient in drawing well, not just throwing color on a canvas.
“You can learn all this conceptual stuff, but you have people coming out of art school, and they can't necessarily draw or paint,” he said. “For example, say I'm a sculptor. If somebody comes to me and says, 'I want a sculpture of my dog,' and I have to say, 'I'm sorry, I can't sculpt a dog,' I would have a really hard time saying I'm a sculptor."
Along those lines, Fisher said he does “tons of pet portraits” on commission. It helps that he has a lifelong love of dogs and once considered studying to be a vet technician. He's done landscapes – growing up in Landenberg, he was surrounded by vistas to paint – “but in still life and figure drawing, I can put a lot of myself into the work,” he said.
As part of his relationships with his models, “I talk to them incessantly,” he said. “My connection is to people. Everybody's got a story, and I'm interested in figuring out little pieces of it and putting it together." That's reflected in the ease and relaxation of the women in his drawings.
One of his models lives in Media, Fisher said. “I found her on a modeling website. She's six feet tall, she's a yoga instructor, and a fire dancer, she's got three-foot dreadlocks. So I met her and her longtime boyfriend, and they live in this little farmhouse. I know a lot about her.”
The depth of understanding of his subjects, Fisher said, tells a story in each work. “Art should tell stories,” he said, “Stories are our greatest currency.”
Fisher finds that, when he meets people at art fairs or exhibits, once they know the story behind one of his works, they're more likely to buy. The connection with the artist creates a depth of feeling for the artwork that goes beyond the way it looks.
No small part of the appeal of Fisher's work is his choice of mediums. His metalpoint drawings have a magical glow since they are done with a range of materials – gold, silver, and even platinum. The tools look like a mechanical pencil, but they hold slivers of precious metals. Once drawn onto a surface, the marks are permanent.
Although the medium is unforgiving of any mistakes, Fisher loves it “because the drawings look unlike anything else. Under a certain light, they're metal. They're organic things, and they get a patina over time. They change and shift. Each metal takes on a different patina.”
He can use sealant to arrest the patina in certain areas of a drawing once it reaches the right stage, but the copper, for instance, takes on a green tint if exposed to the air long enough. “There's a lot of things you can do with these drawings,” Fisher said. “It's a labor of love. But there's no erasing.”
Marketing himself is a necessary part of being an artist, Fisher admitted. “Ideally, every artist would all sit in the studio and work, somebody would come to the door and buy a bunch of stuff, and then we'd go back to work. But that's not the way it works.
“I never stop pushing myself,” he said. “I talk to everybody who's interested in art.”
His metalpoint drawings are not the kind of works that can be dashed off quickly, so Fisher's output is often a trickle. “I can't churn out six paintings a week” to keep up with demand, he said. He does paint small, colorful studies that people like. They tend to be still lifes of objects found around the house.
The business of selling art is a strange one, and Fisher is able to joke about the process. "My favorite is people who come to buy landscapes and there's a big old sky with a cloud in it. They want to pay half the price because the sky's empty. I'm dead serious," he said, laughing. "There was an article about things to do to sell more art, and it included 'Don't leave spaces in the painting too empty.' And there was 'Paint shiny objects,' because apparently we're all magpies. Things like that."
Another outreach is Fisher's involvement with Kennett Design, the storefront studio in Kennett Square where regional artists come in and teach absolute novices how to copy paintings while they enjoy wine and appetizers.
“I love to teach,” he said – even people who have never held a paint brush in their lives. “What we're doing is teaching people to copy, so that cuts out a lot of the problems right away,” he explained. “We do big shapes and colors, so somebody's not going to get their angles wrong. … Art is about problem solving, and I have solutions to every one of those paintings.”
Even though he's teaching people who are not necessarily taking the work seriously, Fisher said, “Even with the simple paintings, I teach people the proper techniques.”
While his career is going well, Fisher knows he has a long road ahead. And he's grateful for the opportunities he's had already.
“My dad was the one who gave me the money to go back to school,” he said. “He never wanted me to be a businessman. He always wanted what I wanted. I had the power to choose my own path. That's why I'm always in the studio, with my nose to the grindstone. I want to repay the people who've supported me. I'm looking for every door to kick open.”
For more information, visit http://artid.com/jarredfisher.
To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.