Contemporary Landscape Artist
Sometimes great things can come out of tragedy. Sometimes we learn more of who we are through suffering and trial. Any successful artist has to pay his or her dues; to work hard and go through a good number of failed paintings before they discover their artistic voice. And sometimes the struggle can be something not directly related to art, yet it can still have an impact on our art.
Born in the early 1970’s, and raised in rural Minnesota, landscape and wildlife artist Jason Tako discovered his artistic talent around Fourth Grade. Jason reflects, “It was autumn and our teacher drew a Cornucopia on the chalkboard, and we had to draw it. Mine turned out the best and received praise both from my teacher and classmates.” Jason continued to excel at art throughout school; this was demonstrated by winning Second Place in a state-wide illustration competition. However, in his senior year, he stopped drawing and painting altogether and dived head first into becoming an electric bassist.
After graduating with honors from music school, Jason continued to play in rock, jazz and country bands. Eight years later, after growing tired of smoky bars, he went through a couple life transitions. First, Jason rediscovered his Christian faith, and eventually converted to Catholicism. Not long after this, he again felt a desire to start drawing and painting. Jason recalls,“I didn’t know what I was doing; I just kept going out and filling as many sketchbooks as I could. It was suggested I go to art school, but at the time it seemed they only taught modern art, and I was into representational art. I figured that if I kept sketching, something good would eventually come out of it.”
Things did start to happen. After several years of sketching the wildlife and wetlands of Minnesota, Jason married his wife Becky and moved to Pennsylvania. Removed from the natural surroundings that he was used to, Jason then worked on his watercolor and oil painting technique. He eventually started winning awards at national shows like The Waterfowl Festival, the Society of Animal Artists Annual Show, and Plein Air Easton. Despite this success, he felt he still had a lot to learn. This drove him to seek instruction from world renowned landscape artist Scott Christensen. “Scott helped me tie up the loose ends in my work. His workshop, as well as the trip out to Wyoming inspired me in so many ways.” That year, Jason took two major awards at Plein Air Easton, was published in Plein Air Magazine and Western Art Collector Magazine, and was also told the joyful news that his wife Becky was pregnant with their fourth child.
It was not long after this that Jason, Becky and their children went through the most difficult time of their lives. When their son was born everything seemed fine. But the next day it was discovered that he had some medical problems that might require surgery. This was the start of an eight month hospital stay that included multiple pediatric surgeries, and a couple close brushes with death for his infant. “There were times of terror, and times when it seemed we would never get to go home with our son. Eight months is a long time to be in a hospital. We basically just went back and forth from our son’s room to the cafeteria day after day. Since we were 2 hours from home, we didn’t see our other children very often. I did try to do a few paintings in my son’s room, but I was not feeling very inspired. The only landscape I saw on a regular basis was the Philadelphia streets; and I’m not an urban painter.”
Despite the lack of inspiration, Jason still was able to attend and win awards at several plein air painting events that summer, including Second Place at both Mountain Maryland Plein Air and Easels in Frederick, and First Place in the Plein Air Camp Hill Quick Draw competition.
In early December the Tako family was finally home and together again. With the exception of several plein air painting events and a few day trips, Jason had missed painting spring, summer, and autumn of 2012. “We were home and I was ready to paint, but I didn’t have much reference to paint from. I used to paint more tonally, almost monochromatic at times, with a preference for overcast lighting, but after going through such an ordeal I wanted to paint more color, something more joyful. But much of the reference I had was from my tonalist days. And here it was, early December, with the colors of spring still months away.”
When spring finally came Jason headed out to paint. The first place he focused on was a goldmine of subject matter, the apple orchards in Adams County, PA; miles of rolling hills and mountains lined with rows of apple trees and scattered barns. “Originally I went just to paint a full moonrise coming up between the twisting apple tree branches. There was hardly any foliage at that time, so I returned for several weeks to do further studies of the leaves and blossoms as they developed. It wasn’t long before more painting ideas developed. One particular day was almost magical. I climbed a hill and walked into several long rows of apple trees with foliage and blossoms that formed a tunnel filled with dappled sunlight and shadows. Through the openings you could see the purples and blues of the distant hills. I sat down and spent the afternoon creating multiple field studies of the area. In these studies I captured the light and color in a way I never had in the past. It was a big leap for me artistically. My goal now is to continue on this path and explore all the options this has afforded me.”
“I have learned that when growing as an artist, you hit a point where you need to throw off the over-influence of other artists, as well as the concern of what other people think. While these things may never totally go away, you need to reach a point where you can honestly say, ‘This is who I am, this is how I paint.’ You need to reach a point where you feel your art has meaning for yourself and others. I think that all that time in the hospital, and the incredible heartache of watching my son go through so much pain and yet overcome the odds against death, forced me to look within myself in many ways. Among this was to consider who God created me to be and what life really means. This spilled over into who I am as an artist. While the pain of what my son and family went through will be with me for many years, I hope to be able to take some good from it and create art that will bring joy to a hurting yet beautiful world.”
Jason is currently working on creating studio paintings from this group of field studies he created this spring.