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Passion for Painting

passion for painting2/24/12
Worthington Campus
These days, Jackie Lee Hambleton finds much of her artistic inspiration from the area around her home on the northeast end of Mille Lacs Lake near Aitkin. But it’s likely that her interest in art had its roots during the early years of her life in Worthington, where she lived until age 3.

“I started drawing things as long back as I can remember - even 2 or 3 years of age,” she said. “I always putzed with it.”

Now Hambleton’s art has come full circle with an exhibit that opens today at Minnesota West Community & Technical College, Worthington campus, where her oldest daughter, Nancy Jo Hambleton, is an instructor.

After her family left Worthington, they lived in various places in Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota, and Hambleton continued to pursue her artistic endeavors, although she never seriously considered making it a vocation.

“I did quite a bit through my schools years, but in my days of growing up, they didn’t encourage people to be artists, although I did receive encouragement from my teachers and others,” she recalled. “But I grew up thinking I couldn’t do it as a career, that you needed to get a real job. And I did all kinds of real jobs in my day.”

Those “real jobs” and raising a family took priority over art for quite a number of years. “Marriage and five children took over,” she said. “Art got set aside a lot. And my health went down the tubes.”

A bout with rheumatic fever as a child resulted in continued health problems, and later in life she has developed rheumatoid arthritis and has undergone multiple joint replacement and other surgeries.

“When I started losing my joints, I was in a wheelchair and got so depressed. It was like my world was falling apart,” she said, adding that returning to her artwork helped bring her out of that funk and continues to be therapeutic.

In her younger years, Hambleton had only watercolor paints to work with, but today she prefers acrylics.  “I used to do some oils — I love oils — but I don’t have good ventilation and they take so long to dry,” she said. “Now they have so many add-ons for the acrylics so you can create more textures, and they are getting more pigmented, and that makes a difference.”

Largely self-taught, Hambleton has also tried her hand at sculpture, wood, ceramics, fabric and yarn arts, although painting is her main emphasis. When it comes to subject matter, Hambleton tackles a wide range.

“I haven’t done nudes,” she said with a twinkle in her eye. “Somebody asked me about that, and I told them I had changed enough diapers. But I do paint people, and I love painting faces and drawing them. Sometimes I have to tell myself to stop staring at that person so much. Animals are the same thing — their eyes just talk to me, their expressions. I especially love the faces of old people - the lifetimes of stories in their faces.”

While she’s willing to paint just about anything and has taken commissions and even taken her brush to theatrical sets over the years, Hambleton generally sticks to a realistic point of view. She finds inspiration in the works of Dutch realist masters, artists of the Italian Renaissance and contemporary illustrators. “I do very little abstract,” she said. “My purpose is to replicate the reality I see in front of me.”

Because of her mobility issues, Hambleton often works from photographs, many taken by husband Gary, who also fashions frames from old barn wood on their property to complement her paintings.

“My mind is always ahead on what I want to do next,” admitted Hambleton. “My husband teases me about all the photos I take for future use. He tells me that I’ve got thousands of pictures already, and it’s going to take me 100 and some years of living to get all the painting done I want to do.”

For the Worthington exhibit, Hambleton selected about 25 paintings that will hang in the corridor of the college’s Fine Arts Building. The opening reception will be from 7 to 8:30 p.m. today, and the exhibit will continue through March 23.

By: Beth Rickers, Worthington Daily Globe