A Life in Paint

Local artist Jim Woodson has made a career out of painting how things are instead of what they are.

Woodson believes that everyone is born an artist. “Over time life teaches us that’s not what a responsible human is supposed to do,” he says.

From the time he was a small child, Woodson knew he would be an artist.  “There was no art in Waco. I didn’t know what art really was until I went to college. I came upon it through the back door,” he says.

Earning a BFA from Texas Christian University in 1965 and his MFA from The University of Texas at Austin in 1967, Woodson was designated as professor emeritus at TCU in 2014, where he had been on faculty for 40 years.

During his teaching career, Woodson believed his students could be taught to be artists to some degree. “At least on some level, one can get better. Now that doesn’t mean you are going to be great or significant, but if you are determined enough and are willing to work hard, you can be a good artist,” he says. “You have to teach yourself to be an artist. A teacher can facilitate things, but ultimately it’s up to you.”

Now that Woodson is no longer teaching, he has more time to spend in the studio. “I get more sleep now too. I have two studios packed with paintings. It’s kind of a sickness. I just keep making more and more and more. My favorite days are when I get up, and I’m in the studio all day. Usually I work from 9 or 9:30 a.m. until my wife comes home from work,” he says.

Coalescing Emerged Revelations, artist Jim Woodson, 2014, oil on canvas

The awe-inspiring terrain of the high deserts in the Southwest have for decades been the focus of Woodson’s paintings. Splitting his time between Fort Worth and a home juxtaposed against Ghost Ranch in Abiquiú, New Mexico, Woodson utilizes multiple methodologies when creating a piece, including painting on-site, from memory or from photographs he has taken. “When I’m in New Mexico, I can do plein air painting. I like the idea of not being so reliant on the photograph. It can be limiting.”

Woodson was influenced by the abstract figurative artists that lived in the bay area. He appreciates the contributions from Richard Diebenkorn and David Park and says, “I also admired Gorky. He had a way of drawing that was like a stream of consciousness.”

It’s hard for Woodson to put a label on his painting style. “I think there are aspects of a number of things. Some people see impressionistic qualities, which I don’t necessarily like. There’s abstraction involved, as well as some figuration. I’ve carved a little niche out of this for myself.”

In his artist’s statement, Woodson says: “I’m interested in calling attention to the act of painting as well as to how one understands visual conventions by combining self-referential marks and forms with more traditional rendering. I hope that these juxtapositions enliven the surface and create an ambiguous space that causes the viewer to question his/her notions about perceptional space. I would like to provide the viewer choices that lie between dualities like cultural and natural, perspectival and encompassed, near and far, representational and abstract, mythic time and geologic time, movement and stillness, order and chaos. I want the landscapes to be understood as a verb rather than a noun.”

Post Differentiated Coherences Recollected, artist Jim Woodson, New Mexico, 2005, oil on canvas

Over the decades, Woodson has continued to stay relevant in the art world. His 2001 painting, Lost Mine Trail (with Dim Tracers), found a home in the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth’s permanent collection. The 7-foot by 9-foot oil painting depicts one of Woodson’s favorite hiking trails in Big Bend. Additionally he was recognized as the official state artist (two-dimensional) for 2013 by The Texas Commission on the Arts.

Woodson’s favorite location to exhibit his work is the Valley House Gallery & Sculpture Garden at 6616 Spring Valley Road in Dallas. Woodson also leads artist talks on occasion at the Valley House Gallery. To preview any upcoming exhibits, visit valleyhouse.com.