GALLIA COUNTY — The act of creation is a process of ‘thieving in broad daylight,’ becoming equal parts self-revelatory and self-discovery to Gallipolis-based artist Jamie Sloane.
A native of Huntington, W.Va., Sloane has lived in Gallia County since 2003, when he got out of the military, but his Gallipolis roots run much deeper than that.
Sloane said. “We used to come and visit with family in the summers. The people here are wonderful.”
He has traveled extensively in the US — “There are only two states I haven’t been to.” He was born and grew up in a larger city, and lived and worked in Columbus for a while.
However, Sloane said he finds the quiet of a small town more amenable to his particular brand of creativity.
“Gallipolis vibrates on a lower frequency,” Sloane said, “I think I’m designed for a slower-paced environment.”
That was when he started to paint, after his discharge. It was something he’d always wanted to do, but found that in the odd period after leaving the military, it was time to put brush to paper.
“When I got out, I had that strange depression that comes with the adjustment to the ‘normal’ world.”
Starting out with abstract painting, Sloane applied the principles of music composition he’d learned while studying at Marshall University to his paintings.
“At a base level it’s all the same and I just applied it to the canvas. I composed on a canvas the way I would in music.”
Without art, he said, he feels constricted, pigeon-holed.
“The true part of who I am is on the canvas. You can do or be anything in the art world. I think that’s the message behind why I do it. It’s an opportunity to be fully myself in a world that isn’t always receptive.”
“But I wouldn’t want it any other way,” Sloane added, “You get to a certain point in your life when you realize the things you thought were flaws, are actually blessings.”
At the same time, Sloane said, he is not afraid to steal liberally from people he admires.
Among his major influences Sloane lists Norman Rockwell, 90s graffiti artist Jean Michel Basquiat, Grant Wood, and Thomas Hart Benton.
“People are surprised when I mention Rockwell,” Sloane said, “A lot of people consider him just an illustrator, but he does everything a great artist does.”
Sloane said he pays attention to people who “do it better” — whether it’s painting, drawing, or just living.
“I’m always trying to crack people open and figure out their methods,” he said. “I try to surround myself with people who have something I want: in personality, morality, or artistic ability. I’m not a jealous person. I can appreciate others’ success and come as close as I can. Then it becomes a habit.”
Although Sloane didn’t start painting until about 10 years ago, he noted, he drew a lot as a child — and was good at it. He was always interested in other people’s art, too.
“My dad would take me to the Huntington Museum of Art, and I always knew I was going to paint. I never felt intimidated by it.”
His technical drawing ability came from his dad, Sloane said, but his creativity came from his mother.
“My mom sang, and played the organ at church. I grew up singing with her. She’s always got creative things going on. I approach things the way she does. I walk away from something and think about it before I take the next step.”
Always experimenting, always adapting new ideas, Sloane said he doesn’t stay in one place long, artistically speaking.
“That explains the ‘multiple personality’ feel of my show.”
The fall 2013 show at the French Art Colony was the first time he’d publicly exhibited his work, and it was a great experience, Sloane said.
“That was the best moment of my life.”
But the icing on the cake was that several of the pieces in the FAC show had already been sold to a private collector. The collector, whose name has been withheld to protect his privacy, had heard about Sloane’s work through a friend of a friend.
“He came over and I was dressed in hunting gear,” Sloane remembered. “He looked at my work and thought I must be a collector too, because there was such a range of styles. He went through everything in my studio and said he’d grab the ones he wanted.”
The collector spent $8,000 that day.
“I was elated. All this work I’d done as a hobby. I was just overwhelmed.”
The collector took the paintings to one of his office buildings in a city not too far away.
“His interior decorator said to me, ‘thanks to you, now I have to redecorate everything.’” Sloane laughed.
His work now hangs beside that of one of his heroes — Thomas Hart Benton.
“You can imagine the kind of impact that had on me,” Sloane said.
It was a surreal experience, too, partly because he believes that art doesn’t really belong the artist but to all its predecessors.
“It’s arrogant to think that your art belongs to you alone.”
It’s arrogance that stunts evolution for artists of all sorts, Sloane said. Progress comes for artists, he added, when they give up on setting out to be entirely original and just become professional thieves.
“That’s when you become a better artist.”