How did you get started and then develop your career?
Russell Jewell: Although my high school offered zero art classes, they did offer drafting and mechanical drawing opportunities. Following high school, I considered becoming an art educator even though I had never seen the inside of an art class. In becoming an art educator, I wanted to offer my students what I had never experienced. By pushing my own education, I believed I improved not only my teaching but also my student’s skills. I obtained a Doctorate in Art Education.
For 36 years I taught high school Advanced Placement Studio Art. I took students to Europe. I received a Fulbright Memorial Fund Scholarship to Japan. It was summer freedom that allowed me to pursue my own art interests studying under artists such as Charles Reid, John Salminen, Al Stine, Alvaro Castagnet, Joseph Zbukvic, Tom Lynch, Alex Powers, Don Andrews, and George James.
Eventually, I found the comradery and competition of plein air, having now competed in eleven Plein Air Easton and multiple other competitions. In 2008, I developed my own plein air viewfinder and received a US patent. Today I am enjoying retirement, teaching workshops, and competing in plein air events around the country.
How do you describe success?
I describe success as the culmination of a responsible life. In my education, I was responsible to my family’s financial future. In teaching, I was responsible to my students in offering the best secondary art education experience possible. In developing my own art, I was responsible to my artistic abilities and the legacy I wish to leave behind.
How do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration when I soak in the world, whether it be in harmony with others or in the solitude of nature. I interpret the world into my work and share it with others.
What is the best thing about being an artist?
There are a few things in life from which you can choose to never retire. One of those things is being a child, another is being an artist. If nourished, both will forever allow one to enjoy the sense of discovery.
Who do you collect?
I have art work from some of my favorite watercolorists — Alex Powers, Alvaro Castagnet, and Joseph Zbukvic. My most heartfelt story comes from Alvaro. During a workshop Alvaro indicated his father was gravely ill and not expected to live. The next morning, Castagnet revealed his father had passed. Alvaro said, “Let’s go paint.” I purchased his painting that morning.
Years later my own father passed. In the midst of painting my father’s portrait, I thought of Alvaro. In an email I let him know I was thinking of him and that I had bought his painting the morning of his father’s death. Alvaro responded via email, “My father was my greatest supporter. He really enjoyed seeing me paint… I know he would have approved of me painting on that very special day… Art transcends life.”
To see more of Russell’s work, visit: www.russelljewell.com