During a 20-year period when Jim Draughon collected numerous pieces of art for his extensive art collection, a question loomed at the back of his mind.
“Every time I bought an artist’s work, I thought about how much I enjoyed painting as an undergraduate art major,” says the Orange resident. “I’d look at my new acquisition and think, I can do this,” recalls Draughon, who built a successful career in land development during his hiatus from art in the 1980s and 1990s.
Finally, in 1998, Draughon heeded his inner voice and returned to art.
“When I jumped into painting again, I started with watercolors and then transitioned into painting in oil,” says the artist, who chose to take up painting en plein air, which is a French term that means “in open air.” The popular contemporary California art movement involves painting outdoor scenes on the spot to capitalize on natural light and capture scenes in a true sense.
Draughon’s subject matter, which is primarily the California landscape, lends itself well to the en plein air painting method. “I love painting the California landscape, because the wide variety of scenes to paint are incredible,” says Draughon, who focuses his efforts on the state’s deserts and coast.
“The desert has a wonderful muted light that becomes intense in early morning and late afternoon, at which times the colors become rich and varied,” he says. “I also enjoy capturing the various rock forms and vegetation in the desert, and the coast with the water, waves and shoreline offers dramatic subjects.”
The painting pictured in this issue known as “Boulder Hopping” is a 9x12 oil on canvas painted in 2011 in Andreas Canyon, which is located in the Coachella Valley. Draughon and his wife, Vivian, own a vacation home in Palm Canyon outside of Palm Springs, and many of Draughon’s paintings depict this region.
“Andreas Canyon contains great geological forms, and there is a creek running through the area year-round,” he says. “I was with a painter friend when we found that particular scene, which had a nice composition with the mountain backdrop and the boulders in the water.”
Draughon feels “Boulder Hopping” is successful because it has rich colors in details such as dead fronds on a palm tree. “The burly, rough leaves on the palm are actually very colorful and create a more authentic representation of the tree,” he says.
Christine Thompson is co-owner of Copperwood Artware in Old Towne, where Draughon has shown his work since the gallery opened in 2004.
“Jim’s work consists of location paintings in truly untouched areas of the state that people familiar with the areas recognize,” she says. “You won’t see any human touches like telephone poles in his paintings. Oil painting is challenging in its own right, and especially en plein air. Some artists have a tendency to overdo oils by becoming heavy handed, but Jim doesn’t do that. His colors are authentic and strike a perfect balance.”
Draughon was born in Texas but raised in Denver. As a child, he spent most of his time drawing and painting and even had his first gallery show right out of high school. Soon after that experience, he joined the Navy and spent some time stationed in various locales, including Japan.
When he left the service at 22 in 1973, Draughon earned an AA in fine art from El Camino College and a BFA from California State University, Fullerton in 1976. He wanted to pursue a career in art, but opted for a steadier paycheck, going back to graduate school for a degree in Landscape Architecture at Cal Poly Pomona, which led to working in land development.
Today, Draughon works as a real estate development advisor and is able to devote time to his art.
“I started painting 15 years ago after a long hiatus, because I’ve always enjoyed the process and the end product,” he says. “I don’t think I would want to rely on art as a main source of income, because that would make it feel like a job, but it’s been great to accumulate paintings and exciting that people purchase them.”
Visit Draughon’s website at jadraughonart.com. Meet the artist and see his work at the October 5th opening of the “Art by the Foot” show at Copperwood Artware located at 148A North Glassell in the Plaza. www.copperwoodartware.com, or call 714-633-8374 for information.
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