“The hardest battle you will ever have to fight is between who you are now and who you want to be.” -Unknown
Narrative impressionism may be the best way to describe artist Jacob Secrest’s evocative acrylic paintings and charcoal drawings. Many have a specific story behind them. Some reflect the inner emotions of his life’s journey surfacing from a subconscious level. The path an artist travels is rarely a straight line. For Jacob, the journey has already been filled with ups, downs and U-turns.
Art was a passion from an early age and he received one of his favorite books on Claude Monet as a Christmas gift when only five years old. Regular visits to art museums and galleries fed his interest and he took Advanced Placement Art as a junior in high school in Plano, Texas. Once married and caring for a son, the weight of providing for his family led Jacob to choose what he saw as a safer path. He pursued a degree in Finance from Idaho State University. Graduating with awards and honors as the top graduate of that degree, he clearly had a head for numbers. A career in retail management followed as well as the birth of a second child. Art was forgotten.
Despite success in his career, his life was in a downward spiral. He divorced, and in 2014, Jacob found himself in a rehab facility having struggled with substance abuse for over a decade. Here he learned that he was, in effect, self-medicating to combat ADHD, social anxiety and depression. It was also at this point that his passion for art was rekindled. It was recommended upon returning home that Jacob spend time creating. It had been ten years since he had drawn or painted, but he took this advice to heart. Jacob always felt he was better than average, but never thought he could have a serious career based on his art. Initially, it served as the distraction he needed in the early stages of his recovery by filling free time and preventing boredom. He began posting his work on social media and was genuinely surprised by the positive response. Friends and family wanted to buy his work or commission pieces.
Having been awarded primary custody of his children, Jacob had a major decision to make. Stay with a job that meant working 50 or more hours a week or dive head first into a career in fine art which would give him the ability to work from home and spend quality time raising his kids. He chose the latter.
“I think my naiveté about the art sales world combined with my business background actually helped in my success. I just figured it out as I went.”
In the first year, he produced and sold over 100 pieces. Creating art out of pure necessity to provide for his children transformed into a drive to improve and take his art into new directions and additional subject matter. Jacob attended his first workshop with master artist, Jim Wilcox, in Jackson Hole, WY. This would have a dramatic effect on him as a person as well as his work.
“It was the first day of that workshop that I realized I had no clue what I was doing, that is, in terms of the fundamentals. I had a natural knack for art, but I hadn’t really learned the whys of what I was doing.”
He began dedicating more time to trial-and-error pieces while applying new knowledge. He no longer refused certain subjects and instead challenged himself to master them. He viewed challenges not as “can’ts”, but as “I just haven’t learned how yet” and forged ahead. He was producing one to two pieces a day and easily more than 200 a year. His ability grew exponentially.
“Everything I was doing was building blocks on one another taking me to new levels, but nothing has been more beneficial than the brush mileage. That is, painting and drawing a lot. I paint or draw continuously nearly every single day even if it’s just a little.”
Jacob’s painting time revolves around his children who are his primary focus. Being a dad comes first. He’ll spend his days prepping, researching or sketching, activities he can easily walk away from to attend to his son’s and daughter’s needs. Most of his work on finished pieces starts in the evenings after dinner with breaks as needed to spend time with his kids. Working until 2 or 3am, he’ll force himself to finally stop and get some sleep. He’ll often find his daughter, who also shares an interest in art, has made herself a bed on the floor right next to him while he’s painting.
“I prefer the quiet of painting at night, like less distractions of people contacting me or outside sounds. You don’t even want me to try and explain what’s going on in my head (laughs). Let’s just say I go through lots of therapy. I would say I’m laser focused in the sense that I just keep going without breaks or interruptions once I’ve started.”
His inspiration is as varied as his subject matter. It could be anything from something he saw on social media, things his kids say or do, maybe a song lyric, or something seen in everyday life. It’s only after time has passed that he sees how his struggles and emotions are reflected in his work. Sharing his pieces and seeing the connections they make with his audience “has meant more to me than most know”.
Jacob’s art started as therapy and through it, he gained more than expected. He found personal insight, emotional healing and the perfect way support his family. The Dutch Art Gallery is proud to represent Jacob Secrest.
Article written by Rebecca Zook