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Profiles: Rory Jackson in Bristol

BRISTOL — Sitting outside his studio in downtown Bristol, greeting fellow business owners and shoppers, Rory Jackson seems to know everyone in town.
“It can be distracting,” the artist says of his studio’s public location, “but it’s really important to me to have the energy, the interaction with life.”
Jackson, 31, has been working out of this location, on Main Street across from Bristol Bakery, for two years now.
“Bristol’s a special place, there are so many good people,” he says.
Jackson, who lives in Lincoln, has deep roots in Vermont, both geographically and artistically. His uncle, Woody Jackson, and mother, Anne Cady, are both painters of rural Vermont scenes who have earned some acclaim.
Rory Jackson says his greatest influence was his grandmother Marge Cady, a pastel artist who lived in Middlebury.
“She had an art show the day she died,” he remembers.
Cady, who attended Middlebury College and directed a Writers’ Workshop that met at Ilsley Public Library for 13 years, died in 2005.
Jackson’s own artwork depicts Vermont land- and seascapes. He will display new paintings at the Edgewater Gallery in Middlebury in a show opening Aug. 8.
“I knew what I wanted to do when I was 14,” Jackson says of his love for art. Nonetheless, he’s certainly had an interesting path to his career as a professional artist.
While he was still in high school, Jackson traveled to Ghana with Mark Johnson, his global studies teacher at Mount Abraham Union High School, to learn about music. Over the years, he returned to the African country to surf and paint. Eventually, he purchased 23 acres in Cape Three Points, in western Ghana.
Struck by the challenges facing Ghanaian children in getting adequate education, Jackson founded the Trinity Yard School on his property in 2008. The school aims to help rural students realize their potential through a combination of vocational and traditional education.
“My mom had an art school for kids, so she showed me that it was possible,” Jackson says.
It was also around that time that Jackson began to pursue a career as a professional artist. For him, coming back to Vermont was the natural choice.
“Vermont’s the ideal place. There’s freedom, natural beauty, and people who really support and appreciate art.”
Jackson now splits his time between Addison County and Ghana, where he spends the winter. He is married to a woman from Ghana, Henrietta Agyemang, and they have two children: Judah, who is eight and a half, and Jahlani, who is six.
Since May of this year, Jackson has had an exclusive relationship with the Edgewater Gallery in downtown Middlebury, which is now the only location that sells his work. Although his studio in Bristol is still important to him, it is now primarily a place of work, not sales.
Jackson’s newest artwork features landscapes and seascapes from Ghana as well as Vermont. Inspired by the surf break in front of his house in Cape Three Points, he has produced a number of seascapes.
He also enjoys painting aerials — landscapes presented from an aerial perspective, as though the viewer were in a helicopter, looking down at the terrain.
In the back of his studio he pulls out one of the new aerials, of a characteristic Champlain Valley landscape.
“I’ve learned some interesting things about perspective,” he explains.
“See, in the front, closer to the viewer, the pigment is clear,” he says, indicating the dark green of the painting’s foreground, “but as I go back, I add sky color to create depth.”
The effect is striking: Light blue mixed with the green pigment obscures the horizon as though there were an atmosphere in the painting, creating a wide-open sense of space.
“Maybe one day I’ll include people in the landscape. For now,” Jackson says, nodding toward the studio’s windows, which open out on Main Street, “there’s enough people in the landscape.”
PAINTING BY RORY JACKSON

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