Artist by education and in spririt: Jeanne Parsons

Published 10:00 pm Friday, July 24, 2015


When Jeanne Parsons was a young girl growing up in Connecticut, she was equally captivated by drawing and by horses.

 “I always loved horses, and I loved art,” said the Tryon resident who has painted horses, other animals, and whose own horseback riding has led her through many a fox hunt; over miles of trails; including those near Tryon; and in a Presidential inauguration parade in Washington, DC.

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 Parsons, an artist by education and in spirit, teaches art and painting at Isothermal Community College. In her youth, it was difficult to separate the artist from the horse person, as though any reason existed to do so.

 “They (horses and art) fought for time in my life.”

 Born in Ohio, with a short spell in Memphis, Tennessee, Parsons moved, at age seven, to the rural countryside near Newtown (“that Newtown,” she noted), CT, and was spellbound by the rolling hills and rural nature of her new home.

 “I love the landscape of Connecticut, the rolling hills  . .  . “ she remembers. This (the Tryon area) is very much the same. It’s a wonderful area to have a horse,” with its many riding trails.

 She’s resided here for ten years. She even brought with her a beloved horse from Connecticut. The horse passed away just last year, at the age of nearly 35, but Parsons has another. She cares for it and two other horses on neighboring property.

 “It’s right on a trail system,” she smiled. “You can go forever.”

 Art came early.

 “As a child, I always drew. My parents were not artists, but they were very supportive,” including setting up a drawing area for her.

 Though Parsons taught riding, showed horses, loved fox hunting (Where the fox always gets to live, she emphasized), “now, I’m spending more time with my art, and finding such joy. Now I’m happy to be doing more painting.”

 Drawing is the backbone of her artwork.

 “Mostly now I paint, but drawing is such a foundation for any medium. I start with drawing, and turn it into a painting.”

 Parsons, who has done a good deal of side saddle riding and showing, belonged to the International Side Saddle Organization that focuses on this traditional women’s style of riding.

 Organization officials asked her to represent the group in the 1981 inauguration parade for Ronald Reagan. She did ride side saddle in that parade, and remembers the experience fondly.

 “It was really a thrill,” she recalled, “just to be part of that.”

 Though not represented by any gallery, Parsons has displayed her work at various venues, and has a market, based on word of mouth.

 As she matures as an artist, her relationship with her mostly animal subjects has grown as well.

 “I try to capture who they are, as well as what they look like. That’s the fun of it. It feels so good,” Parsons continued. “It feels like you’ve contributed something to society.”

 Much of her work is sold as giclee ((ghee-clay) prints—fine art reproductions in limited runs.

 “I only paint a painting once,” she noted, but the giclee prints (“These are signed and numbered,” she emphasized) look identical to the original print, due to thorough work by skilled technicians using the most modern of reproduction equipment, including computer programs. Runs are limited to 50 or fewer prints.

 “If I sell fifty, there’ll never be any more.”

 Placing these high-quality reproductions on the market “lets people collect fine art at a much more reasonable price than original paintings.”

 While most of the animals Parsons paints on commission are horses, dogs and cats, her subjects include a goat and an iguana. The iguana hung over a television screen which seemed to captivate it.

 She’s also painted sensitive and fanciful renditions of human subjects

 Parsons’s budding art career got a boost in high school.

 “I had a wonderful high school art teacher, she recalled. “She was an excellent water colorist, a big influence in it being my favorite medium . . . I love it.”

 Watercolor represents “a transparent medium,” Parsons continued. It gives a transparency. They have a glow and liveliness and spontaneity that makes water color a special medium.”

 College for Parsons was a four-year art curriculum at Rhode Island School of Design, where she studied illustrating.

 In Connecticut, she worked commercially for Lion’s Den Studios in Bethel. She also served on the board of directors of the Society of Creative Arts of Newtown. She’s currently a member of Tryon Painters and Sculptors and Tryon Arts and Crafts. Her work has been exhibited in New England and North Carolina, and is represented in private collections around the U.S.

 She lists painters John Singer Sargent, Winslow Homer and Richard Schmid among her influences. She’s been influenced by what they have felt, and what they have expressed in their work.

 Before moving to Tryon, Parsons had her own frame shop. This fall, she’ll teach a course in framing, at ICC, in addition to drawing and painting.

 “I think painting is always a growth process,” Parsons noted.  “As soon as we reach one thing we’re working on, we raise the bar.”

 She feels the best part of teaching is watching her students experience their own creativity and growth as artists.

 She revels in “nature– its light and color.” She’s drawn to natural scenes of small streams, rocky coastlines and others.

 “Just being able to experience it is magic.”