Local artist followed dream

Whether he realized it then, he was falling in love with the landscape – a prelude to his future as an artist. It creeps up on most artists early in their lives; subjects have a habit of drawing artists’ focus. Though Abbott’s subjects vary, his landscapes are the strongest, with bright light and vivid colors softened by his impressionism.
But Abbott took a journey that did not lead him directly into art. He continued to draw but did not dream of becoming a full–time artist. Born in Alabama, he traveled the U.S. and Europe with his family. In college Abbott struggled to settle on a major and decided on history. His choice didn’t feel right and he wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a U.S. Air Force pilot but soon realized his lack of aptitude in math would prevent him from becoming one.
Abbott then signed on with the U.S. Navy and spent 10 years working for the National Security Agency, the Office of Naval Intelligence, and finally contracted with the U.S Coast Guard as a systems analyst. During this time he recalled wandering into an art gallery where his love of art was rekindled, but he made no attempt to follow what was deep within.
But by 2002 he was out of a job with a family to support. While he was looking for work he started to paint. He started out with pastels and within a few months switched to oils.
“I was under tremendous strain. We only had a few months left of our 401k. I had to find a job or produce some art that would sell,” Abbot said. A year later he was down to his last $138. He then took a chance on an idea.
“I approached MacArthur Center in Norfolk to see if they would allow me to paint in their mall,” Abbott said. “I was broke but managed to scrape $400 together to rent a small space next to a seating area. I was terrified. I did not sell a single thing that first week, or the next. But as I painted I noticed people seemed to like what I was painting. They weren’t buying anything but they weren’t throwing tomatoes either.”
The next two weeks were the turning point; Abbott sold nearly $3,000 worth of originals in eight days. “I was just beginning and getting better every day,” he said. “I loved that the public was paying me to learn how to paint. I had no idea what was coming – but in the next nine months I sold $65,000 worth of my oils. I would later learn that put me in the top 1 percent of all earning artists in North America.” The following year he made $100,000.
But it was Jack White, a successful artist for over 40 years and the author of The Mystery of Making It, that inspired Abbott and led him on the pathway to artistic success. The book put an end to all the myths learned in formal art school training, Abbott said. He illustrated his point by telling a story about a skilled friend who found little success as a paid artist after graduation from art school. White wrote the book for seasoned artists as well as artists like Abbott, who were just starting to market their art.
“You have to think about your audience when creating art. It may not be what you want to create,” Abbott said. “Art must be sold. It increases its value.”
California artist Mikki Senkarik was also an influence on his work. “I became a painter because of her,” Abbott said. Her impact is seen in Abbott’s vivid colors and the details in his work. Artists who study other artists or are mentored by them often gravitate toward that particular style.
Now Abbott has settled at Lake Monticello and would like to teach others what he has learned. He teaches in acrylics or oils. The cost of the class is $35 per person but three people are required for a class. He will come to a student’s home.
For more information about commissions or classes, call Abbott at 757–630–6339 or visit his website at http://www.jasonabbott.com.


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