In My Opinion

Pat Grabill

Since I took my first watercolor class at the end of the 90’s–thanks to an Eli Lilly Foundation summer Teacher Creativity Grant–I have enjoyed making friends in the Watercolor Society of Indiana and learning that  I can recognize without looking at the name on a painting those painters whose work I admire very much.  For example, I don’t have to look at Jeanne McLeish’s name on a painting to know that Jeanne painted it.  I know a Bob Myers when I see it from across a room.  I recognize Bob Bratton’s work without even seeing his name.  And I could go on. 

So I ask myself, how is it that I can tell which artist painted which work without even seeing a name.  There are a lot of reasons, but one of them is the painter’s palette, or the colors chosen by an artist to express his/her painter’s personality on whatever surface he/she uses to build the art.  I would, however, like to add an additional definition to palette.  I am a writer and a teacher of writing, and I always told my students that if they were going to be accomplished writers, they needed to identify the audience for their writing and they needed to find their own individual voices.  By voice I mean the personality of the writer should come through in whatever they write.  If I know your speaking voice and how you deal with words and ideas, I should be able to recognize that same voice in your writing.  I think the same concept is true in painting.  The colors chosen by an artist are–along with other things like design, etc., part of that painter’s voice.  Each painting is a story to be told, after all, and each artist is a storyteller.

One artist whose work I love is Jerry Smith, who is, in my opinion, an Indiana Master artist.  I ALWAYS  recognize Jerry Smith’s work when I see it because his color palette is truly his painter’s voice no matter whether he’s painting watercolor, acrylic, or oil.  There are, of course, many other things that make Jerry a wonderful artist, but his color palette is the first thing that catches my eye.  Jerry clearly understand the first concept: audience.  He knows who the audience is for his work, and he sells his work to many art lovers who are his audience.  The palette he chooses for his work is ALSO part of his voice; it’s something that makes his work immediately recognizable.

Jerry has given me permission to share three of his paintings with you.  In the art classes I’ve taken, it seems to me that instructors and others do not spend a great deal of time on the artists’ palette as an identifying factor in his/her work.  Take a look at Indiana Master Jerry Smith’s work, and you’ll see what I mean.  I love the earth tones in his work–the ochres and siennas and earthy greens–and they appear over and over in Jerry’s paintings, whether watercolor, acrylic, or oil. I guess you could say that I’m a fan.  But that’s just my opinion.

Plymouth Beach – Jerry Smith


Port Clyde – Autumn – Jerry Smith

Sycamore Reflections – Jerry Smith