There comes a time for all artists, no matter the medium, when they find themselves struggling with what they are trying to convey or express. Sacramento artist Jim Shepherd was no exception. The struggle is not a failure for Shepherd, but a challenge to overcome in order to keep doing what he loves: painting. His passion for creating art goes beyond the canvas and into the art community itself. For Shepherd, art is not only about expression but also helping others be inspired to find direction for their own expression.
Recently Shepherd has begun to take steps to contribute to the Sacramento art community by opening up his home for artists to meet and collaborate as well as curating art shows. The paint parties he hosts are to help encourage shy artists to come out of their homes and ease themselves into a comfortable and expressive environment. For these parties, Shepherd sets up two easels in his home studio and offers his paints and brushes for use. The artists are encouraged to paint whatever they like however, there is a small disclaimer: everyone is allowed to paint over whatever they feel like does not belong. For some artists this can be a bit intimidating, especially for ones just starting out. Shepherd reassures everyone that it is not to offend but to help build skills and techniques as well stimulate ideas for future artwork. Rather than keeping techniques a secret from one another, the parties stir up conversation and collaboration amongst the artists. He enjoys observing the “different possibilities that can happen when two unacquainted artists get together and collaborate on a piece.” He wants his guests to be able to go home with something learned or gained to help push out an idea that has been dwelling in their minds. Shepherd’s goal is to keep these monthly meet ups going and have an end of the year art show in which some of the proceeds will go to a non-profit organization.
In addition to the paint parties, Shepherd has been given the opportunity to plan monthly themed art shows at the Contemporary Dance Conservatory located off of 26th street and Blues Alley in Sacramento. Each month Shepherd will pick a theme which the artist must reference when creating the piece(s) for the show. The shows are being planned to land on every Second Saturday of the month. The receptions are meant to be fun and inviting for both the viewer and artist. It is also another way for Shepherd to help contribute to the value of the city. He believes “if more people contribute to the city and its communities, the more the city will grow and have to offer to its citizens.” His city commissioned mural for the Kay Street District had a similar message. A quote by Hugh Newell Jacobsen reads, “When you look at a city, it’s like reading the hopes, aspirations and pride of everyone who built it.” It is about encouraging people to get out of the “there is nothing to do here” mentality and experiencing the great things their city has to offer.
As of late, Shepherd has been feeling like he doesn’t quite put himself in his paintings. “I think that is my biggest problem right now,” as he continues, a bit disgruntled, “I am still trying to figure out how to put myself IN the fuckin’ thing.” As Shepherd looks at a painting hanging on the wall in his home studio, his voice softens and he begins to critique his own work, “I do okay with skin tone. I do okay with value. But I am still fighting content, what does it all mean? That is what I am trying to figure out for myself.” Shepherd has a keen sense of how things look in terms of shade, shape and making things look the way he wants. To “look, see, and copy” as he puts it, comes easily for him, however, when it comes to conceptualizing his own ideas, Shepherd feels like he is “under construction.” Although Shepherd finds his work a bit “shallow”, he is acknowledging it and taking it as a challenge. His determination to overcome his current obstacle is what drives him to keep working. Painting is something that is a part of him and will not be easily taken away. “It is something I do as a compulsion. It is something I feel like I want, I have, and need to do.” Shepherd continues to paint in order to get to the place where he strongly feels he has something to express. Shepherd explains, “these paintings are just practice until I have something big to say.”
Even if Shepherd is feeling like his current work carries no weight or meaning, his work is visually compelling. His understanding of color is clearly noticeable throughout his work. His compositions are neat and comfortable for the eye to move around. In order to create his work, Shepherd very skillfully blends and layers different colors in order to build subject matter. Most of Shepherd’s work is comprised of different figures in a variety of forms and configurations. He explains the figure is a form that everyone can understand and relate to. “I am drawn to the form. It is fun to paint and it is still something I am practicing with.” Shepherd takes great pleasure in painting and is not necessarily looking to make a living from it. The moment he has to force himself to use it as a source of income will be the very moment he loses the fun in making art. Shepherd laughs as he recounts a time someone commented on his pricing, saying, “You’re very economical.” Instead of depending on his artwork to pay the bills, Shepherd currently works for Verizon Wireless and although it does help when a piece of art gets sold at the end of the day he knows that art is not going to pay for his medical bills if things go south. “I do it for fun. I do not necessarily want to make a buck from it. It is just something I enjoy to do.”
Shepherd says that the best advice he was ever told was “don’t stop.” He has painted by those words every day since then and will continue to do so.
Jim Shepherd has a piece in an upcoming benefit show WEAVE at the Arthouse on 1021 R st. The Second Saturday reception will be on April 11th from 4 to 9pm. He has another show at the Cafe Colonial on 3520 Stockton Blvd starting the 18th of April, with a reception from 6 to 9pm. The show will run until mid-May. In addition Shepherd is curating a show at the Contemporary Dance Conservatory on 213 26th St. April 25th 6p-10p. The theme is “Night.”
Check out Jim Shepard on his Facebook page.
Words and Photos: Alejandro Montaño.