A Year in Art - Annual Review - Art of Jason Rafferty

Detail "Addison Farms Vineyard", oil on hand-prepared panel, August 2016. 

"Addison Farms Vineyard", oil on hand-prepared panel, August 2016. 16" x 12". Painted one session on location at Addison Farms Vineyard in Western North Carolina, the rest from memory and imagination in our studio. 


Narrative / Multifigurative Artwork

Perhaps the most significant direction my artwork has taken this last year is the development of a number of multifigurative narrative pieces - drawings and paintings that weave a story together with human protagonists. The plot may or may not be clear, inviting the viewer to revel in the playfulness and details of the following works. I'm very passionate about exploring this type of art moving forward, and have been preparing figure studies in my notebooks while studying the wealth of the western classical narrative painting tradition for the last handful of years, slowly working up to creating this type of work. It's like seeing the first buds of seeds planted years ago, very exciting!

"Le Grand Depart", (The Great Departure), graphite, charcoal, chalk, and walnut ink on tone paper.

This one is just for fun - originally conceived as a gift for an artist friend - it is a whimsical, fictional scene of a carriage guided by reindeer and a donkey setting out from a village into an adventure. The women on the carriage are being waved off by a motley group of multigenerational figures in period clothing accompanied by a honking goose and leaping cat. This drawing is conceived in the old tradition of the "caprice" - playful designs executed with technical precision where the plot is left a bit of a mystery.

"Le Rencontre Avec Le Philosophe", (Meeting with the Philosopher), graphite, charcoal, chalk, and walnut ink on tone paper. A mythical rendering of a visit I attended with contemporary 'grand master' artist Ted Seth Jacobs at his home in Les Cerquex, France a couple summers ago with my Studio Escalier classmates. Jacobs lives in a 17th century home in a small country hamlet just below the Loire Valley. Here the master lectures students gathered around in earnest attention. Some have drawings to show him. One of Jacob's paintings is shown on the mantle. Can you find the two mischevious mice?

"Allegory of Buncombe County: Past, Present, & Future", mural proposal for city of Asheville, NC and Buncombe County, NC. Summer 2016.

Famous historical Asheville citizens including Zelda Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe, Grove and Vanderbilt are featured alongside local construction workers, farmers, brewers, musicians, entrepreneurs and others in this mural design I presented for the new Asheville City Courthouse building. I recycled the poses of the central figures who are "passing the torch" from the poses of the hand-shaking figures from the following piece below, which I was drafting at the same time. Also, the construction workers with the beam at left are from a Rubens composition, "Raising of the Cross". The pose of the donkey at far left is from the horse in Van Dyck's "St Martin Dividing His Cloak". The guitarist at right-center is from Picasso's "Blue Guitarist". And other art history references are embedded too.

"Two Paths: Allegory of Art & Commerce", preparatory drawing. Charcoal on paper.

"Two Paths: Allegory of Art & Commerce", progress photo.

Oil on hand-prepared panel. I am pictured here in this commissioned painting along with my childhood friend, who is now a saleman. The dance of art and commerce is portrayed here with allegorical figures representing Achievement, Desire, Creative Fertility, Excess, Fulfillment (The Dream), and others. We are about to embark on our separate paths towards a castle in the disance. The king is with us all along, but we neglect to notice him amidst the busy fanfare!

Heavily inspired by and indebted to the art of Peter Paul Rubens and Giambattista Tiepolo. The theatrical portrayal of figures and costumes are inspired by Tiepolo, an 18th century venetian painter, who worked in a time when venetian theatre and painting informed and took themes from one another. Rubens' work frequently portrays allegorical nude and draped figures in energetic poses rooted in classical sculpture.


Commissioned Works

"Portrait of Grace", oil on hand-prepared panel, 18" x 24". This girl is sitting with her dog in a grove of white rhododendron alongside a river resembling the French Broad, which runs through Asheville and is amongst the world's most ancient rivers. I composed the landscape from memory and imagination, recalling the spring in the Appalachian Mountains. This piece is my first 3/4 length portrait in oils. The composition is inspired in part by Da Vinci's "Lady with an Ermine" and Van Dyck's portrait compositions with drapery providing a dark backdrop against the lightness of a face, with a landscape portayed in the distance.

Detail of "Grace" after the varnish coat. Varnish protects the painting and brings the colors to their original luster and vibrancy, simulating the gloss of wet paint.

"Weimaraners", charcoal and chalk on paper. Commissioned drawing taking inspiration from Van Dyck's depiction of Royal dogs in his portraits.  

Portrait commission, charcoal and chalk on beige tone paper.

Portrait commission, charcoal and chalk on beige tone paper.

House portrait commission, Biltmore Lake, Asheville, NC. Oil on hand-prepared panel, custom framing by Blackbird Frames.

"Biltmore Lake at Dusk", Asheville, NC. Oil on hand-prepared panel, custom framing by Blackbird Frames.

Transfering my line drawing of the house above onto the panel for painting. It was sort of like an architectural rendering at this stage. 

Tattoo design commission, graphite on paper. Three keys representing Kingdom Hearts, Dr. Who, Hello Kitty and Beauty & the Beast.

Sketches for commission, "The Illumination of Buckminster Fuller", graphite, charcoal, chalk and walnut ink on paper.


Oil sketch for ""The Illumination of Buckminster Fuller", oil on hand-prepared green gesso paper.

Commissioned drawing, "Bust of Pythagoras", graphite on paper. Detail.

Commissioned drawing, "Bust of Pythagoras", graphite on paper. Detail.

Commissioned drawing, "Bust of Pythagoras", graphite on paper.


Academic Art Assigments - UNC Asheville

I returned to college after a five-year hiatus this last fall! I attended UNC Asheville from 2009-2011 studying fine art and liberal arts. I took a hiatus starting in 2012 to study drawing and painting in private studios and launch my art business. I am now back at University to complete my BFA degree, which will culiminate in a major solo exhibit in two years' time. Here's the highlights of artwork from the fall semester:

 "Nemesis", greek goddess of vengence against hubris. Inspired by John Singer Sargent's "Madame X" and victorian allegorical female figurative works / victorian horror novel aesthetic. Also, the ancient "Vanitas" motif featuring a youth holding a skull, which appears in a handful of recent works. In addition, the "death and the maiden" motif popular in 19th century art inspired this piece. This is a study for an eventual larger painting. Oil on primed linen hand-mounted to panel.

"Étude de Dos", (Back study), painted after a composition 20th century artist Euan Uglow with some adjustments in technique and composition on my part. I've Rubenized the figure a bit. :) 

Color sketch for "Artemis", oil on paper. The Greek goddess of the hunt and forest, imagined in a forest grove by a creek. I'm experimenting with a mostly brown-grisaille palette with this one with hints of silvery blue and subtle pinks on the fleshtones.

In progress - "Philosophy" / "Zeus on Olympia" / "Odysseus" - oil on hand-prepared panel.  Not sure which of these it's going to be yet but I had fun posing the model in this pose inspired by Michelangelo's sculpture, "Day". 

Life Study for "Allegory of Music", oil on paper. The pose is inspired by Florentine Renaissance drawings and Picasso's "Blue Guitarist", the technique by that of Peter Paul Rubens' oil sketches as well as those of contemporary figurative painter Robert Liberace.

"Self Portrait Study", oil on linen. A colorful self portrait.

"Self Portrait Study", oil on linen. A more classical self portrait inspired by Van Dyck's palette and some 19th century artists such as Fantin Latour's self portraits.

Still life, ball point pen on paper.

"Still life in Blue and Gray", oil on canvas. Limited palette painting - blue, brown, and white only!

"Venus", graphite on paper.

"Venus", oil on canvas. A figurative painting done from the live model in my UNCA oil painting class. This pose was chosen by my teacher to reflect Henri Matisse's work, the 20th century painter, but I noted that it looks even more like Titians "Venus" paintings from the 16th century, such as "Venus with Organist and Cupid". I enjoyed painting the drapery setup and the mirror reflecting her back.

My studio setup with works-in-progress at UNC Asheville.

Landscapes Plein Air

Plein air landscape study by a tributary to the Swannanoa River in Swannanoa, NC. Near the Warren Wilson College campus. About two painting sessions on location for this one, I think. Note the pink undertone which works well underneath the greens and blues from nature. I was painting with my friend and fellow artist Tony Corbitt Jr.

Plein air painting in Asheville Botanical Gardens, alla prima (meaning completed in one session).

Detail of alla prima "Botanical Gardens Stream" painting. Oil on paper.

Plein air painting at UNC Asheville during my painting class there.

Detail of the lower painting from the left picture, a detail of one of the numerous vegetable garden now populating the campus. Oil on paper.

Switching locales a bit, I painted this watercolor on location in the French Alps this summer, where i was treated to this extraordinary view outside a castle in Annecy, France. I sketched in all of the buildings, mountains and trees with pencil first before going over it with brown walnut ink and watercolors. Look at the viridian color of the water! 

Annecy, France, view from outside the ciy's medieval castle. Amongst the most stunning landscape views I've ever seen! So glad I brought my watercolors and pad.


Media Appearances 

WLOS News 13 - Artwork Stolen from River Arts District

In March of 2016 I had the unpleasant experience of having some original drawings stolen from our studio building. The local news did a short feature on the theft, which included three of my framed figurative drawings and nine works total by four artists in our building. I never recovered the drawings, but thankfully I did receive some generous support from a new client and Blackbird Frames in Asheville.

WLOS News 13 - Buncombe County Mural Proposals

In August I was amongst a few artists who proposed mural designs for the new Buncombe County Courthouse building in downtown Asheville. The local news did an interview about the proposal.

Travel Channel - The Dead Files - Season 9, Episode 1 - Sketch Artist

I had the good fortune of appearing on the Travel Channel this summer, acting as a sketch artist for the occult TV show "The Dead Files", Season 9 Episode 1. I appeared sketching a portrait likeness of a ghost while the show's star, the medium Amy Allan, describes it to me. Upon watching the show air I was pleased to see that the likeness was pretty uncanny when related to a historical photo of the person they revealed later in the episode! I had worked only from verbal description and a vague drawing provided by Amy. 

Prop Art Contracted for Feature Film to be released in 2017

Through a UNCA contact I also was contracted to do some prop art for a big feature film to be released in 2017, which they were filming in the Asheville area in May 2016. 

WPVM 103.7 Voices of Asheville Radio

I had 1 hour interview on WPVM 103.7's Asheville & the Arts - May 12, 2016. We discussed extensively about my path as a classically-training artist and teacher.

Cover Art for Capital at Play Magazine, March 2016

I collaborated with Asheville-based Capital at Play magazine to do their cover in March 2016. Their magazine does features on local enterprises, and my piece depicts Riverbend Malt House, which produces malts for the many wonderful craft breweries here in Asheville. I love a good malty beer, particularly Belgian style, and was happy to do the piece. It subsequently was donated to an auction by Open Doors, a local nonprofit dedicated to providing cultural opportunities for underprivileged students. Their annual Gala event, "Art Affair", is shown below.

Capital at Play cover, March 2016. With my painting, "Riverbend Malt House", oil on canvas.

Preemptive design for the cover, graphite, walnut ink and chalk on gray paper. They approved this and gave me the go-ahead for the painting.

"Riverbend Malt House", oil on canvas, 18" x 24". I was most interested in creating an interesting texture with the rows of malt, which the man is raking here.


Charity / Nonprofit Benefit Exhibits

"Riverbend Malt House" at the Open Doors "Art Affair" charity auction, March 2016.

Me and Sally before attending the event.

"Art Affair" always draw a very large crowd - here in Green Man Brewery's new facility, March 2016.

Display, Appalachian Wildlife Refuge, Benefit by Saints of Paint - August 2016 

I participated in a few other benefit exhibits in 2016, this one at Addison Farms Vineyard, where I painted the landscape. 

Display, "Torrents of the French Broad", Riverlink Benefit by Saints of Paint.

"Of Time & The River III" Exhibit, October 2016. Zelandia Castle, Asheville NC.

Riverlink Benefit by Saints of Paint, "Of Time & The River III" Exhibit, October 2016, Opening Night. Zelandia Castle, Asheville NC.


Greenhill Art Center - Winter Show

Each year Greenhill Art Center in Greensboro, NC does a large survey show of contemporary painters in North Carolina, showing emerging and established artists in a large invite-only exhibit featuring over 100 artists in their giant space in downtown Greensboro. I was grateful to have been asked to exhibit by their curator, and had six pieces accepted to the show, including landscapes from Western NC and the Loire Valley region of France.

Greenhill Art Center Collector's Choice opening night, December 2016.

Two of my paintings, "Swannanoa Autumn Scene" and "Linville Gorge, Wiseman's View", at Greenhill Art Center, "In Focus" gallery.

"Two Rose Bushes" from Argenton-les-Vallées, France, and "Addison Farms Vineyard" from Western North Carolina,  with a new beautiful frame, at Greenhill.

"Heirloom Tomatoes" and "Linville Gorge at Dusk" at Greenhill.

Two of my paintings were featured in the "In Focus" gallery, which highlights particularly collectible work as chosen by the center's art curator. A true honor for my first time showing at Greenhill's gallery!

A survey of just part of the large gallery space at Greenhill Art Center during opening night. The house was packed at the height of the event, really well done work by NC artists!



January 2016 - Norfolk, MA, - New York City, NY - Family visit to MA, Visited with my good friend and artistic mentor, the amazing painter and draftsman Tobias Hall in New York City.

April 2016 - Beaufort, NC "Painting Best Practices" Three Day Craftsmanship Workshop by Natural Pigments.

June 2016 - Lyon, France and Paris, France, Two week trip - Museum visits to the Louvre; Musée D'Orsay; Giverny (Monet's home); Musée des Beaux Arts, Lyon; Paris Home of Eugene Delacroix. Also in June, family visit to Norfolk, MA.

July 2016 - Road trip from Massachusetts to North Carolina, stops in PA and VA to visit friends. Then traveled to Charleston, SC for a friend's wedding & did some gallery visits in Charleston.

December 2016 - Massachusetts, Family visit & Museums - Mead Art Museum, Amherst, MA; Springfield Art Museums, Springfield, MA.


The front porch of Claude Monet!! Giverny, France, June 2016.

The water lily pond at Giverny, France, subject of many of Monet's masterpieces! June 2016.

View of Vienne, France, near Lyon, France, June 2016.

The timeless, massive Musée du Louvre, Paris, France, June 2016.

Magasin Sennelier, Paris, France. Famed art supply store frequented by Van Gogh, Picasso and many others. Maker of my favorite drawing notebooks. June 2016.


Musée D'Orsay, Paris, France, June 2016.

An Island off the coast of Charleston, SC, July 2016.

Catawba Falls, Old Fort, NC, May 2016.

Norfolk, MA, January 2016. A magical hour - sunset after a heavy snowfall in New England. Hoping to make some paintings based on these shots mixed with memory.

Norfolk, MA, January 2016. A magical hour - sunset after a heavy snowfall in New England. Hoping to make some paintings based on these shots mixed with memory.

Sketches & Doodles

Study after a portrait by Van Dyck, drawn while teaching a student in Asheville. Charcoal on paper.

Detail of my brother's christmas 2016 gift drawing, featuring him posed after a photo of John Singer Sargent. He holds a ping-pong paddle, as he plays frequently in his college dorm common room. He's surrounded by test tubes and calculus notes, as he's a chemical engineering major. The weights on the mantle refer to his passion for lifting. Charcoal, graphite and chalk on tone paper.

Sketch of Adele after a Time magazine cover, 2016. Graphite on paper.

"Two Paths", drawing / 'ink-in' stage. Looks more like a drawing than an oil painting at this starting point in the process. Charcoal and oil paint on panel.

A view from my girlfriend Sally's parents' lakehouse in Virginia, where we vacationed for a few days in October 2016. Graphite and ink on paper. 

A study after a painting by Philippe de Champagne at the Musée des Beaux Arts, Lyon, France. Graphite on paper. Bonus points: see if you can spot this figure recycled in my Buncombe County mural design at the beginning of this blog post. 

A sketch for the article in Capital at Play magazine accompanying my cover, which details the Riverbend Malt House's business. Here, hands reach into a bag filled with roasted malts. Charcoal on paper.

An imagined "French Pastoral Landscape", based on views seen on the fast train from Lyon to Paris in June, 2016. Drawn in my pocket notebook, graphite and ballpoint pen on paper.


2016 was the first year I was teaching year-round part time, offering classes to private students in Asheville's River Arts District, from the studio where I work in the Riverview Station building. I was also invited to lecture in my painting class at UNCA, talking about craftsmanship and indirect painting technique. Here's some of my demos and students' work. 

Lecturing at UNC Asheville, discussion of oil painting craftsmanship and hand-preparing panels. October 2016.

Hand drawing demos, charcoal on paper.

Still life poster study demo. Acrylic on paper. 

A twelve-year-old students' first still life oil painting. Oil on paper.

A twelve-year-old students' second oil painting, shown here in proress alongside the preparatory drawing. I also showed my young students how to prepare the panels themselves. 

Plein air landscape sketch along the French Broad river. Charcoal and chalk on paper.

A young student's master copy after the Renaissance painter Titian. Not bad at all! Graphite on paper.


A student's copy after a German Renaissance figure drawing. 

A painting craftsmanship intensive workshop hosted by my friend, colleague and mentor John Mac Kah, at our space JMK Studio in the River Arts District of Asheville, NC, October 2016. I assisted with the workshop and lectured on craftsmanship specifics for a portion of it. John almost single-handedly provided my foundation in oil painting craftsmanship since I began working with him in 2012.

A detail shot of the homemade painting mediums that John was sharing with his students. We make our own mediums for oil painting in our studio, following traditional principles and techniques augmented by contemporary research into the science.

A stack of birch wood panels and linen, before the linen gets mounted onto the panels for a painting surface.


Whew! What a review, what a year! Haha. I commend those of you who make it here to the bottom, thank you. This is a snapshot of my artistic activities in 2016. A number of the pieces shown here were commenced in earlier years and continued or completed in 2016, and a lot of the work was begun and completed within the year. Life can seem hectic when it's all happening in real time, and it's interesting and valuable to look back over the hills and see the trail as we've walked it so far. 

If you enjoyed the art in this post, consider joining my Art Email Newsletter, which goes out about once a month and features the latest work, updates on events and exclusive discounts to my site store. 


Best wishes to you for a great 2017!

Jason Rafferty