No one was more surprised than sophomore Luke Jackson when he won a national gold medal award – the only one issued in Virginia to a freshman in the category of “Drawing and Illustration” – in the national Scholastic Art and Writing contest last year. Luke’s “JazzMan” scratch art was the work of three of class periods with art teacher Mrs. Jill Wiebe-King, a captivating portrait of a young African-American musician transferred scratch by tiny scratch onto an unforgiving medium, thin cardstock, coated with fine white clay, covered in India ink.
While the success of “JazzMan” was unexpected, Luke’s fascination with portraits – particularly portraits that tell complex stories – has been part of his art since his earliest days in Mrs. Scott’s “Art for the Classical Student” classroom. From general techniques to stretching challenges to very specific corrections, Mrs. Scott equipped Luke with the tools he needed to meet Mrs. Sunny Rosebro’s “challenge pad” expectations in Upper School Art. In fact, it was this very “challenge pad” – a beyond-the-classroom stretching assignment – that birthed another favorite portrait, “Giggle Boy”. In 2015, this portrait opened the door to Luke’s Scholastic Awards. “Giggle Boy” won an honorable mention in the regional competition, an impressive feat for an eighth grader!
Art classes continue to be an important part of Luke’s week. He sincerely appreciates and is intrigued by the many artistic mediums students explore, from weaving to wire sculpture to pottery and painting, but he most enjoys learning new drawing techniques. Perhaps even more important, he values art class because he learns from his peers in class, whose creativity inspires and awes him.
Outside of art class, Luke’s preferred tools of graphite and charcoal pencils both constrain and enable him to begin re-creating the pictures that form in his mind’s eye. With pencil in hand, hundreds of hues between jet black and the faintest gray begin to shape and form unforgettable portraits. Paper type and size aren’t important; what is important is the communication of his subject’s humanity – their beauty and dignity. From his first museum visit, Luke remembers being drawn to the pieces that convey potent human experiences, from Norman Rockwell’s “The Problem We All Live With” to the arresting biblical themes of early Renaissance paintings.
As a member of an artistic family – and a family formed through adoption – Luke has watched his parents navigate beauty and brokenness, woundedness and healing with grace and creativity. Because of the gospel, the Jacksons dive into the messiness of life together in all its complexity; with charcoal pencils in hand, Luke processes and reflects those experiences with a depth beyond his years.
Asked about his selection for a gold medal award, and the opportunity it afforded to travel to New York City this summer, Luke responded that he was “confused and grateful”, which is exactly how one would expect this self-deprecating young man to reply.
The trip was memorable on many fronts – not the least of which was the opportunity to see a diversity of humanity that will inform his portrait making for years to come. The fashion, architecture, and energy of the city inspired him, as did the student showcases of national award winning art and writing. He was also struck by the loneliness possible in such a crowded place, as the hectic pace of life hurries people past one another.
Returning home, Luke was anxious to get back to his pencils – and his new and growing love for the guitar. Just as portraiture allows him to express his deep appreciation for the imago dei in every person, making music and song-writing will provide new avenues for more artistic expression. We are deeply thankful for Luke’s many contributions to our art, soccer and academic programs, and look forward to the continued depth of thought, maturation of skill, and commitment to human dignity that characterizes his endeavors.