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November 21, 2013 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Part space alien, part sea creature, the subjects of the paintings displayed in PS Gallery’s Hallery could be called Monsters, Ink.
This series of monsters is a collection that local artist Jessie Starbuck has found herself going back to since 2012. Nine pieces can be seen in the PS Gallery’s Hallery until the end of November. The Hallery, a hallway gallery space, also features six pieces from her works in the “Made-up Plant Series,” in which she creates her own pictures from portions of real plants.
Where: PS Gallery
When: Through Nov. 30, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tues.-Sat.; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sun.
Starbuck is an art teacher for children in kindergarten through second grade at Southern Boone Primary in Ashland. Her students inspired her quizzical creatures. “I was really influenced by watching how fearless they were, and it made me think back to when I was their age,” Starbuck says.
Her students taught her to be less serious, she says. She combined the playful creatures with techniques she learned at Rhode Island School of Design. As a child, she didn’t draw monsters often. But she remembers drawing a three-sectioned worm over and over, trying to perfect this one image — something children often do, she says. Now, she always finds herself returning to monsters.
Drawing from observation and reality creates pressure to execute images a certain way. “I have some friends who are artists who have a very clear picture in their mind, and I feel really grateful that I’m not (like that) because I feel like they’re always a slave to trying to do that picture,” Starbuck says. In this collection, she meets each of her monsters as she puts together the pieces and draws loopy hair or multiple sets of eyes. These unique creatures bear equally inventive names such as Owl Monster and Cyclopse Mermaid.
Deer-Bird looks like a mythical woodland creature surrounded by a crimson cloud. Antlers grow out of its glittery aquamarine head like tree branches. It has a body of a bird with ivory and taupe angel-like wings. Starbuck uses gouache, a thick watercolor, to paint her monsters. This medium creates a matte quality with crisp and bold colors. These components create cartoonish shapes that naturally come together to make a monster that is neither frightening nor disturbing. “The colorful nature of them really appeals to a lot of people, including me,” says Starbuck’s father, Chris Starbuck. “They’re just whimsical.”
When Starbuck painted her first images, she wanted the shapes to be more awkward, so she drew the monsters in black pen before painting them. She later found erasing was more satisfying than she remembered, so to keep true to her playful theme, she started mapping out her creatures in pencil first.
Her unconventional art comes with unconventional materials. In addition to pencil and gouache, Starbuck uses Sharpie and nail polish.
Her monster collection, which originally consisted of 14 pieces, was displayed in Teller’s Gallery & Bar in September and October. Joel Sager, Starbuck’s friend and PS Gallery owner, saw the work there and asked if she wanted to display in the Hallery.
Starbuck usually doesn’t think about the viewer when she’s forming color combinations or adding scales to a monster’s shape. The art has mostly been for her own pleasure. “I find if I go too long without making work, nothing else is relaxing in that same way,” Starbuck says. “If I can sit down and do some painting, there’s nothing else in my life like that.”