James Jacko

Artist Photo - James Jacko and Crane

Artist Photo – James Jacko and Crane

James Jacko (1968 – )
Odawa Nation
Northern Ontario, Canada

I started painting in 1977. I have been creative all of my life; mostly drawing first, then working with modeling clay. Randy Trudeau and James Simon, who are well known artists, used to come every Friday for one hour while I was in grades seven and eight. They saw how hard I was trying and they were always encouraging me to keep going with it. My older brother next to me has asked me to finish a painting for him before he passed on. It was to for his girlfriend once I finished it. I finished painting it in two days. I thought at first it was finished but it felt like I did do a proper job on it. It was like I should have done more. I felt that I had failed on that request he had made, so I did another painting and kept at it.  When you see the artwork that I made when I first started and the pieces I do today, you will see that the paintings look complete; but for me, it really isn’t. I feel I could do more, so I guess I’m still trying to finish that first painting my brother had requested to complete for him. That is why I say inspires me.

With my paintings I’m trying to tell people that I truly believe in the Creator, God or what or whoever people want to call Him.  Most of my paintings/designs are for the theme, Creation. I feel it is a gift and I like to paint the beauty of what is in each one of us and everything.  Even ugliness has beauty to it.  The colours I use are earthy tones and have a positive effect on people. This I have been told my many people that admire my art.  All kinds of art touch people in many ways.

When it comes down to creating a new piece of art, t happens without much of a plan. I could be looking at something that is bare and a feeling comes over me and I start visualizing a colour, or a line, maybe a circle.  It’s always a good feeling and it just happens. It’s like a story is being told to me from somewhere and I start to listen with my eyes to whatever flows out of the brush. The style I have changes slowly with each creation.

In regards to my future artistic development, I’m not sure how to explain this, but as for me, each project I do is a new development; from independent projects to getting much needed assistance from outside organizations is always an experience. Sharing my ideas on creating new artwork is not new to me, but the scope of this planned project is. I will be nurturing more than one potential artist and I will be helping my community by contributing with student’s artwork to Wikwemikong’s annual art exhibition for all of our visitors to see.  In the end, it will be a positive experience for everyone involved, This, I think is artistic development.

The geographical location where I live has influence on not just me, but on everyone that resides here. Visitors are always complimenting to us on how beautiful our area, culture and traditions are. I was born and raised here in Manitoulin Island and my cultural background does influence me.  We have symbols, teachings, art and craftwork almost everywhere on my reserve.  Some of my family members practice our traditions. Our elders are big influence also. Living close to nature also has positive effect on me, and it gives me a real sense of peace and tranquility.  I’d also like to add that my father, mother and eldest sister had a big influence on what and how I create my art. My father made murals of powwows dancers on the walls of the house he built. He liked to draw a lot of west coast style designs, and he was really food at carving wood.  Totem poles used to stand in your front yard.  I still remember this when I was a baby. My mother used to make crafts and outfits for dancers. Her and her friends started the powwows here in Wikwemikong back in the sixties. We could travel with her to take the children to powwow as far west as Saskatchewan.  She made a lot of crafts, but her main creativity was beadwork and quillwork.  It had to be one of the finest and detailed work I had ever seen.  This is where part of my idea for detail comes from.  I also used to watch my eldest sister draw all the time when I was a child. Her style seemed somewhat oriental at the time, smooth flowing lines.  She and her husband practice our traditions, so I am always learning from them.

I am self-taught artist. I did attend an art camp from 1977 to 1980 each summer for one month at a place called Dreamer’s Rock Lodge in Birch Island, Ontario. A few of the native artists who made a career out of art also attended. We mostly shared our thoughts and ideas.


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