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Amy Eidt Jackson: Painter, teacher and tree hugger


Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Amy Eidt Jackson says she did not know the alphabet when she entered first grade. This, despite her mother, a teacher, working diligently with her. “It was miserable for me,” she recalls. The thing that saved her was art. “I had an amazing art teacher. I excelled there. It was the only thing that gave me self-esteem as a child.” 

Finding confidence through art

Jackson managed to slog through elementary school to make it to a seventh interview with Harvard and an acceptance to Smith College. She decided to attend the University of Massachusetts for economic reasons. Clearly, whatever plagued her in her younger years she grew up to conquer. But it was art in those early years that gave her enough confidence to persevere.

10 years at the Sawdust Festival

Now in her 10th year of exhibiting her paintings at the Sawdust Festival, it is clear that the importance of art to her life has not diminished. In addition to exhibiting her paintings she also teaches art to children and adults, has a history of involvement with the Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Plein Air Painters Association, and other local arts organizations. 

LLP Jackson close up

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Amy Jackson, artist, educator and Laguna Beach resident

The fact that she is an exhibiting painter with her works in galleries in Los Angeles and Vence, France, where, Jackson tells me, Matisse retired, may seem like an obvious outcome for someone to whom art was such a salvation. However, her path to becoming an artist took some time.

Becoming an “artist” was not a goal out of college

Jackson studied art history, economics and fine art in college. She made a conscious choice not to become “an artist” because, she says, “I didn’t want to suffer.” After she graduated, the Massachusetts native spent time in Italy and England where she decided that being an art dealer would combine her talents and interests. Then her parents relocated from Massachusetts to Mission Viejo.

Mission Viejo is definitely not Laguna

Feeling like she was losing contact with her family, Jackson came west, too. Knowing that Mission Viejo was not going to win over their daughter’s heart, her parents took her to Laguna Beach and told her that it was Mission Viejo. That ruse didn’t last long, but blood is thicker than water and Jackson stayed anyway.

The Laguna Art Museum is the genesis of many lasting things

Eventually, Jackson moved to the real Laguna and got involved with the Laguna Art Museum. She met her husband on a blind date set up by friends she’d met at the museum. “It’s the genesis of a lot of great art programs as well as my marriage,” says Jackson of the museum with a laugh. 

Despite her involvement with the museum, Jackson’s career at the time was in interior design. By happy accident, Irene Updike, a well-known designer at the time and now a very well known author and speaker about the Holocaust, was her mentor. “It wasn’t my dream,” says Jackson of being a designer. “So I didn’t care about it. That made it really easy to succeed. As an artist I find it very difficult to sell my own work because it’s so important to me.”

Her children lead her to teaching art

When the third of her four children was born, Jackson stepped away from designing. This allowed her the time to begin painting in earnest. Her children got her involved in teaching art. She began working in their El Morro classrooms with a “Meet the Masters” program. When she moved her youngest child to the CLC program at Top of the World she began teaching there. Eventually, she says she was asked to step down. “I was too messy and unstructured,” she says with a shrug.

LLP Jackson studio

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Amy Jackson at work in her backyard studio

Surrounded by artists around her Laguna Beach home, Jackson credits them with motivating her to begin exhibiting at the Sawdust. “I have always loved the feel of the Sawdust and what it is about,” she says. She was painting on her own and very involved with LPAPA. “I was selling a lot of my work and I wanted a gallery space that was mine.” Taking a booth at the Sawdust checked all of those boxes.

Several years ago, Jackson began teaching art again, this time at St. Catherine’s in Laguna. “They wanted a more creative art program,” she says. Her program, called “Art Studio Education,” turns the classroom into an art studio. “I teach the kids the tools to express how they feel,” she says.

Teaching is a give and take

She takes her job as a teacher very seriously, even though it is very time consuming and cuts into her personal painting time. “It takes away,” she admits. “But it also gives back.”

Jackson will be teaching two classes at the Sawdust this summer. The first one, “The Language of Landscape Painting” is a color theory class that will be held this Wednesday. 

A love for Laguna’s trees leads to a stylistic shift in her painting

While Jackson is known as a plein air painter, her style has evolved over the last few years. She credits her newfound passion for saving Laguna’s trees with helping her transformation to a more abstract style. “It’s interesting that my interest in trees brought me to paint horizons and not trees,” she says laughing. 

She has an ambitious plan for helping save Laguna’s trees. Jackson wants to organize a “tree hugger” event. “One of my biggest passions is to have a paint-off of our beautiful trees. We can sell the paintings to buy plaques to present to people who have a heritage tree on their property. I’m hoping to do this next year,” she says enthusiastically.

LLP Sawdust booth

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Amy Jackson’s booth at the Sawdust holds a good representation of her work

More ambitious plans for art education

For now, Jackson has her hands full manning her booth at the Sawdust, teaching her classes and making plans to open an art school at her Back Bay studio. “I’m looking to create art studio education in Back Bay, but I’m also looking to foster more creative arts programs in schools.”

And, of course, she will continue to paint. Influenced by Matisse and Wolf Kahn, as well as street art, Jackson says, “I want my art to be something that speaks to people and gives them joy. I know that sounds trite, but I want everyone to recognize their own voice. A lot of people have started paining at my encouragement,” she says. And it’s easy to see why. 

While Jackson certainly knows the “rules” of painting, she is definitely not bound by them. Her methods may be “messy” and “unstructured,” but isn’t that the fun of it all?

“Art has that magic ability to turn places around,” she says. What it can do for places, it can also clearly do for people. 

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In Memoriam - Stu Saffer and Barbara Diamond.

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