When we open ourselves to art, we open ourselves to the world – to beauty, craft, to different cultures, to pain and pleasure, expression and emotion.

Visiting Artist Jill Hooper Invites You into Her Studio

Hooper at work

I crouch over a manekin, holding a tin cup to the painted lips. “Twist your torso a little to the right… perfect,” Jill Hooper, Gibbes visiting artist, instructs. Studio light fixtures illuminate my left side, in keeping with classical technique—classical lighting always comes over the artist’s left shoulder. On bent knee, I cradle the manekin as Jill sketches behind me, drafting preliminary drawings for a 10 by 16 foot fresco painting. Quick strokes of charcoal add mass and modeling to the figure on Jill’s paper. She draws deftly and quickly, showing her mastery of the human anatomy. These sketches will build the necessary foundation for Jill’s massive fresco mural, which will be painted on site in Jerusalem, Israel.

“Because the process of fresco painting is fast, I need to prepare full-scale sketches and my color palette, as well as finalize my composition before arriving in Jerusalem,” Jill explains. The ancient technique of fresco involves paint pigments applied on wet lime plaster. Water-based pigments are painted on the freshly laid plaster, and the colors dry and set with the wet surface, which makes the mural a permanent aspect of the wall. Because the artist has to execute the painting on wet plaster, the process is a race against time. Jill will paint the large mural in phases. After prepping each section, Jill will have a time limit of about 8 hours to complete the segment.

Hooper at work
Hooper at work in the studio

Jill currently occupies the Gibbes Museum visiting artist studio, located on the first floor. During her time in the studio, she will create a full-scale model of the mural in order to finalize the composition of the painting. In addition, Jill will grind pigments with water to develop paint colors in preparation for the figures and landscape. What’s more? Her fascinating process of fresco painting is available for you to view!

study of legs and torso
With the help of a visitor, Hooper holds up a study for the torso and legs of the central figure in the fresco.

Hooper’s studio is a lively space with multiple components. Sketches and paintings of intriguing faces crowd the corners and wall space. A table with clustered pigment jars and paint palettes occupies one area of the room, while propped up manekins lounge in different positions throughout the space, serving as models. Draped across the back wall, the full-scale fresco model commands immediate attention as you walk into the studio space. The sheer size of the painting awes the viewer. Coupled with the large-scale model, a smaller sketch reveals the mural’s composition. A Knight Hospitaller cradles a sick man in his arms, offering the man a sip of water. Behind the pair, a donkey stands by, while a young girl gingerly touches the ill man. A rural landscape stretches into the distance, which denotes the figures as travelers.

Hooper with campers
Campers at the Gibbes have the good fortune of meeting with Jill to learn about her process.

Jill bustles around the studio, juggling the multi-variable challenges of her project while taking the time to chat with the steady stream of Gibbes visitors wandering through her studio. She smiles and explains the context of her work—the mural is planned for the courtyard of an eye clinic funded by the Order of St. John. For each curious guest, Jill offers a tour of her studio and a privileged glimpse into her art production process. This visitor-artist interaction is made possible due to the new Visiting Artist Series of the Gibbes Museum. This program offers an exclusive “behind-the-scenes” peek into renowned artists’ studios. The studio door is open for set hours daily, and welcomes Gibbes visitors to engage with the artist and evolving artwork. As a Gibbes visitor, you now can not only browse through galleries, showcasing artists’ finished products, but you also can catch a glimpse of professional artists at work.

Take advantage of this incredible opportunity to tour Jill’s studio through this Saturday, June 25! Step into her studio and experience the enchantment of an artist’s world.

Helen Clay, Gibbes Museum of Art Intern


Published June 22, 2016

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