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Alumnus 'drives' painting skills outdoors
7/11/13

Alfred University (AU) alumnus Jordan Rolleston has settled in Maine to work the wilderness as he brings landscape renditions of his experiences to canvas after nearly two months spent painting his way through the American South.

And he’s only getting started.

For Rolleston, a December 2010 graduate who majored in fine arts, two and a half years in preparation culminated with beginning a trek to paint across the nation. So far the journey, beginning in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, has taken him south through Tennessee, Kentucky, and the Carolinas, and then on a course up to Maine, where his Subaru Forester packed full of art supplies will be stationed through October.

“Simply seeing my work evolve is a unique pleasure in and of itself,” said Rolleston.

Age 25, the abstractionist landscape painter attributes his style of meshing emotional significance with the natural aesthetics of plein air, or “in the open air” style to lessons learned at AU. This synthesis has motored Rolleston’s work since his graduation.

When explaining his switch from studio space to the great outdoors, Rolleston noted how crucial the guidance of School of Art and Design Professors of Painting Lise Lemeland and Kevin Wixted were to his development. Both acclaimed painters are known for abstract works that push the boundaries of communication as it is represented on canvas.

“The inner expressions that I was trying to convey through my art just weren’t translating until I stepped out of the studio,” said Rolleston.

Since planting his easel outside, Rolleston has fallen in love with situating himself out of doors to create art. Testimony to this commitment lies in the enthusiasm Rolleston has for allowing the elements to affect his work. He paints in all climates and under all weather conditions.

Rolleston plans to paint the United States by region, settling for two or more months and then moving on. Behind the front seats of his Forester two-by-fours are hitched together as stopgap drying racks for his latest works. Beyond the racks lay the carefully piled canvases of his experience – brilliant oil and watercolor paintings. Although much of his trip is still to be solidified, Rolleston believes his artistic pilgrimage will last well into 2014.

“Struggle, it seems as an artist, is to constantly be making that effort to create when life gets in the way,” said Rolleston who concluded, “I won’t be satisfied until I paint the whole country.”

Operating out of his Forester stuffed with painting materials, Rolleston has living supplies constrained to no more than two small duffel bags, as he claimed, “you quickly realize you won’t be changing clothes that often.”

That time lapsed between Rolleston’s graduation and actually beginning the dream to travel and paint was known simply as “waiting” to him. Leaving AU with little means, he moved back to Cleveland and began incubating ideas to travel and paint.

“I couldn’t sell my work coming out of art school, and it’s even harder to make art away from art school,” said Rolleston. Determined to reignite his artistic motor, Rolleston spent two and a half years working as a cook at Cleveland’s award-winning restaurant the Greenhouse Tavern.

After years spent earning and saving, Rolleston’s blog posts avalanched into interviews and publications covering his upcoming quest. Finally, when Rolleston packed up and shipped out of Cleveland on May 13 it was to the interest of much regional press.

Now, enjoying the opportunity to not only witness the scenes he paints, but also experience them by hiking trails and cohabitating with the environment and work it, Rolleston is seeing his work improve substantially.

 “Try not to see so much with your eyes but with your feelings and heart.  And if that sounds too mushy, then see it with your spirit and if that sounds too hippie, then see it with your vibes and if that’s too groovy, then don't look at it,” said Rolleston to a hiker in the Great Smoky Mountains when confronted about his paintings.

With dozens of panels already complete, Rolleston is planning numerous pit stops back to Cleveland. He will need to make room for more paintings as he travels toward completion of his trek sometime next year. Until then Rolleston is glad to live from beneath the cargo-box latched atop his Subaru, pulling onto the shoulder of interstates and painting from the inspiration around him.

Rolleston’s future plans include touring national parks such as Congaree in South Carolina and Shenandoah in Virginia, then heading north, up the eastern seaboard toward Maine again before exploring western states. Somewhere in this time span Rolleston says he would like to pay an impromptu visit to AU.

“I love Alfred so much. It’s such a great learning environment, especially for the field,” said Rolleston.

From his current base in Maine, Rolleston plans to hike and paint routes through the Appalachian Trail, much of the Bigelow Preserve, Maine’s Baxter State Park, Acadia National Park and New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

Rolleston intends to have a gallery showing of his work once his venture is complete. Meanwhile, photos of Rolleston’s art, experiences, and correlating picaresque journal entries can be found on his website, www.jordanrolleston.com, and on his blog at www.jordanrolleston.blogspot.com