Many of Jay Hester's southwestern paintings feature rugged mountain men bearing an uncanny resemblance to the burly, bearded artist.
Cullin Calves, original oil painting by Jay Hester
"It's not intentional, but I've been accused of doing that,"says the Texas-based artist. "They say you put a little bit of yourself in every painting."
After graduating from Samford University, Birmingham, Alabama, Hester was encouraged by a professor to submit a portfolio to the prestigious Art Center College of Design, Los Angeles, California, where he was accepted.
Shortly after completing art school, Hester worked as an illustrator for Lockheed Aircraft Corporation in Georgia. He spent several years rendering drawings and painting of aircraft, but his determination to develop his talent fostered a need to open his own Atlanta, Georgia, studio. Soon he was following the art-show circuit along the East Coast, with an occasional show out West.
Travels to the West led to Hester's move to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he learned more about western and Native American subjects. He found his niche, and studied the customs, clothing and lifestyles of their passing culture. He attended rendezvous and powwows, and delved into cultural studies. Always a history buff, Hester's collected books and artifacts, which he uses to ensure his work's authenticity.
Recently at the Phippen Museum's Western Art Show, Hester agreed to compete in a "quick draw"event. Working from a blank canvas, each artist had 45 minutes to complete a painting, which was later sold at auction. To ensure that viewers could see the accuracy of his work, he invited a Pima Indian to pose for him.
"I love painting from life, and I thought the audience would enjoy seeing a painting come to life right before their eyes,"he explains. The paintings usually bring $500 on the auction block, but Hester's sold for $3,100 and set new records at the 31-year-old show.
Hester and his wife, Judy, have a "his, hers and ours" family of seven children. Judy remembers her husband explaining that being an artist is a way of life. "It's true,"she says. "Many of our vacations involve attending art shows and visiting galleries. It's never been boring.
Today, the Hesters live in Boerne, Texas, where they've renovated a century-old house. Highland House has since become a prized gallery. There Hester created a body of work of which he can be proud.
"My goal in life is to give this generation and the generations to come that which is often held captive in the mind's eye, and lost forever," he explains. "My hope is that when people view my work they'll discover the infinite beauty of the world around us."