Gretchen Durst Jacobs paints in a studio in her home in Dayton’s McPherson Town neighborhood. I love this part of town. It feels like a small town, but offers the occasional glimpse of the nearby downtown buildings on the other side of the river.
I first met Gretchen in her role as art collector rather than art creator. I was commissioned by the Dayton Visual Arts Center to photograph ten area art collectors, and Gretchen and her husband were part of that group.
Gretchen’s living room features a painting by Jean Koeller, a friend who shared studio space with Gretchen before she moved into her current studio. The dining room has a painting by Beth Edwards, a Dayton painter who is now an art professor at the University of Memphis.
Gretchen worked for 15 years as a corporate graphic designer before she decided to resume the fine art education she had abandoned as a young adult. She has been painting for 15 years, during which time she graduated with a BFA from Wright State and an MFA from the University of Cincinnati. She also studied at the New York Studio for two sessions in 2001 and 2003. She feels the time spent in New York greatly influenced her work.
Gretchen’s studio occupies a large space on the second floor. Her cat Max (one of 4) was her constant studio companion during the two times I visited.
Gretchen’s office is a room off of her studio. Her dog Ruby decided that was a good spot where she could keep an eye on me.
Gretchen has been in this studio for three years – ever since she and her husband finished renovating the house. I asked how often she works in her studio.
“I am not painting as much as I would like right now. We are renovating two other houses in this neighborhood, and that keeps me pretty busy. But I spend some time in the studio every day.”
For the last 15 years, Gretchen has received many scholarships, awards and honors. Her work has been shown in numerous exhibitions and is in corporate and private collections.
This is an interesting time in Gretchen’s studio because she has been exploring a new direction. Her previous work came from nature, inspired by landscapes here and in the Dayton area as well as Canada and Florida. Her new work is more urban, with the straight lines found only in manmade objects.
The starting point in Gretchen’s new direction may have been these two paintings which she pulled out to show me. The painting on the left shows trees, but with power lines and the bus trolley lines running through them. Gretchen liked the energy in that image and has been working on how to incorporate that energy into her work.
Gretchen can see the top of Fifth Third Center from one of her studio windows. She recently went to the top of that building, took some photos, and made drawings she could use as reference material in future works.
She’s holding those drawings in this photo. You can also see some of Gretchen’s prints.
My favorite time when I visit a studio occurs when the artist stops thinking about the photographer in the room and tries to get some work done. As I watched, Gretchen started trying different approaches to the large work on her easel. She changed some colors and the width of some of the lines.
I looked at the Artist Statement on Gretchen’s website. She talked about why nature inspired her. She used words like “growth” and “adaptation” and “rejuvenation.” Those words describe what’s happening now in Gretchen’s studio as she explores new directions.