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Thumbnail Sketches: Artist Kayla Jackson

With Vim, Verve, and much Vitality…

A Thumbnail Sketches Piece by Connie Munson

Alton Artist Kayla Jackson Painting
Alton Artist Kayla Jackson Painting

Kayla Jackson, a resident of Alton, recently graduated with a Bachelor of Illustration from Sheridan College in Oakville. A new member at Headwaters Arts, a not-for-profit collective with their gallery at the Alton Mill Arts Centre, she is intently focused on packing much into her life. Graphic arts experience and her technical facility with website design are, per the plan, in-demand, providing some economic means while she pursues her developing arts practice.

Given that one’s first steps into the world during and after post-secondary training are exploratory in nature, Kayla Jackson’s reach and dreams earned much life experience from 2018 – 2020.

The summer of her third year of studies, she did an internship with local artist Paul Morin, whose gallery is in a beautiful, repurposed old church in Alton. She finished this stint with an impressive body of work – 60 paintings of historical buildings in Alton.

A painting of a house
A painting of a house by Kayla Jackson

Following graduation and looking about for employment, Kayla Jackson noticed and applied for an exciting opportunity. She termed it as a lifestyle whiplash after the fact. She applied for, was accepted, and then, in a two-week period, trained to curate the gallery and run art auctions on cruise ship lines where upwards of 150 contemporary artists were featured. It was a deep dive into the commercial art world, melding public speaking, her love and knowledge of art, and the ability to bring this to life for passengers. “I love to see how people are affected by art.”

Learning Spanish, studying and absorbing the backstories of the gallery’s artists, meeting passengers from around the world, and building relationships with a global community of other staff, was intense and absorbing. Ports of Call in Italy, France, and Spain meant she saw works in their historical settings that she had earlier studied from artbooks.

However, there was no painting during this period. Instead, Kayla filled her journal with quick sketches. Kayla’s own focus on her practice started to transform. Her feelings moved from, “… my art needs to be revolutionary (to) now it brings joy to people and that is its purpose.”

Lock House by Kayla Jackson
Lock House by Kayla Jackson

From the acquisition of theory, skills, going into shows, keeping up with a daily or regular arts practice, having various mentors and formal training, plus life experience, all these are easily observed ingredients of what and how an artist grows into themself.

And Kayla Jackson has had no shortage of these critical elements. Mark Grice, an Alton artist, was her first art teacher. At the same time, she later auditioned for and was accepted into the Mayfield Secondary School Arts program. At Sheridan College, their professors were working painters and artists.

This range of fields and skillsets presented to them at Sheridan encouraged exploration, development, and making choices. “I never felt pigeon-holed.” She watched talented artists around her work from their own life experiences.

Port Flowers by Kayla Jackson
Port Flowers by Kayla Jackson

Kayla Jackson’s next journey turned out to be back to herself as an artist when her second contract with the cruise lines to New Zealand, Hawaii, and Alaska, was cancelled in March 2020, just three days before its departure, the restrictions around the global pandemic arrived in Canada. A land-lubber again, other dreams were having their foundations laid.

After a five-month hiatus when at sea, she started painting again – oils, acrylic, conte, plein air – along with posting regularly to Instagram. Her work was being noticed, first by friends and family, then others, and it was selling. Commissions soon followed, and she realized, “Oh yes, I’m good at this! I don’t need New York Galleries. I’m authentically following my joy.”

Demand grew for graphic design and website development, so Kayla set up her virtual business, all the while continuing to paint. Trying the discipline of the 25 or 100-day challenges yielded rich insights, whether completed or not. She soon realized that for her, the goal wasn’t to produce significant work.

Trout Commission by Kayla Jackson
Trout Commission by Kayla Jackson

Instead, following her curiosity, honouring it, and holding space with it brought Kayla closer to her own process. She closely observed how things evolved and led to or stimulated other work. Her patterns emerged with the forced prolificacy of the challenges: her shorthand, colours used, the comfort of a preferred scale.

Her artist’s marks became more apparent to her. “One of the most significant parts of an artist’s journey is finding their voice.” Kayla Jackson was charting her own artist’s journey, mindfully engaged with the challenges, and inadvertently discovering that more commissions started to come her way as people were attracted by her focused intent.

“I think that was a big turning point for me, really digging into my style for the first time, not trying to be anything else but my voice, and looking more deeply at the things around me to inspire that day’s work.”

A painting
A painting by Kayla Jackson

Last summer, she spent several weeks exploring parts of eastern Ontario. History and nature are two passions for her, and the Kingston area is, in her words, “dripping with it!” Camping and plein air painting totally absorbed her. Caught up in the process and moment, she strove to capture the local ambience and her feeling with each composition.

In her new series, Vibrant Memories, while Kayla uses photos for references, she focuses on capturing the emotions imbued in them. Working large scale, she is experimenting more, leaning into the material impressionistically. This current work embodies much of her artist’s statement. (I) explore the emotion, nostalgia and light of simple moments of gratitude in life … drawn to the fleeting glimpses of history and life that can be felt … light trickles through the patina of textured layers of paint in balanced scenes, bringing warmth, serenity and grounding (to) the viewer.

Reconnecting with former classmates at Mayfield Secondary and Sheridan College, joining Headwaters Arts in her hometown of Alton, and being nominated for, then winning, two Orangeville Banner Readers’ Choice Awards for Best Local Visual Artist and Best Local Artist at both the Platinum and Diamond Award level, are strong evidence of her growing local network.

Valley Sunrise by Kayla Jackson
Valley Sunrise by Kayla Jackson

Kayla Jackson and her sister, Melanie, plan to homestead in the eastern townships, possibly building their own place and living more simply on the land. Towards that end, she gains hands-on experience with “mucking out” chores on a local farm and starting seeds for her garden.

Follow her on IG @kaylajackson_art and enjoy her journey! To book a commission that will celebrate cherished memories, contact

Whether navigating the high seas auctioning art, managing a barnyard with gaggles of geese, or working plein air, Kayla Jackson is fully there and present. Her enthusiasm and genuineness precede her, immersing herself in life as art, so she can honestly say, “My soul (is) happy!”

Alton Artist Kayla Jackson
Alton Artist Kayla Jackson
Kayla Jackson – Canadian Painter
Connie Munson (ecmunson)
Connie Munson (ecmunson)

Involved with several arts organizations in the area, such as Beaux Arts Gallery, Credit Valley
Artisans, and Headwaters Arts, ecmunson sits on the HA board and is honoured to have work
accepted in the DVSA’s prestigious event. A regular contributor to arts newsletters and local
media with arts and cultural related columns, she recently launched her website, Studio By
Design© with its subscriber-based Artful Pics BULLETIN.

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