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Painter Jared Joslin sets the scene for real-life characters

The sun shines through the bay windows of Jared Joslin’s apartment and studio in the Ukrainian Village. His subject is posed under the lighting, ever so precisely. And there is a flash. Through his creative lens, he captures his subject’s beauty in a mix of oils.

"Michael Shannon Clasped Hands,"
Jared Joslin
Jared Joslin "Hanged Man"
Jared Joslin

Lighting is his salvation. His portraits, while mysterious and haunting, glow on the canvas, illuminating his subject’s most intriguing qualities. Their poses, as they appear, are exactly how they have been staged in front of him. He sorts through these scenes to choose what truly embodies his intentions for that particular piece. He draws the image onto the gessoed canvas after carefully considering its composition. From there he sets up a palette of oil paint and begins his work.

At the age of 15, Joslin awoke to his life as an artist. Today he wakes up as a painter and storyteller. He draws inspiration from the characters that inhabit his life. He sees them as they are, interesting and distinctive. Their most subtle physical features scream out to him.

Women are frequently his subjects, even more frequently his wife is his choice model. Jessica Joslin, his wife of 17 years, is a sculptor. They share their studio, their creative ideas and their lives.

Aside from his wife, he is inspired by artists of the Neue Sachlichkeit movement, translated as “New Objectivity,” which occurred post World War I. It was the artistic rebellion against expressionism and futurism, which were typical of that period. These new objectivity artists focused on realism, with a practical approach. He also admires the surrealists, symbolists and illustrators from the years 1920-1940.

His influences are evident in his portraits. This week, Joslin is showcasing a new type of venture at the "Tarot Under Oath" exhibit at Last Rites Gallery in New York City, curated by Aunia Kahn. Each artist in the show has depicted one of the 22 cards from the Major Arcana of the Tarot deck. Joslin interpreted "The Hanged Man" (pictured to the left).

If you compare the original version of the card to Joslin's, there are some consistencies, the man hangs upside down from a tree and the rope is tied around his foot. Joslin changes the standard vision of the man, however. Instead of the man's original stature with his arms crossed behind his back, Joslin paints him with his arms wide open. He offers the card a natural backdrop of mountains and water to stand behind the trees. The facial expression is the most striking distinction. Joslin's hanged man is proud, compared to the original Major Arcana man who is content.

The Hanged Man does not fear death. He welcomes it. See Joslin's rendition along with the 21 other cards at Last Rites Gallery from Jan. 25 to March 1, 2014.

His newest work reflects the best Chicago has to offer - or so he feels - the people who surround him. He is painting a series of portraits of those that interest or intrigue him in a personal way. He stages and photographs them in his studio before touching the canvas.

Joslin says, "Something different and more pure emerges from the canvas when I have a personal connection to the subject."

Some local faces can be spotted in his series of portraits, such as Michael Shannon and Tony Fitzpatrick. He captures their natural tendencies in a subdued environment. He stages Shannon in a pensive pose, tense with heavy thoughts. He evades the glance of the viewer. He is alone in the room, distracted. Tony is outside with his arm lightly, but protectively swooped around his dog. Behind him is a flock of crows sitting on telephone wires. The dog is calm and pleased, while Tony is preoccupied. Joslin illustrates his friends and acquaintances by uncovering that layer the public normally does not see, the grit and the vulnerability. View these portraits in the Slideshow to the left.

Joslin's own face is no stranger to the canvas. On many occasions, he has depicted himself in his work. As he presents his subjects as characters, he portrays himself in diverse images as well. His face has been featured as a military man, a man of wealth, a juggler, a knife thrower, a surrendered man and more. His work is a combination of dream and reality. The characters are vivid, because they are living, breathing characters in his own story.

One of his self-portrait drawings currently hangs in the "Face to Face" exhibit at the Arkansas Art Center in Little Rock, Arkansas and can be seen until Feb. 9, 2014. View his self-portraits in the slideshow gallery and explore more of Joslin's work at

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