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Four Male Artists Put Their Mark on the Local Arts Scene

J Douglas, Ravi Raman, George Jacobs & Roger Perez

J Douglas: Passionate About Painting

After relinquishing a 17-year career as master of a struggling martial arts studio, J Douglas was broke and on the verge of a career in local law enforcement when serendipity struck. The opportunity didn’t immediately present as a Royal Flush – he’d just taken a job as a waiter at Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg as a stop-gap before applying to the Police Academy. He’d been painting professionally for years by then and had prints he shared with the manager of the resort’s gift shop. It didn’t take long for them to find their way into the hands of resort CEO Sheila Johnson.

J relates, “Ms. Johnson was coming down the hall toward me waving my prints saying, “J, you’re an artist!” His reply, “I told you I was.”  She said, “No, no, NO! People say they’re artists. You ARE an Artist!” Sheila not only asked him to sell his prints, note cards and children’s coloring books based on his work in Salamander’s gift shop, but requested that he stage a three-month solo art show at the resort. Six years later, his work still hangs in the Equestrian Center, along with a commissioned 5-ft. by 7-ft. painting of Paul Estermann, a Swedish Olympic athlete riding Lord Pepsi. J dedicated the work to Sheila in honor of the hurdles she’d help him leap to share his art with the public.

Through quarantine, he’s held regular painting classes on behalf of Artists in Middleburg, splitting donations with the non-profit (profiled on p. X), and he recently joined AIM’s board. He has plans for an online Art Academy he’d like to call The Excuse Free Art Academy. Everyone starts as a novice, he asserts. “I don’t consider myself a master of the arts, I’m just further along the trail than you are.... I want to help others walk the same path.”

When not teaching or bartending, J is hard at work on commissions. See http://www.rtistj.com/

Ravi Raman: Urban Pop Artist Uses Color as Prose

Growing up in New Jersey, the pull of the New York art and music scene was strong for Ravi Raman, so his works have always leaned “urban and New York-centric.” He calls himself a modern pop artist, not in the style of Warhol, but just because so much of his work centers on pop culture.

Author F. Scott Fitzgerald is a touch-stone, and his descriptions of Gloria in The Beautiful and Damned inspired two panels: “She wanted to exist only as a conscious flower,” and, “A sense of responsibility would spoil her. She’s too pretty.” Because the first quote was intended as a put-down, Ravi was bemused to see so many teenage girls at Art Expo in New York where he showed the work in 2018 use it as a selfie backdrop. “Because they were relating to it. I didn’t have the heart to tell them.”

That he is attuned to his audience is apparent in another work, "Half My Heart Away." The left panel was a solo work until several people who saw it remarked that it looked like half a heart. He created another half as a cold contrast to the fiery passion of the first, and together they're complete. 

Street art is a strong influence, so it’s fitting that his latest works have ended up decorating a plywood construction wall near the Dupont Circle Metro on 20th St. NW in the District. Inspired by Picasso’s minimalist work on glass, the 9-part series is called “Love in Six Lines.” The theme is as simple as the composition, says Ravi: “Boy meets girl. Boy gives girl a flower. They kiss....”

You can see the whole series Love in Six Lines here: http://www.loveinsixlines.com, and all Ravi’s artwork at http://www.rtunes68.com

Roger Perez: Life and Painting in Vivid Color

Cuban-born artist Roger Perez loves to paint water so it’s not surprising that he owns a place at Lake Anna. In June of 2016, a wave rider exploded when he tried to start it, propelling him like a human cannonball down an alley to land in four feet of water. By a series of seeming miracles, he survived, but with a brain injury and broken back. His journey of recovery – a month in ICU, in the hospital another six weeks wearing a hard, plastic shell like a turtle, cognitive therapy and more than a year convalescing at home – has made him grateful that he can walk and hold a paintbrush.

It wasn’t until he began “Jungle Girl,” a portrait of a woman who’d been covered with paint and mud as part of the Day of the Dead celebration in Puerto Villarta – “just trying to put paint on canvas,” that, “all of a sudden it came together.”

It was as if painting again had unlocked his battered brain and given him back his ability to express himself, both in paint and in language, though some words still escape him. Ironically, he still derives most of his pleasure from painting hyper-realistic water scenes and vibrant portraits, and says he suffers no PTSD from his trauma.

“My glass is always half full,” he says now; “I can’t stand negative people.” See his work at https://rogerperezart.com/, The Yellow Barn Studio Juried Show and other local art shows.

George Jacob: Watercolor Landscape 

Given George Jacob’s feel for the bucolic byways of Western Loudoun, you’d swear he was raised a Virginia farm boy. Instead, George was born in India and lived in Kuwait and Michigan before moving to Northern Virginia in 2016 to work with a startup software business.

A highly emotive water-colorist, George challenges the viewer to engage with his works, filling in the blanks left by suggestive brush strokes and a calculated absence of detail. A member of the Virginia Watercolor Society, George says, “I like watercolor because it will never let anyone master it. Watercolor behavior is unpredictable: it depends on the humidity, how you layer, the gravity – you just cannot predict how it will turn out and that unpredictability is entrancing; I am as eager as everyone else to see what is going to emerge.”

That said, for a painting to be successful, “A lot of planning has to take place. It has to be a good conversation. Like photography where there are composition rules, there are rules for any painting. The arrangement of the shapes, how you de-clutter, how you bring in the center of interest of the painting, how you guide the viewer into your painting.”

One painting proved a favorite at the recent Loudoun Cares Art Auction. Called, “I love you, Dad,” it features his own depiction of his youngest daughter when she was seven or eight. “We have a very special connection,” he allows, but it is evoking emotion in the viewer that is his aim.  “Then I’m quite happy.”

The Vienna Arts Society and Loudoun libraries exhibit his work though he wishes the library did more to promote artists. “Art is very hard to sell,” he says with characteristic understatement. He does have an Etsy shop  https://www.etsy.com/shop/GeeJayArt where you can buy reproductions and high quality greeting cards, and schedule a commissioned painting of your home.

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