By Josh Shepherd, News writer
Jarrod Biddle likes his pencil and ink works to walk a fine line between realistic depictions and art. There is likely no better example of his ambition than the homes that people have commissioned him to draw.
He flips through the portfolio of his work, so numerous that he has them organized on a rolodex file, and stops on a picture of a family home.
The illusion sustains itself for a moment. At just a passing glance, one might think they are looking at a black and white photograph. But it becomes apparent soon afterword that the image is one of Biddle’s commissions — his artwork.
“I want my work to be realistic up to a point. But I also want people to become aware that they are seeing an artistic work. I want the image to be just a little more than real,” he said.
It is much easier to see Biddle’s personal aesthetic in portraits he’s hired to compose and especially in the various nature scenes that dominate his creative energies.
In terms of drawing an income for his art, Biddle knows that his bread and butter are the family homes he recreates on the page, the covered bridges and historic buildings he has drawn, and the family portraits. And there is a premium for making these images as lifelike as his medium, ink and pencil, allows.
The detail that Biddle captures in his work is astonishing. It is not enough for him to compose illustrations on a flat white background. He wants to convey a sense of place in his work. It has always been so since he discovered his passion and talent for art in high school.
Biddle has always preferred to work in black ink. He has painted and explored the use of color in his work, but always he has returned to black, white and grey as his preferred means of expression.
The one exception was adding a touch of blue to the eyes of a leopard in a work of his that he sold.
Throughout his home on Leawood Drive are framed examples of his work. They trace the development of his craft from his earliest work as a committed pointillist, creating textures and shades through the painstaking process of millions of individual ink dots to other methods that he finds more personally pleasing.
“Pointillism makes for some very beautiful images. I continue to use a variation of the style for the main subjects of my work. But when I apply it to backgrounds — skies, clouds, shading to add a sense of depth — it would take weeks or even months to finish,” Biddle said.
He has since amended his process in a very unique fashion, one that continues to define his style as an artist.
He incorporates the use of pencil almost like a watercolor. The result doesn’t register immediately on the person observing his work, but it has enabled him to add new levels of depth to his images. And it has increased efficiency in the completion of his works.
Painters and sculptors have centuries of masters from whom they can derive new ideas and inspirations. But when it comes to his brand of ink work, Biddle has not had that many contemporary artists influence him.
“There are some artists and illustrators whom I admire, but I am working in a form where I just don’t find that many people working,” Biddle said.
He has, fortunately, found many people who appreciate the end result of his work.
In addition to his artistry, Biddle is also an enthusiastic sportsman. Alongside his framed originals in his home are numerous examples of his hunting and fishing skills preserved by local taxidermists.
It is his enthusiasm for the outdoors that constantly feeds the subject matter of his art. He enjoys creating natural settings where deer rest quietly in a forest or where wild turkeys forage near the ruins of an old tobacco barn.
Two of his most stark pieces are of owls at rest beneath the light of a full moon. Biddle captures remarkable detail even to the point of the shading in the bird’s feathers.
But, again, amid all the careful attention to detail, there is always a slight twist to reality. Tom Turkeys are out of proportion to the landscape, bucks rest beneath trees with an inordinately large set of antlers.
Elements of the fantastic draw a viewer’s eye to the image without announcing themselves too loudly. It’s never obvious to the viewer that something is a bit off until after a few moments of looking.
Biddle is making some personal inroads with his work that he hopes will help build upon his reputation, and especially his income, as an artist.
He has already worked with local taxidermists to create a value-added incentive to hunters. Throughout deer season, hunters who order a gamehead mount can put their names in for a special drawing at the end of the season. For the winner, Biddle creates an original portrait of their deer in a natural setting which they can frame as a companion to their mount.
Biddle is also creating an original work to be raffled at the February banquet of the Edgewater Limbhangers, the Cynthiana subset of the Kentucky chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation.
The work is already complete and suitable for framing. He also plans on marketing a limited edition set of prints based on the original, he said.
Where his art will take him next it is hard to tell, Biddle said. He is constantly searching for new ideas and new commissions to grow this passion of his into a steady living.