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Interpretation of life (Local artist and retired teacher talks about his journey with art)

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Interpretation of life (Local artist and retired teacher talks about his journey with art)
Interpretation of life

Local artist and retired middle school teacher Jim Deaton poses in front of a landscape painting he is working on.

A collection of bulbous somewhat scattered yet symmetrical images line the walls of local artist Jim Deaton’s living room turned art studio.

Deaton, a retired Rio Rancho middle school art teacher and self-proclaimed seeker of higher knowledge, has transformed his entire home into an art gallery of sorts. In fact, there isn’t a room in his home that doesn’t have several paintings hanging in it, some his and some purchased from students he has taught through the years.

In 1995, Deaton began working on his own adaption of art by creating polymorphic suggestive extraction paintings.

“It may have been done somewhere else but truly I started this on my own,” Deaton said. “Polymorphic means that you can turn it to view in four orientations.”

The point, he said, is to hang the painting in every direction possible, periodically changing the viewer’s perspective of the work.

“It’s always changing,” Deaton said. “The image you thought you saw in the painting changes drastically by just hanging the painting in a different direction.”

He said he put enough familiarity in each piece for viewers to recognize and possibly make an association with, only to change when it is turned.

Interpretation of life

Deaton painted this portrait of one of his first-grade students from a photo he had taken of him.

Early age

He said he was turned on to art at an early age by imaging himself in the settings of two unique paintings his mother had hanging in the dining room.

“They were partially abstract and partially realistic street scenes in Italy,” he said. “The way they were done, I could just travel there in my imagination and get lost.”

But it wasn’t until Deaton was a senior in high school, he said, that he knew art was going to be his lifelong calling.

“When I told my family about my decision, they were supportive that I had a direction, but my dad had his reservations because he didn’t see it as practical,” he said.

After seeing a possible slump in his education, he said he moved out east to finish high school.

“I was going to Sandia High School in tenth grade when I received my very first D,” he said. “I moved out to live with my mom in Virginia and went to T.C. Williams High School, the school from ‘Remember the Titans.’”

He said he was homesick for New Mexico and came back to attend the University of New Mexico, where he majored in Liberal Arts.

“I had no inkling that I wanted to teach at this time; I just wanted to do art and so I went forward with my passion,” Deaton said.

A late start

He revealed that he didn’t get into painting until he was in his late 30s, after he had gone through a divorce.

“I was 36 and thought if there was a time to pursue my passion as an outlet, it was now,” he said.

Deaton painted this portrait of one of his first-grade students from a photo he had taken of him.

This picture was painted by one of Deaton's most talented students. Deaton said he would purchase his students paintings with their parent permission if he thought the piece was great. 

Along with painting came an unexpected spark to teach when he witnessed his new girlfriend’s involvement with her kids.

“I watched her and how attentive she was with her children and I knew then I wanted to teach from there,” Deaton said.

After getting certified to teach art, he began teaching in 1998.

“I was already close to 40 years old and I knew how the world worked, so I was ready to teach right out the gate with no intimidation,” Deaton said. “I spent my years fine-tuning what worked and what didn’t, but I found it rewarding.”

Today, Deaton continues to teach art to students of all ages in his home, using whatever media they find exciting.

He also uses his free time to create new art.

“Right now I have five main branches of my work that I can rotate between depending on how I’m feeling at the time,” Deaton said. “One of those branches is landscapes, which is what I am into right now.”

Portraits are another branch he said he has been successful with, having recently sold a few.

“I like to capture that moment that defines a person…that look they get only they can convey,” he said. “If I am successful with that, then I know I have something.”

Riva Rachel, Deaton’s high school friend, said she reconnected with him via social media when she became interested in the PSE form of painting.

“He always had the knack for art, even more so than the regular students in high school,” Rachel said. “His artwork now is brilliant.”

Interpretation of life

Rachel, who studied art for many years, said Deaton’s art evokes fragility and a purpose many artists can only try to convey.

“It’s a very deep, deep resonating feeling,” Rachel said. “It has such vibrance and transparency and interconnectedness. The interplay between the shape, color, the rhythmic flow, the light… encourages viewers to connect.”

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