Jason Hunt

Fine artist Jason Hunt doesn't look at life in black and white; he sees it in many different shades of gray.

In his works, collectively titled "Moments in Time," Hunt uses a simple graphite pencil to capture poignant moments in life, from the soulful embrace of two young brothers ("My Brother") to the downtrodden, weary gaze of a homeless woman ("Brown Eyes Blue").

Hunt, 60, who lives in the Dr. Phillips area of southwest Orange County, said his aim is to capture the personal, quiet and universal moments that make up life. Those moments are often overlooked or taken for granted, he said.

"Those invisible moments, I guess you'd call them, I try to make those visible," Hunt said. "I'm trying to freeze a moment that is not miraculous. The great thing about it is the process of life is taking place every moment."

Hunt spent about 20 years working in acrylic and oil paints before gravitating back to his first love -- drawing -- about eight years ago.

He prefers creating images with graphite because the honesty, simplicity and versatility in black, white and the in-between shades of gray is powerful, he said.

"Black and white gives you clarity. You can see the pure line. You can't hide a thing in black and white and pencil," said Hunt, originally from Montclair, N.J.

"You can take a simple No. 2. pencil and create a multitude of different layers. It creates a world within itself that you can draw in."

As a child, Hunt was held back early in school because of a learning disability. But he could always draw and could even copy images upside down, he said.

Unlike his classmates, Hunt said, he never drew the sun as a simple circle with straight lines radiating around it, or the sky as a single line. He always looked at the world as true to life and documented everything he saw around him through his drawings.

Because his family was poor, Hunt practiced painting using house paint on plain paper.

While his learning disability isolated him, he said, art was an outlet that gave him a chance to look both inward and outward. As he matured, Hunt's ability to freeze-frame moments in time was recognized quickly. The primarily self-taught artist participated in his first show in Elizabeth, N.J., at 19. He didn't just sell well at the show; he won first prize.

One of his philosophies about art that has carried him through his 40-year career is that art should stir the viewer, whether it causes a smile, a laugh or a tear or is just thought-provoking.

"Art should move you. It should never leave you indifferent," he said.

When it comes to his artwork, Hunt said he is not as interested in creating a mood as he is in creating a moment.

"It will not make your couch look good; it might make you smile, though," he said.

Because he keeps his eyes open for real-life moments that range from the delicate to the dramatic, the his subject matter varied and colorful, even in black and white.

Hunt said that he strives to tell a story just as our lives are stories. These visual stories reflect the human condition in its raw, honest state, something viewers can recognize and relate to, he said.

"It should make us stop and give pause to our vulnerability as human beings. What I try to do is catch people without their makeup on," Hunt said. "That's how we connect with one another."

Hunt's ultimate message is that as human beings, we are more alike than we are different.

Images that are tender and moving or tug at the heartstrings include a little boy's nervousness walking to school his first day ("First Day"), the solitude of a slumped, aged man watching television ("Tyranny of Time"), the reverent silence of a father and son in church ("The Calling") or the peacefulness of a sleeping baby ("Amy").

Hunt has also captured the likenesses of celebrities, including musicians such as Wynton Marsalis, Johnny Cash, Billie Holiday, Dizzie Gillespie, Willie Nelson and Jimi Hendrix.

While portraits have taken center stage in Hunt's artwork, he has recently begun exploring landscapes, which "reflect where we live within the landscape of life," he said. "We are children of the Earth, if nothing else."

These days Hunt participates in shows as well as creates commissioned pieces and portraits. He believes that for every piece created, there's a person out there it belongs to. His biggest personal reward is when somebody connects with a piece and wants to take it home.

"Then the circle is complete," he said.

Orlando Sentinel - Orlando, FL.