BIOGRAPHY: HENRY JAMES JACKMAN (1944  -  )

Henry James Jackman’s life story is as colorful as his paintings. He was born on 15 January 1944 from a humble family living in Capital Park, Pretoria and he also swam the mighty Apies - as we know - amongst other. At the age of about 10 years, Henry started sketching on his own drift in the absence of outside influence or tutoring and some of his first sketches were Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse and popular animational icons of the period. His father noticed all this and called him an artist. He then started painting with oil and sold some to friends and teachers for loose pennies. His old man also called him ‘dreamer.’ One of his dreams was to become an artist like Leonardo Da Vinci which becames dreams like those during a fever attack.

At the age of 12, he attended an after hour art school for about 6 months where he did wood carvings. At the age of 13 Henry became next door neighbours with the late impressionist Adriaan Boshoff and during this 2 years Henry accepted Adriaan as his lifelong art mentor and as Henry openly admit, is still strongly influenced by Adriaan’s work. During this period Adriaan taught him 2 cardinal skills, how to apply the sunset colors: Crimson lake, Persian Blue and Lemon yellow and how to create different shades of colour. At 14 Henry started smoking and skipping school and engaged smithers of rebellious delinquent behavior, he was not particularly interested in academics, but rather to have the occasional bottle of wine at the tunes of Elvis’ latest release. which sporadically took him away and then back again to painting. At 17 he painted compositions on his bedroom and their home’s walls, amongst which almost lifesize figures of an Elephant, a Tiger, an Eagle, a Gorilla, a Moose, racing cars and the like.

But there were many detours along the way.  As with many artists, one has to ask: “Is it the dysfunction that creates the artist and the myth, or is it the artist who, as a part of their creativity, creates the dysfunction?” Henry was troubled throughout his life with Tourette syndrome, manic strokes of bipolar depression, obsessive compulsiveness, etc. to name but just a few.

Coming from a poor and rough background with older brothers being bikers, businessman and street fighters, Henry started his career as a policeman in Durban and remained in the service for 4 years during which he still rebelliously neglected his painting. In 1966 shortly after graduating for sergeant, he made his biggest - next to his devotion of oil painting – benchmark choice of commitments when in the utmost unexpected turn of events, under strong Calvinistic Reformed influence,  his spirit called him for a life in devotion to God, thus converting his life in an evangelistic crusade and so he was called for a full-time ministry as a missionary pastor. The latter only to be revealed later though…

Hence followed another 9 years during which he kept suppressing his ultimate call and artist’s instinct as he studied theology at the University of Pretoria. During this period he painted on and off.

Henry met and married Marieta, his most loyal and faithful wife going 40 years, their undeniable and inseparable union now running stronger than ever before. “..Without her I would have been a hobo..”

His missionary outpost led him to Indwe, in the then Ciskei neighbour state, where he served 14 outposts.

When his brothers and father received this news they specially drove down to the Cape to come and curse and derail his peace, “..wasn’t it enough to become a minister instead of a policemen?!..” they scoldered at him. “..Did you had to be so ridiculous to do this and become a missionary !?..”  They weren’t impressed to say the least. Ironically giving him almost then the sort of treatment as if he was the black sheep of the family!

Now and then on a fieldtrip in this area he came in contact with which those years were still relatively unspoiled traditional living and culture of the locals as they make a living plowing the lands with ox and plow. He remembers how, if he walked pass the local chief’s hut, he would see the older women of the settlement with their faces whitishly covered in ash, sitting completely unbothered around the fire smoking their churchwarden-like long stem pipes. Tranquilly aloof to the outside world. Not affected by the rat race as we know it. Images influencing Henry.

Here he played rugby and eagerly joined into a fist fight on the play field if he had to. He was inspired by the mountains and open Eastern Cape natural beauty. A more romantic and idyllic change of scenery from Pretoria and Durban. His life, spiced with adventure, politics and drama often led him into the pickle a bit. Not always applying discreetness of tact when facing moral issues or upsets he quite amusingly regularly end up in a loggerhead with the church counsel. This missionary, in his natural honest passionate manner, caused rimples and dust wherever he roamed.

With the visit of a farmer from the Western Cape he was noticed, invited, proposed and then given a congregation in Darling where he served seven years as missionary under the coloured population. Again, with his enticingly charming character, Henry learned to drink red wine with the jolly Western Cape farmers and soon before long became a popular and well liked character among the white wine-, sheep- and wheat farmers of the region. Again, ironically, him actually being the local black minister, he just hanged out equally well with the whole community and all accepted and liked him equally alike.

Diving crayfish and fishing snoek on the west coast, and making hunting trips to outposts and Namibia were highlights to this era but also in his life. Again, influencing his later affections resembled in his work, with a deepened sense of appreciation for still life scenes, Western Cape themes reflected and wild life scenes depicts in his works. Henry is and was real. Real human. Real character. Real passion. Raw talent.

Energetic and enthusiastic, he still played vigorously rugby at the age of 42.

His love for the South African natural beauty of landscapes and mountains, galore were further deepened through annual visits to the Cedarberg mountain ranges where he freed his spirit with excursions and hiking trails and late night large campfires under open skies.

This love for South Africa’s mountains would always remain. During these years he picked up his brushes again but just to yet again having to give away to the social demands of running a big congregation and being a father of four.

With humor and D.J. Opperman’s poems, verses and jokes book, he entertained the local coloured workers in the crops and had everyone crawling with laughter while they were all sitting smoking up his packet of Texan cigarettes. At the end when he gave up this habit for the pipe, one of his coloured female church counsel members remarked in a very perky and laughter evoking manner: “..Pastor, you can at least every now and then take that pipe out of your mouth for a moment..!”

Funnily enough, it was Henry, the local missionary,  who started the Voortrekker (Pathfinder Scouts) movement in Darling, a true Afrikanerism cultural movement, acting on his sense own sense for his own cultural heritage, not being bothered the slightest about the politically correctness of this move.

Yet, somehow this role he played in his local community, was building bridges over cross cultural boundaries in the then still rather politically volatile apartheid years of the late seventies to mid eighties. By times he would’ve been playing rugby with and for the local rugby club and then one half of the pavilion would be the obvious white local sports enthustic and the other half his coloured members from his congregation, all cheering for pastor minister kicking the ball and running for the goal line with all senses focused. Everybody joined to come and watched the game.

But as a white man with both strong cultural involvements in the Afrikanerdom as well as his integration and devotion and love to his coloured congregation there was the inevitable uproar, conflict of interest, jealousy and the all rest that goes with it and his days were numbered. Eventually after 7 years his bond with the regional church counsel was made loose.

He moved on and accepted a post under the Free State Missionary Senate in the middle eighties as the dedicated missionary to promote and teach the Evangelistic Gospel to the Lozi and other local tribes in the Caprivi, which formed the North Eastern outflank of the then South West Africa.

There he camped with his interpreter and guide between the lions, leopards and elephants for months on end with only his Hilux, ground sheet, a few pots and pans and off course his bible. In that manner, the two of them traveled from one remote tribal settlement to another. Deprived from modern facilities like radio, television, tv, cell phone or the likes. Far away from common commodities he occasionally served communion with Coke and pap and his trainers peeping out from underneath his communion gown.

It was commonplace to live on a diet for weeks and more on only peanuts, pap, pumpkin and more less than often the occasional fortune of a wild hare or rabbit that landed in the pot. Again here, he lived intimately in a solitary manner with nature which yet again, refined his appreciation for nature and landscapes. A lifestyle he never really shrugged as he still up to this day preferably sleeps on the outside porches of their home where they now live in the warm tropical climate of Florida state, U.S.A. Very similar weather to those of the Caprivi. Hot and endlessly humid.

However, he was challenged with converting rural Africans with more fear for Witch doctors than respect for the bible. But Henry has a talent for learning new languages and apart from majoring his theology in Hebrew and Greek during his varsity years, he was able to fairly quickly converse in a few African languages while serving different tribes.  During this period he contracted various tropical infectious diseases that almost cost him his life with ill health, suffering from chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and depression. He got so sick with tyvoid, malaria, bilharsia en whatever more that it eventually caused him to retire early at the age of 50. His service here lasted 3 years after which he returned to the Republic to serve his last 5 years as full time minister in a white congregation in North West Province in the Bushveld complex.

Here he became known as the ‘feast’ minister as he was known to greet people with the words: “..Life’s a feast..” (based on Proverbs15:15)  He also became locally popular for the mouthwatering Western Cape seawater Pike(Snoek) he was able to braai over the coles. A trick he learned in his Darling days off course. And he teached – among the Word -  the hardened bushveld biltong- and beefsteak boors this delicatessen to such a degree that the OK Bazaar in Brits at the time became the biggest seller of snoek in South Africa for those years.

So unpretentious and humble, this pastor drove such an old beaten up yellow Ford Granada that one day out on a bible study visit to a fellow church member’s house, this mobile crocket spontaneously caught fire along the road side with clouds of smoke bolstering from within the engine cap. On another account as he was parked in front of a prison complex, the guards became so suspicious of this vehicle with it’s homemade makeshift hotwire starting button dangling from below the dashboard, that they mistakenly identified it for a suspicious device and a possible terrorist vehicle/threat and called the security police for a closer investigation. The national police vehicle tracking system was offline for the day and unable to identify the correct owner they in turn mustered the bomb squad who broke open the boot, removed his briefcase and blew Henry’s church yearbook and bible to smithereens and great entertainment of national newspapers who afterwards ran headlines “Bomb actually minister’s Bible”.

On another account he so enthusiastically tracked after a kudu bull in the mountains on a school principal’s farm that he slipped and broke his leg, completely immobilised and so inaccessible to a vehicle that yet again the police were called in to bring an emergency military helicopter to evacuate him. Impulsive yes. Wild yes. Raw yes. True in all which his character encompasses. Most definitely yes.

Once again, in his bushveldt years he was fortunate to embrace nature’s pride and joy. Deepening yet again his thickly layered affection reflected in his works which he endures to capture with such tremendous detail and richness in colour diversities as seen in his work.

After his service here he retired on disability pension after many punches over the years that crippled his state of health and in 1996 he immigrated with his five and youngest, only daughter, to America where his wife is working up till today as an occupational therapist.

This sees the end of his formal religious career but he still preaches regularly at Minister Orange County Rehab and Nursing home for the enweakenend elderly as well as the Voluntary Counsel of West Volusia County Hospice serving as pastoral Care Giver of Florida Hospital and also serve preachings by the Minister Refuge for the Disabled and Less privileged and he also aired on the religious channel ‘Transitions’ and has been given an honorary doctorate for Humanitarian Services by the Homstead School of Bible and Graduate School in Orlando, Florida for his service as missionary in Africa..

However, in this transitional phase from full time minister to retiree his artistic intensions for the first time ever had the breathing space to more dominantly surface to the forefront.

He started painting feverously, almost a bit obsessive.  And it was every Friday night, the six months before leaving for America that he sat in the studio with his beloved mentor, Adriaan Boshoff, gaining his last and final notes from his great master.

In America, he met with alternative medicine and a first world health service and with a good diet and healthy lifestyle Henry lifted his health within a few years and at 58 he could finish a half marathon for the first time ever in his life. With ease. This boasted his painting capability tremendously.

However, been painting sporadically and periodically throughout his life he over the years gave away numerous collections of various themes of paintings ranging from unique African animal sceneries to still life and daily household settings with children and pets all between. For many years his  health complications and obvious career responsibilities hampered him from a full time dedication to painting.  But now, at age 66, Henry has the endurance and strength to exercise and enjoy his painting more than ever before. He reached the matured state of having shredded all his younger complexities and character traits and illness related weaknesses which hampered him and now he can paint on a highly focused level of commitment and intensity.

He does so while listening to the audio tracks of Spurgeon’s preaching of his first love,  his faith in God. And in recent years devote all his free time apart from supporting his loving wife, Marieta , at home, to paint.

Therefor, at the age of  57  he  started oil painting on a full time basis. Steadily he builded up this slowly aged skill and nowadays a typical  3’x 6 ‘compositions would take him anywhere from 1-3 months to complete. More moderate size paintings in the region of 3 to 5 weeks. He finds himself by times working on various compositions simultaneously as the perceptions of themes sort of undergo a brewing and maturing process as he digs and involves more deeper and deeper into each individual work he engage in. Yet, as he describes himself, his biggest challenge with each painting is the starting point. Once started, the ball doesn’t stop rolling and he can sit for weeks till the piece is finished but the start remains the hardest. How to find the right composition, how to find that which inspires him sufficiently, to lay out his colour schemes and arrangements, the size of the painting, etc. He’ll literally walk for days around his easel to find the right angle of approach and exactly where to start precisely right. It’s important for him to regularly exercise and he’ll jog or walk for kilometres on end down the beach or by the John F Kennedy Space centre or at lake Munroe conservation area to keep his wit afreshed and health in top condition.

In his words, he has written: 

“First, my heart belongs to my loving Proverbs 31 wife, Marieta Christina Jackman, to whom I’ve been  attached for forty years.  I am also very much indebted to my son, Louis Jackman, for his life flowing input. He was and is like a live electrical wire in his care and management of my paintings. He has inspired me to paint, and in his care, manages my work. He lifted me from the dark abyss of which my art was neglected to become and adamently inspired me without sparing any effort for months and years continuously with the most loyal reawakening of an artistic inspiration any artist could desire. His guidance and briefing from an objective yet involved point of view carried me through. Of exactly how and where and what to do to reborn and revive my painting skill back to life again. It’s a very complex and integrated relationship of motivation, drive, analysses, support, critique and a catalytical role or relationship that we have and which he plays in my art. I can still and will always hear his admonition and rebuke: ‘Dad, you’ve got the gift of painting and now you are mowing lawns like that Mexican Marijuana smoker on the corner.’  Stop wasting your talents. Forget about the rest. And just paint, paint, paint,…

Others contributing to my progress are Richard Richardson, A fellow church member and well known civil engineer and successful businessman from Orlando, Florida,

who suggested I work on a larger scale. Furthermore, I am a fanatic outdoor lover, I  love hiking trails, swimming in the ocean, hunting, trees, mountains, wildlife, flowers, wildflowers and the country always fascinated me since I was  a small boy. Out of all the classics, Beethoven remains the sweetest to me. And when it comes to painters my idols is Adriaan Boshoff, Van Gogh’s colours, Daniel F. Gerhartz’ impressionistic but unspeakable realistic style of light and dark colour contrasts, South African well known Rene Snyman , Realism artist Jack Vettriano, the romanticizing work of Jean Francis Millet as well as the work of Francisko de Goya and Branko Dimitrov as well as the 19th Century genre painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

Over and above all,  I paint for Christ, for His Word, for His church and His people’s sake, because all the prayers that ascended to His throne of grace in heaven and the love and care of my American and South African friends and family, resulted in my progress to paint.”

From an intial more impressionistic style or ‘traditional art’ as his American agent, Judith Seagull, describes it, Henry’s work evolved into a more realistic impressionistical style too and even though he applies more brush, he has, in his most recent works developed a magnificent combination of brush and palette. Most likely this to become and finally having transformed and settled al together thus his very own unique recognisable style.

He applies this to a rather particular 3-dimensional effect created with unique shade elements which he achieves by applying a thick–on-thin and light-on-dark oil application style. He lies great emphasis on his complimentary colour schemes which he prizes as one of his most important ingredients in his techniques in his arsenal of effetcs through which he achieves his lustrously colourful works.

His first exhibition in R.S.A. was in 1993, arranged on the initiative of Marieta Diamond and recent exhibits in the U.S.A. included ones at the African American Art Museum in Deland, Florida – where he achieved between US$ 1,000 to US$ 3,000 for his works – and also being one of the first artists to exhibit at the new Gateway Centre for Arts in Debary, Florida, as well as exhibiting in the famous Debary Hall in Debary, Florida.

Henry is a humble man of love, faith and devotion who, after all that a life of turmoil and stormy weather can throw at you, still has, the capacity to dream and believe. He paints with overwhelming passion and a meticulous care to detail which is clearly visible in his work.

His ultimate desire remains to be able to permanently relocate back to his heart land,  South Africa and continue his career as a painter during his retiring and last years.

His beloved soul inspiring country of birth from which within his deepest memoirs and inspirations of painted art was born.