Jamie Wayman’s show at the Art Barn in 2003 drew approval from the 15 Bytes critic of the day, but Kasey Boone questioned whether an interesting idea might not become a gimmick, asking, “Can you paint underwater scenes your whole life?” The answer is, absolutely: Wayman’s career has moved along swimmingly since then (there, we’ve gotten the inevitable pun out of the way early — and fairly painlessly at that). “I feel like I haven’t quite finished with them, really,” she says.
This artist has practically drowned in water all her life. She’s an Aquarius, and even has her moon in Pisces, another astrological water sign, which may explain her artistic destiny (smile). Even her father, Larry Anderson, an engineer, served for 27 years as director of the Utah Division of Water Resources in the state’s Department of Natural Resources. Jamie Wayman, it seems, didn’t stand a chance. She was going to paint water.
Besides her Art Barn show, in 2003 she also found a gallery – or one found her. Wayman was featured in the inaugural show of Horne Fine Art that year. As Karen Horne recalls: “We met at Rockwood Studios in Sugar House; Jamie had a studio down the hall from me and painted there after she graduated. I was doing some water scenes from Long Island, not at all the same thing, but when we opened the gallery and did the Splash show, Jamie was sort of the centerpiece of it.”
Now, 15 years later, that show is coming around again. 15th Anniversary SPLASH! – Featuring New Paintings by Jamie Wayman runs June 14-30 with a reception Friday, June 15, from 6- 9 p.m. during Gallery Stroll. Other artists included in this water-themed exhibition are Ryan Cannon, Ken Baxter, Phyllis Horne, and Karen Horne. A variation of SPLASH! will run through July with gallery hours by appointment and a second Stroll reception July 20.
Jamie recalls of that era that she had married Steven Wayman, a pharmacy student, and the couple happily resided in very cramped student housing at the U. She badly needed a studio and Professor Bob Kleinschmidt had tacked up an ad in the art department for shared studio space at Rockwood. “Such a nice man. He had another studio upstairs where Connie Borup was,” she recalls. “One night I was working late cleaning brushes and Karen Horne said she was opening a gallery. I told her that I was doing a show at Finch Lane, but I started with her gallery right after. She’s been so patient with me all this time, with my kids and some less-productive years.”
A Bountiful native, Wayman always had a little art box as a child that she would take in the car when the family traveled to Logan to visit relatives. Mostly she drew unicorns, but when she was 13, she did a drawing of her sister, Michelle, “that looked just like her. I still have it,” she says. By then, Wayman knew drawing and painting would be a major part of her life, that she would always “make art.” To this day she takes a sketchbook wherever she goes.
She began a 12-year competitive swimming career, first at Woods Cross High, rising at 4 a.m. to practice and putting in four or more hours a day in community and school pools.
It’s a lifestyle, she says. “Mornings, afternoons weekends, I was like kind of crazy dedicated to it. Now, I see my daughter at the age I was when I started and I think if she told me she had to be at practice at 5 in the morning I’d say, ‘Do you really? I mean really, do we have to do that?’ But I spent a big part of my life in the water. It’s an honest reflection when I paint swimming. My husband was a swimmer, also. We both played water polo on the club team in college, in addition to my swimming. We just got back from Lake Tahoe, that’s where we go, that’s what we do.
“But I’m just scratching the surface, potentially, with water. I’m trying to experiment a little bit with a lake and how that changes things. My most recent work has been about reflection. Water reflects looking down on the water on both surfaces. Without sounding too Alice in Wonderland, when you go under the water and you look up it reflects on the surface, right? And then when you’re above the water and look down it reflects on that surface, too. And I feel like all the pieces I’ve done recently are all about the reflections on the water and how they move. Choppy water, it’s slow moving, you can get big pieces of reflection from the bottom of the pool when the water is a little slower from the top or the bottom.”
When she was in high school Wayman painted swimmers but says it was more about the athletes and the competition. “When I got into college it started to become more about water and the physical properties of water and the reflective properties of water and the movement of it and I just kind of kept going with that.”
She enrolled at the U of U in the late ‘90s on a swimming scholarship and led the team, but also loved the art classes she had taken in high school. She fought the lure of the paintbrush until her junior year, when she threw herself under the tutelage of John Erickson, determined to get her bachelor’s degree in painting and drawing.
Since she clearly had found her niche in swimming pools and the realm of water, frequently sketching her teammates, Erickson suggested Wayman take underwater photos and later paint from them. After taking some shots and putting the resulting images on canvas, Wayman never looked back.
She focuses her Nikon sport lens mostly on children, frequently on her own family, sometimes quite effectively on just their legs dangling underwater in the pool, occasionally topped by colorful swim wear, but will shoot a few grownups as well, and then renders them artfully in oil, though she once used acrylic exclusively. She’ll urge her sister to don a brightly colored suit instead of her black one: “Wear something bold so I can see the color.” She adds, “I look at the paintings and I remember where I was, what we were doing and who I was with and what our life was like at that moment.”
Wayman prefers outdoor pools because “I like the amazing color you get. And you get more drama. With indoor pools you get more shadow. But you have to have the light. It’s essential for what I do. Since I do a lot of surface work, the reflected light from the bottom of the pool creates just as much interest on the surface of the water as the actual model.“
Now, she says, she has to push through the lake photos. “You don’t get reflected water in lakes because you don’t have that bottom shining like you do in pools and they’re murky. Even if it’s a clean lake, it’s usually pretty deep and there’s darkness below them. And you don’t have a lot of things reflecting, giving me the form in space,” she observes.
Horne describes Wayman as very approachable and grounded and writes that she is discriminating in her work, skillfully capturing “water’s visual magic – ripples, reflections, distortions – in paint.” Horne wonders aloud what would have happened to Wayman’s career had she not started a family at so young an age. “Her work is very periodic,” says Horne, who clearly would like to have more of it in the gallery. “She puts her family first,” she says, adding, “She’s a wonderful mother.” Horne believes there was “a big creative push with Jamie’s paintings when she was expecting,” saying that she envies the fact that the artist was able to settle on “a theme she is so dedicated to for her work at such an early age. Seeing her over the years has been interesting. She’s such a gem.”
Wayman doesn’t see her young children (Abigail is 13, Noah 11, and Sam 8) as an interruption to her career, but rather “without getting too poetic, we have all extremes in my husband’s and my life: we have aging parents and grandparents and nephews and nieces and we’re all really close. Family is so much a part of our life – our beautiful, messy life to be honest – but it’s great. They don’t interrupt it; they’ve only enhanced it. They are my primary models, for one thing,” she says with a wistful smile. “Along with their friends and our family. So I really just paint my life,” After some thought, though, Wayman acknowledges that “kids interrupt everything, but I wouldn’t trade it.”
She says she doesn’t “paint eight hours a day, that’s for sure. I feel pretty good if I get two hours a day in. Every big painting reaches a point were it needs a four-to-six hour chunk of time and I can see it coming and I’ll just get the kids off to school and we try to adjust our schedule so I get it. But taking a break helps me not to overwork something, to come back with fresh eyes. There will come a day when I’ll have six-to-eight hours and I think I may be lonely.
“My daughter gets up at 6 so she can catch the bus at 7 a.m. I have a friend I swam with in college and we go to the pool a few days a week but in order to go and get everything done in time you have to get up at 4:30. And we swore we’d never get up that early ever again,” she says with a laugh. “But we do because we get our exercise in for the day and take the dogs for a walk and get the boys on the bus — typical mom things. I just kind of make sure I’m balancing our ever-changing life to fit it all in.”
The Waymans live in a small historic home in Huntsville, children’s art and family photographs covering the walls and backs of doors, her studio set in a charming garden shed. The home backs on Pineview Reservoir and, of course, has water access directly behind the house. More importantly, Wayman says, the Huntsville Library is nearby and is a home away from home for the whole family.
Hunstville is a wonderfully pastoral setting, with plenty of non-aquatic material for a painter. While Wayman does see herself painting something besides water someday, she finds that water is always present now. “I’ll go do a plein air painting and I’m always coming to the water. I’ll go do a barn in town and feel like I’m not quite doing it justice. I haven’t dialed in a technique that I don’t feel I’m experimenting with. So I don’t know. But I wanted to bring so much of what I love about lakes and rivers and mountains and everyplace I like to go because they’re so inspiring. And the birds where I live and the animals that are here and the stuff that I love — and I love more than just the water — I truly just paint what inspires me. They are kind of a dialogue of my life.”
15thAnniversary SPLASH!” – Featuring New Paintings by Jamie Wayman, Horne Fine Art, Salt Lake City, June 14-30, opening reception June 15 during Gallery Stroll, 6-9 p.m. A modified show continues through July by appointment only with a Gallery Stroll reception July 20, 6-9 p.m.
A graduate of the University of Utah, Ann Poore is a freelance writer and editor who spent most of her career at The Salt Lake Tribune. She was the 2018 recipient of the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Artist Award in the Literary Arts.