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Elgin Jumper shows art, teaches painting at museum

BIG CYPRESS — Elgin Jumper has proven himself to be an accomplished artist, author and poet, but at the recent Seminole Artist Experience at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, he showed he is also a patient teacher.

During a field trip from camp July 16, a group of Seminole kids listened to Jumper as he read poetry, examined his art on display and sat behind easels as Jumper taught them how to paint.

He has been creating art since he was a child and Jumper appeared comfortable in his role teaching the group of eight eager painters.

Over the years, Jumper’s work has focused on nature and Seminole life. Lately he has been making colorful abstracts and more subdued tonalist landscape paintings. Jumper visits art museums throughout the state to get inspiration for his own work.

Tonalism, which dates back to the 1870s, is a style of landscape painting that uses subdued tones to express a mood or feeling. Jumper describes his tonalist paintings as poetic, spiritual, evocative, simple and elegant.

“Everything is so divisive in this country today and this is a peaceful and tranquil art,” Jumper said.

Elgin Jumper reads during the Seminole Artist Experience at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum on July 16. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

Jumper and the campers made their way to the museum’s classroom. Easels with blank canvasses were placed in front of every seat at the large conference table. Like at any other art studio, near each canvas was a palette, acrylic paint, brushes and some water.

After Jumper and his students for the day were seated behind an easel, he showed him one of his tonalist paintings of a cabbage palm in the Everglades at sunset.

Jumper told them they would learn to paint one like it by going through the process together. They all started the same way, with a field of dark blue depicting the evening sky.

“It’s all in the wrist,” Jumper said. “Once you start a painting, don’t stop. Use water to thin the paint, but don’t make it too watery.”

Artist Erika Tommie helped the children during the class and shared some sage advice.

“It doesn’t look like a masterpiece until you put it all together,” she said. “There are no mistakes in art.”

With the artist himself looking on, youngsters check out Elgin Jumper’s work during the Seminole Artist Experience at the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum. (Photo Beverly Bidney)

Interesting and useful tips were shared as the kids worked on their paintings. Trees are always darker at the bottom. Since the sun hits trees at the top, less light gets through and the branches make shadows at the bottom. Jumper advised the young artists not to overwork an area.

“You should always have fun when you’re painting,” Jumper said. “Art is always your interpretation. The more you paint, the better you are going to get.”

Later in the afternoon, Jumper had a meet and greet outside of the museum under a tent where he displayed some of his paintings. Hollywood Board Rep.

Gordon Wareham played his flute and Jumper read one of his poems. Attendees admired the paintings and Jumper graciously answered questions.

A museum visitor, Lubo Repka, of Slovakia, follows Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki on Facebook and came to meet Jumper and see his work. By the end of the event, he had purchased a painting.

Artist Erika Tommie watches as Javon Motlow paints during a class with Elgin Jumper. (Photo Beverly Bidney)
Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at