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Artist Profile: Jackie Afram Worked for the CIA Before Picking Up a Paint Brush

"I like to personalize my paintings by hiding wedding dates and bride and groom initials in wedding gifts or putting small symbols for a particular person in a larger painting."

Artwork by Jackie Afram of Arlington Artists Alliance; published with permission of Arlington Artists Alliance
Artwork by Jackie Afram of Arlington Artists Alliance; published with permission of Arlington Artists Alliance

(Editor's note: The following first-person profile of artist Jackie Afram was provided to Arlington Patch by Arlington Artists Alliance. This is the first of many profiles of Alliance members that Arlington Patch will publish. Click on the photo to see the full painting.)

I was raised in Southern California on a terraced avocado grove that was a perfect playground.  In fourth grade I received my first commission as an artist.  Using the principles I had learned watching Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom, I copied an Easter bunny pin up my teacher had bought. She then asked me to make two four-feet high bunnies for future use. I agreed. I was able to take an art class elective all four years in high school but only squeezed in a semester at the University of California, Riverside. After I graduated in 1965, I got on a plane for Washington, DC to find a job related to international relations. I sent out many applications, one to the CIA.  I started work there in 1966 and retired in 2003.  My career took me to Cyprus, where I met my husband, to Panama where we took our daughter and our son was born, and to England. I was retired for about 20 months but was not very good at it.  When Northrop Grumman called and asked about an interview, I succumbed to being part of that world again.  Now, after 5 more years of work, I am again retired and have my own home studio.

In 1967 a colleague encouraged me to try oil painting in an adult education class with Sally Osboune in Georgetown.  This was and is my medium.  Sally guided me with constructive comments but let me do pretty much as I liked.  She suggested I read Winston Churchill's “Painting as A Pastime.”   I adopted his philosophy of painting without the fear of making mistakes and I have painted ever since.  Products were sporadic when the kids were small, but in the hopes of producing paintings at a later date, I took hundreds of photos. These are now the source of many of my paintings.  In the late 1990s I again began learning more about painting in an Arlington Adult Education class.  Jane McElvany Coonce has been my fantastic teacher, guiding my progress ever since.   She brings fresh challenges each semester.

I like to personalize my paintings by hiding wedding dates and bride and groom initials in wedding gifts or putting small symbols for a particular person in a larger painting.  Recently I have been using glazes which bring depth and richness to my paintings. I am also using cold wax as a medium that changes the quality of the paint.  I belong to the Arlington Artists Alliance and show my work at their many venues and the Gallery Art Underground in Crystal City where I demonstrate and join the paint-ins with other Arlington Artists.  I am happy to accept challenging commissions to expand my knowledge of the oil paint  medium. Contact me at jackie.afram@verizon.net

The Arlington Artists Alliance is a non-profit organization serving and supporting artists in Arlington County. The Alliance works with participating local businesses, churches, and educational institutions to hold art shows in their spaces. The Alliance also provides a support network to members, allowing regional artists to share ideas. 

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