In a roundabout way, we have the Florida Aquarium to thank for Carrie Jadus’ Blue Nudes series of paintings, featuring human figures in repose against rich blue backgrounds. Blues Nudes III debuts with a reception Thursday at the newly air-conditioned Soft Water Studios, in the Warehouse Arts District.
It was 2015 when the aquarium commissioned Jadus and her soon-to-be-husband, sculptor Mark Aeling, to create a massive mural combining aluminum, LED lighting and acrylic paint.
Jadus bought too much ocean-colored blue paint for the project, and when she and Aeling moved into the Soft Water Studios facility, she brought it along with the rest of her stuff.
Soon, the Warehouse Arts District was taking off, and Soft Water was offering figure drawing classes, with live models, downstairs from the loft where Jadus kept her studio.
“During the day while I was painting, I would have all of this paint left on my palette, still fresh,” she recalls. “So instead of grabbing the charcoals, I would just bring my palette down and paint the model with oil paints.”
They were brief “pose” sessions, just 20 minutes, which meant she not only had to work fast, she had to work small. Since the beginning, the Blue Nudes have been created on diminutive pieces of gesso board, a substrate commonly used by painters.
“I wanted the background to already be on the substrate, so that I didn’t have to worry about that,” Jadus says. “I had all these blank wood substrates that were laying around the studio.”
Ah, but what color was there in abundance? Florida Aquarium blue!
“And so I asked my assistant to paint them all blue. So I could see what it looked like.”
And it looked … well, pretty cool.
“Painting that fast is really challenging,” Jadus explains, “so half of them would get thrown out … but half of them would turn out OK. I would keep them, and sell them, and they became sort of a collectible item. People started asking for them.”
Over time, she moved away from live painting and began to photograph the models, applying acrylic to gesso when inspiration happened to strike. “They still have that immediacy about them,” says Jadus. “I still try to capture them relatively quickly and get the most out of each brushstroke.
“It kind of became a signature style, painting on the blue. I never would have thought of that – I was just trying to use up my materials, and give my assistant something to do!”
They tried a few different background colors, but Jadus always came back to the blue. “None of them really felt as captivating as the blue,” she believes. “There’s something about the contrast of the blue and the skin tones that make them almost jewel-like.
“It’s like that certain time of day that artists refer to as the Magic Hour. It gives everything this robust curvature, the way the light falls.
“On most of the Blue Nudes, you’ll see there’s cool lightning coming from one direction, and warm lighting coming from a different direction.”