The Go-To Subiaco Store for Art Supplies

Art is food for the soul. Creating art just makes you feel good, which explains the popularity of paint-by-numbers kits during the pandemic.

The therapeutic benefits of art are well documented.

So if art is food for the soul, then there’s not better place to stock up on quality ingredients, all the tools and supplies for the budding or professional artist, than Jacksons Drawing Supplies in Subiaco.

The Subiaco store opened in 1961, the group’s second store, which has evolved into its flagship destination for artists.

Michael Boercamp had worked at Jacksons for 15 years before buying the business from the founders in 2010.

“I had a great understanding and passion for the business and wanted to keep the name and history going,” says Michael.

The business Jacksons Drawing Supplies was registered on January 1, 1955. However, its origins date back to Kalgoorlie years before World War II. Harry Jackson formed a partnership in a printing and stationery business with a young man named George Jordan, naming it Jordan and Jackson. The new business quickly became a thriving concern and eventually established in Hannan Street.

After Harry Jackson served in the Royal Australian Airforce, he returned to the business, but things weren’t the same. Kalgoorlie’s economy had taken a downward turn, and his wife needed regular medical treatment in Perth. Eventually, the Jackson family relocated to Perth. By a stroke of luck, Harry immediately found a city premises to open Jacksons Drawing Supplies.

At 44 years of age, Harry Jackson was starting business life again. It took many years of hard graft to import art supplies that didn’t already have commercial agreements with other retailers, and even longer to find clients that didn’t already have suppliers. Remarkably, he persisted, quoting on tender lists and continuing to call on potential clients. A series of events that included a chance meeting with the owner of an English paints brand and his never-failing attitude began to reap rewards.

In the 1960s, Jacksons started manufacturing their own folios and sketch pads, and placed Jacksons stickers on ink pots and paints. In the 1970s, the Westart label was registered, a Jacksons-owned brand that makes a variety of products, including canvases, sketchpads, paints, brushes, crayons and markers.

“I have a love of art products and how they can be used; there is such a diverse use of art materials,” says Michael.

“The Subiaco store is our flagship store, with so much history and high-quality products packed into this small space. The store carries a higher quality range of products, and great display stands full of products possibly not found at other stores.

“Customers that come into our Subiaco store love the character of the building, the memories, and the great customer service we provide.

“I have always loved the passion of the staff members and getting to talk with so many artists,” says Michael.

The notable reputation Jacksons has built up over the past 67 years can be attributed to their customer service and the quality and quantity of art supplies – in fact, Jacksons stocks over 15,000 products.

Walking past Jacksons on  the corner of Rokeby Road and Forrest Street, I’m instantly drawn  to the window, admiring the works on display.

Store manager Shelley-ann and staff member Ruth run the show. Ruth recently returned to work at Jacksons because she says the environment is so supportive. Both have an obvious passion for art which shines through during our chat.

Shelley-ann explains that the artworks on display in the window rotate fortnightly between the WA Society of Art artist of the month, and a local artist of her choosing. The day I visit, my attention is drawn to a painting of a sultry woman wearing an off-the-shoulder red dress, eyes closed, throwing her head back to expose her neck and decolletage. It’s impossible not to appreciate the work on the large canvas by emerging local artist Robyn Camerer.

“I love Robyn’s work, and being able to display it in our window will give her a little boost of confidence – she’s already sold one piece – and that’s what Jacksons is all about, supporting artists and the art community,” Shelley-ann says.

From established artists to hobbyists, students and those just starting out, Jacksons is the go-to store. Jacksons supports and works with Tresilian, an organisation which runs art classes, as well as Ellis House, the Fremantle Arts Centre, ArtSource and others.

Inside, Jacksons is a treasure trove of art supplies and every kind of paint – watercolour, acrylic, oils, sprays, resins. Interestingly, the Matisse brand of paints supports people with disabilities who are charged with the job of painting a sample on the outside of every tube so the buyer can see the paint’s true hue.

There’s charcoal, pencils, felt tips, chalk, graphite, and calligraphy sets. Easels, canvases, pads and paper for every kind of drawing, clay, glazes, technical supplies, tools, boards, brushes, waxes and more can be found in the packed store. If you can’t find it, the helpful team will find it for you.

Shelley-ann’s best advice for anyone thinking of picking up a brush, a pastel, or indeed a chunk of clay, is to create for yourself.

“Where many people come unstuck is when they try to create art for some other reason than for themselves, or when they compare themselves to others. Create for yourself, and if other people like it, then it’s a bonus,” Shelley-ann says.

“Acrylic paint is a great starting place – it’s water-based, so easy to clean, and if you make a mistake, you can easily paint over it.”

Shelley-ann says that at the moment, she enjoys creating art with oil paints but the medium changes depending on her mood.

“Working here, it’s hard not to try new things, so I’m always changing what I’m doing – that’s the beauty of art; there are no set rules.”
Shelly-ann says the technique ‘paint-pouring’ is a popular trend.

“We do sometimes run classes, particularly if there’s a technique that we are being asked about often,” says Shelly-ann.

“I’ll often demonstrate something to our team – such as paint pouring – so they have they know-how to show that to customers who ask or provide technique tips,” she says.

“It’s much better watching someone demonstrate something in front of you, where you can ask questions, than watching a YouTube video.

“I guess that’s our point of difference, we work here, and we’re all artists too, and we share our knowledge with our customers,” she says.
Since Jacksons began 67 years ago, it’s grown into an art supplies empire with 11 Jacksons stores across WA and NT.

Michael says that many of Perth’s artists have, at some time in the career, worked at Jacksons, either in the warehouse, casually at one of the stores or at Head Office.

“I love speaking with people at functions, art exhibitions and gatherings telling me about their early, as well as recent times, coming into a Jacksons stores,” says Michael.

Jacksons Drawing Supplies in Subiaco is WA’s leading art supply store, but it’s much more than a place to buy craft supplies.

It’s a supportive artistic community ready to support you to feed your creative soul.

By Dianne Bortoletto

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