Welcome to the Blank Canvas Series – An interview with an Artist. We interview a new featured artist every few weeks to share their insights with the Master Oil Painting Community. What artist would you like to hear from next? Note: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Master Oil Painting or Bill Inman.
Today’s Featured Artist: Vernon Jones
Q: Where do you call Home?
A: I was born in Pontypool, South Wales, my parents are living there still who I try to spend the time I can with. It is always a nice feeling to be back in Wales and to see my friends and other family members. This is home. Also, where I live with my Macedonian wife in Macedonia is my home. I am welcome there amongst the people, and of course with my family in-laws and friends. I feel like I belong there too. Then I have another that I call home, where soul comes from and return to.
Q: How long have you been painting?
A: I started painting in 1999. Until that time I was working more with pencil and dabbling with various media. I was experimenting a lot, not only with the mediums themselves but also with the intention for “using” art.
I left college in 1994 with a HND in Design/Wildlife Illustration in Gelli Aur, CCTA, West Wales. I thought I was going down that route with Illustration and with portraiture. I never would have believed that I would ever be involved in the type of work and to be of the mind that I am in today – to become a fine artist!
Painting therefore was a big step for me in 1999, even an A3 size canvas was intimidating to me as my style of drawing was very “tight”. In College at Pontypool directly after leaving school I spent I think 2-3 months working on a pencil drawing, the actual size of the work probably not more than A3. I devoted much time to the exercise of pencil. Then to contrast, if I was to sketch for example in life drawing, I loved and celebrated the structure behind a drawing. When I began painting however I enjoyed it so much that I have never looked back, although now in this time I am thinking that “painting” refers to something other than just using paint to create something. I am still exploring this area and so have not quite resolved this yet in my mind, but it is my feeling that it is of the involvement of my being in the creation of an artwork using paint as a material, using paint for its own sake, to show a human being behind it. In this case I would say I started painting in that “deeper” context roughly 2 years ago, in 2014/2015.
Q: How did you decide to focus on seascapes, and what have you done to understand them better?
A: This was one of those “u turn” events in my life, something that came from nowhere which in this case came in the form of a question from a commercial artist who I met by “chance”. He asked me “did I want to try to paint J Class Yachts in oils?” I had never tried oils in a “serious” manner like this or the subject of maritime art, but I thought why not! This man was a mentor for me for about 2 years, and I give to him huge respect and my gratitude. I would show him the work, he would tell me the problems and where I was going wrong, plus what I was doing right. It was all verbal instruction, and somehow I had to find my own way around this huge and complex subject. That part was very hard, to find my own style in a subject that was casting a big shadow over me. I did not know how to get off this “crutch” that was supporting me in the shape of this artist’s work and instruction.
Following that 2-year period it was obvious to me that my weakness area was with the sea. In the beginning, I had no idea how the sea worked or how to go about painting it, and since I still found myself struggling with this subject I had to find a way to resolve the problem. I then set out to create my own projects using the knowledge given to me and discovered during that 2-year period. It was to be a personal challenge and a way of learning that if I could paint the sea by itself and make it look interesting, then I would have solved the problem. A basic idea, but it needed to be able to hold its own weight and to my delight it did! People responded very well with sales and appreciation for what I was doing, encouraging me to go further along the road. I spent much time pondering the “mechanics” of the sea, how it moved and how to capture that as an image on the canvas. Collecting reference was an important part of my study during my time in Illustration College, that discipline coming in as a very useful tool. It is one which I continue to use in the form of photography in which I have been building my own library of images for my art.
Q: What is your experience with oil vs. acrylic paints?
A: It was in 2003 that I had been introduced to oil paints. Within the 12-year period of working with oils I was learning not only the craft of oil painting but also the craft of painting compositions of maritime and marine art. It didn’t take me too long however to get into a routine with the oils, preparing backgrounds in advance, working on multiple pieces all at once, so as one layer was drying I could work on another painting. That was useful also in terms of finding solutions for certain aspects of the painting and being able to transfer that knowledge to the next painting and so on. My work was very deliberate and tight in style; therefore, oil paints were a great medium for learning and practicing to blend tones. As time progressed and I was finding “my feet” with the subject, I also developed (though many trials), a way of working with a formula that gave me a sense of security along with the confidence I was acquiring through experience.
One day around 2 years ago, I decided to try something different, something expressive on a small canvas of around 30cm x 40cm…in acrylics! That painting sold within an hour or 2 of posting it. I then made another larger painting on canvas but still in a very loose style, and in 3 days it also was gone. That was enough to encourage me to follow what I had found and as a result I continue to paint with acrylics today. I had certainly not experimented very much at all once I had started the oil painting period, but it is so very important to experiment and discover things in this way. The pressure of destroying a canvas can create a reason not to experiment, so I found it was a good idea to make up lots of panels, prepare them and experiment on them, therefore freeing me to take chances that were without financial consequence.
Now my style has evolved and “settled down” in the last 2 years. I am working with the idea of involving all four of the bodies that I am born with from time to time (those being the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual bodies), and to find a way to be able to represent those parts of me in the painting. That is exciting! This is why I mentioned earlier that for the past 2 years I feel that I have been getting involved in “real” painting, in and around the time of the change of mediums. It is of course my own idea about this, one that is felt inside of me and may not pertain to other artists.
That has described what each of the mediums has brought to me in these periods of my life. I certainly have found a way to “say” what I want at this period of time with acrylics which I think would be stunted with oils due to their drying times, but oil painting had its place too of course. I do not think that oil painting is any more difficult than any of the other mediums, everything has their own qualities which need to be practiced and tried out. I think that the medium used needs to work with our characters and our personalities and to aid us in our creations.
Q: What has been your biggest struggle as an artist so far?
A: It is hard to find the “right” galleries. For example, those that understand what I am putting into my art and then be able to promote it “properly”. Trying to find that representation correct for the work is difficult and needs time. Promotion and presentation is a constant problem solving exercise, and we have to remember to try to solve ourselves in the equation! We can be a reason why we succeed or fail, so it’s important to do the inner work too as well as that outside of ourselves.
I try to meet the world half way, to work to the best of my abilities and to try to problem solve things as they appear. The rest of it then is beyond me. I try to be positive, keep walking through difficult times, believe in my abilities and to be able to be flexible if needed. Keep fighting, keep going forwards, try to work intelligently and to do what needs to be done. It’s your mountain to climb, your view, your life to live.
Q: What do you do when a certain painting isn’t turning out the way that you want it to?
A: In my opinion there is no way to really find out something unless you try it. Paintings need to be ruined, destroyed, overworked, and under-worked to learn our own sense of balance. I have spent so long trying to sort out paintings, to rescue them and I have resorted to some pretty drastic actions sometimes in doing so! Sometimes they would lead to a discovery of some kind or sometimes more ruination! I have left paintings for a long time to return to it with a solution, something that I was not able to see because I had not learned that part yet. Some paintings just need to be scrapped, others can be salvaged. Leaving a painting alone for a while can encourage a fresh view, sometimes getting bogged down in a problem I can’t see the solution to it. It’s worth to “sit on it” for a while if possible, give it some thought, sometimes give it no thought at all! I don’t have a formula for this, only to learn by experience. Nothing is a waste of time if something can be taken from it, to know where the problem lays and to try to not repeat the same again. That’s growth and evolution and essential to us as people.
Upcoming Exhibitions and Projects:
Confirmed – Sofia Bulgaria, Porthcawl South Wales, Trani Italy, and a painting event in Inverness Scotland.
Tentative – Petrovac Montenegro and Skopje Macedonia.
I will be posting the events as they get closer on my website in the “news” section.
Also be sure to check my website periodically for upcoming training DVD’s and videos on creating seascapes. Filming has already started.
To Contact Vernon:
U.K. mobile: 0044 (0)7963 297 363