Artist Insight: Ivan Jones
We spoke to February’s winner of the £50 Pegasus Art Gift Voucher in association with Artists & Illustrators magazine. He gave us an insight into his artist life….
Congratulations on winning Artwork of the Month – we’d love to know more about your winning painting!
What inspired your painting? Tell us about the process and materials.
I’ve always been fascinated by paintings of snow and winter scenes. The two donkeys are kept in a paddock close to where we live in the next village in Herefordshire. We stopped to say hello to them on that particular cold morning and they immediately came over to greet us. My wife Cathy took photographs that captured the essence of the morning scene. Straight away I said “That has to be portrayed on “canvas”!
I largely work from reference photos for all my detailed and realistic pastel artworks, so the first step is to have an outline to work from and to build the layers and detail into. I use a digital projector to create the outline straight onto the pastel paper – it is essential (especially for commission work) to get the perspective perfect, especially the position of the eyes.
Once the outline is created, I then chose the range of colours I need, using a printed copy of the reference photo to work from. Using soft pastel (for the broad strokes and background) and pastel pencils (for the details) I then build up layer upon layer of colour, working from left to right to avoid smudging the pastel.
Experience dictates which colours and types of pastel can be successfully layered. I use transparent film to rest my hand on, when necessary, to prevent smudging as well. To sharpen the pencils I use a blade and coarse sandpaper – the latter allows me to get a sharp point for details like whiskers and fur. I do have a Facebook page and YouTube channel with photos and videos of my creative process if you need more information.
Are you a full time artist, or do you balance your painting with other jobs?
I try to balance my retirement activities, which include my involvement with our local Rotary Club, with my art. I try not to take on too many commissions or art exhibitions as I like to pace myself. Balance with other aspects of my life is very important.
What is your preferred medium and which brands do you favour?
I am a pastel artist first and foremost and have accumulated a wide range of soft pastel and pastel pencils over time. My first set of soft pastels, after I retired, was the full set of 300 Rembrandt pastels. I also was fortunate to acquire, at a jumble sale, a large number of Artspectrum soft pastels and I use both brands as they are “to hand” as it were.
My brand of pastel pencils are selected depending on the colour and texture I need for each artwork. I find Derwent are softer and spread better, Conte a Paris are medium softness and Cretacolour sharpen well to a point. The latter I use mostly for fine details like whiskers. My paper of choice is Artspectrum Colourfix, as it has enough tooth to hold the pastel but also allows me to correct mistakes without damaging the surface.
Were you formally trained or self taught and do you think this matters?
I did A level art at 15 years old at Grammar School. However, in those days art was not something that was considered a career though I did look at art school in Nottingham initially. However, I took the sciences and ended up as a veterinary surgeon. I like to think that my background does allow me to add that extra something to my artworks. Since retirement I have largely worked from trial and error. Initially I purchased books on pastel art technique but I feel that feeling my way, without formal tuition, has worked best for me and allowed me to develop my own style.
What advice can you give to graduates leaving art school?
As you gather, I did not go to art school but my previous comments can be taken into consideration as an answer to this question. But above all I would say do your own thing – be yourself!
Do you paint every day? Do you attend art classes yourself?
I like to try to find time to paint for a period every day, especially when I have commission to complete or artwork to create for an exhibition. I need at least an hour to get my teeth into the work. But, as I said earlier, I don’t take on too much as I don’t need to stress!
Each artwork is a challenge in its own way so that is a sort of “art class” for me – deciding on how solve a problem as I go along. I never stop learning and developing my technique and do not feel the need to attend art classes, for the reasons mentioned previously.
Which websites can you recommend for resources and support for an artist.
I mainly use websites to expand my knowledge of art marketing. I did not know anything about social media or building a website when I first retired in 1999, as you can imagine. A friend helped me initially and encouraged me to use social media to share my art and my knowledge has built from there.
When choosing a website platform a few years ago I found Artsy Shark www.artsyshark.com who had an article of where to sell art online and that was extremely helpful. I also found art marketing platforms and articles on Pinterest. But most recently I stumbled upon FASO who have a wide range of art website themes and excellent support network. I will be changing to their platform as soon as my Shopify site comes up for renewal. They also host a range of pod casts and instructional videos under the Boldbrush banner.
Is it important to be part of a group, society or club? How do you stay in the loop?
As you gather, I am a “loner” when it comes to my artwork. I have given talks to local art groups about my technique, but it is not something I am comfortable with. As each artwork takes 25 to 30 hours to complete I cannot demonstrate my style in a village hall. I have started hyperlapse videos recently which are more effective way to show my techniques and I share these on my social media sites.
I am involved with local artists through H-art ( Herefordshire art ) week and also have got to know artists through joint exhibitions so I do keep in touch in that way, once again largely through social media.
Are you represented by a gallery? Do you think galleries are still important for artists in the age of social media?
I have exhibited in a number of galleries over the years, sometimes as a guest exhibitor and sometimes for a longer time. The gallery that I have had artwork in until recently was in Brecon but sadly they closed due to the pandemic.
The advantages of galleries and exhibitions is that people can see your artwork and appreciate the detail up close and personal. I have sold a number of paintings in online galleries, but there is nothing like seeing the original piece. People are more open to buying online these days. I even sold a painting on Ebay recently, through a link to my Shopify website.
High quality images are the key there. This includes the artwork in a frame, the frame on the wall, artwork creation and close up shots of details and signature. But still nothing really replaces seeing the actual painting…..
What keeps you motivated?
I am aware that my output has both changed and hopefully improved over the last 20 years since retirement. Now I’ll attempt all sorts of subject matter. I’m not happy with every painting, but it is a very satisfying feeling when the artwork just starts to flow and begins to come alive in front of you. That is worth all the preparation, effort and patience involved.
To find out more about Ivan Jones, head to his website here.