Artist/Photographer Eric Ryan Jones Talks about His Inspiration and His Creative Journey!
Perhaps you saw the post I did on artist & photographer Eric Ryan Jones aka eric ryan jones who was featured in the RAW: Natural Born Artists Activate NYC Showcase! His work is astonishing and I thought circling back around to learn more about how he arrived at this spot in life(– because everyone has a journey–)and his journey to create such unique and often inspirational artwork should be quite the tale.
eric ryan jones
1. Have you always had artistic talent? Does it run in the family? What are some of your early memories of art?
I always had a knack for doodling and drawing as a kid, no matter what the topic or subject. If there was a piece of paper around, chances are, I had made my marking on it. My mother is incredibly artistic and the house was always filled with her arts and crafts supplies – I have fond memories of being little, sitting in the kitchen and helping her make scrapbooks and holiday decorations. My Grandfather, Sonny Jones, is an extraordinarily talented architect and since having seen my most recent work, has once again picked up his own set of brushes again…it is amazing to see how similar our styles and techniques are and makes me proud to have received such a wonderful gift of raw talent from him. I am hoping to produce a local show with him at some point and showcase our work side by side. My sister, Karissa, was a professional dancer for most of her life, so our family was always involved in something “arts” related. There is no doubt an artistic gene runs strong and deep in my DNA.
My mother often reminds me of a time when I was around three years old and drew my version of “Joe Camel” out of a magazine advertisement. She jokes in saying, as a mother, the subject matter was certainly not appropriate for her child, but she said she knew then and there that I had a natural gift for drawing.
It took until about the fourth grade for me to realize that not only I had a strong skill, but that I had a passion for art. I sent away for an Art Instruction Packet…where you are asked to draw a turtle (I believe Tippy was his name) and a pirate and a group of professionals grade your work and your level of accuracy. At 9, I received a “B+”…and so the fire was officially lit.
2. Where did you attend college and what was your major?
I attended the University of Mobile in Alabama on a soccer scholarship, majoring in Art. After my sophomore year, I transferred to Marshall University in West Virginia, majoring in Graphic Design and Illustration, along with a full-time “major” in soccer. Looking back, I believe that it was the training in illustration that impacts and influences my work today with a graphic/illustration appeal to it.
As electives, I took oil painting and drawing classes, but I was never “officially” trained as an artist. I thought about changing my major to Painting and Drawing within the Fine Arts curriculum, but with new advances in graphics programs for MacIntosh like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, I decided to stay within a technologically driven degree. That decision benefitted me greatly, as it is what supported my move to Manhattan; my first job in New York City was with the in-house Visual Merchandising Design team at the Estee Lauder Companies on Fifth Avenue.
3. How did you end up in New York City – was this a goal?
NYC wasn’t necessarily the goal, but I do remember a Goretti school trip my junior year of high school. I instantly felt and absorbed the energy and excitement in the city. The city felt right to me, which at the time struck me oddly, since I had grown up in suburbia. That was the first time I realized I could definitely live here and be successful at whatever I chose to do. Somehow, deep down, I knew I would be back. There is no other place like New York City…it is in a class by itself.
4. You have a studio. Tell me a little bit about that.
I’m very fortunate to have an incredible working studio within my apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in a pre-war building. I was able to convert and build a few of the rooms to accommodate my work to have private viewings and showings when requested. One room is my drawing studio and the other is my painting studio – both face the Hudson River and offer incredible natural light. Each studio has enough space to accommodate a drafting/drawing table and supplies and my painting easel and supplies.
I prefer to work in my own space – away from the distractions of others. In my own element, surrounded by my own energy. Having an art studio within my living environment also lends nicely to my random, middle of the night drawing and painting sessions. When I am inspired at 2AM, I don’t have to go very far to get an immediate hand to canvas. To me, it is crucial to get to my ideas out when I see them in my mind’s eye. I guess it’s the way a writer always has a notebook and pen on his nightstand. When I sleep – I sleep near my art.
5. Your niche is charcoal and oil. What are your inspirations?
My inspirations come from a few areas. One being black and white photography and the contrast between the blacks and whites (chiaroscuro techniques), architecture and with the compositions and details of M.C. Escher and Salvador Dali. My drawings have a surrealist monochromatic undertone in both technique and overall composition. I use my own photography as creative reference showcasing dynamic and exaggerated perspectives using foreshortening and the aforementioned chiaroscuro techniques. Where necessary, color is incorporated to sharpen focus on the intricate and meticulous details that live within the monochromatic space.
6. How excited are you to have been selected for the RAW show? Is this the first time?
It was totally unexpected being selected to showcase my work, being that it was my first real, mass audience posting of my work. Up until this point, I have been successful with private viewings, but have kept it just that – private (to the chagrin of most). So, when I decided to enter my work into RAW, I didn’t have any expectations whatsoever. Being chosen as one of the 15 spots open out of 500 submissions at the NYC showcase was a shocking and incredibly exciting experience.
Exposing and placing my work in front of a large audience was rewarding on multiple levels. I guess the only real desire for an artist beyond creating his work, is offering those around with enjoyment and pleasure from his work. RAW allowed me to do this on a very large scale. With over 500 attendees, who ranged from an eclectic group of avid collectors, gallery owners, curators and NYC influencers, this was far from the one-on-one showings I have become familiar with. The feedback I received from strangers was exhilarating and I was incredibly humbled when a national television personality and his wife showed a great interest in my work.
7. Any future projects or endeavors you care to share?
I’m currently finishing up a series on architecture, specific to NYC bridges, but will soon begin a series on the New York City subway system. I’m fascinated with these two subjects and how they connect individuals and influence everyday life – they carry such a serious energy being traveled by so many different people every day and have such depth of beauty and character. People lose sight of the refinement and grace within these structures, as they have become too accustomed to them. My goal is to highlight just that beauty…the inner charm of what people have learned to overlook in their day-to-day rat race. Sometimes you need to step back and look at the things you see every day to have a new appreciation for them. My art is just that…an appreciation and an acknowledgment of beauty – no matter what the subject.
I am in the process of planning a private gallery exhibit in NYC this coming fall. Simultaneously, I am submitting selected pieces of my work into numerous national juried exhibitions throughout the country and have plans to travel to other major cities this year to being developing future architectural series concepts
Thank you to eric ryan jones for his time. I know he’s incredibly busy– once he delves into his creative work, it’s hard to stop for almost anything but the necessities of life– which for him could be an exploration of a portion of the city or finding the right texture for a presentation.
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