KNOWN for creating dramatic paintings of waves and seascapes, reporter HAYLEY MILLS finds out what drew Torfaen artist, Vernon Jones, 41, to the sea.
“THE seas and oceans of our planet are both feared and revered as we stand humbled by this unbeatable force of nature, tiny and powerless in its presence.
It can be ferocious and still, chaotic and organised, a bringer of life and death.
We may find our emotions, moods and feelings mirrored in its shallows and depths should we choose to, a way of contemplation and reflection for us all.
However we approach the sea, it deserves our respect, and in my paintings I aim to present my respect and admiration for this great source of inspiration to me.
I hope my work will inspire you, the viewer, too.
I have spent much time contemplating the sea in order to be able to paint with movement and accuracy, how it works, how it feels.
I was born in Pontypool, and art was something that was prominent to me when I went to West Monmouth School, to then go on to complete a BTEC National Diploma in General Art and Design course at Pontypool College.
I have always been interested in art and I was always encouraged in this area.
My father, Terry, would do some drawing with me when I was a child and I was always showing my parents my latest piece...not much has changed today.
If there was an art competition in school I would enter it.
My father is a carpenter by trade and so is very skilled and creative, then my mother, Shirley, is more on the practical side.
On both sides of the family there are creative and skilled people, so some of this must have been passed to me through the gene pool.
My parents have always backed me 100 percent and continue the same support today. I can’t thank them enough.
I left the area in 1992 to study for an HND in Design/Wildlife Illustration in Gelli Aur, West Wales.
It seemed the right route for me to go as I loved drawing and illustrating.
I was also very interested in portraits and I also found some work as a scenic artist, painting backdrops for plays and performances and also mural work, one of which was a cowboy-themed background for a pub in a Butlins holiday camp.
It was great fun, and I actually painted myself and a number of people who were staying there at the time as characters in the scene, immortalising ourselves forever, or until it was painted over.
Since then, I have enjoyed travelling all over the UK and abroad.
My introduction to the sea landed on my lap with a chance meeting with a commercial artist who suggested that I tried to paint J Class Yachts in oils.
It was the first time I had heard of these yachts, but I decided to try under his verbal guidance.
I am very grateful for his help, and it certainly was a pivotal moment for my work and where my work has taken me.
Since then I have learnt to use this advice and developed my own techniques around that advice, painting how I need to paint which is important because we all have our own styles, our own personalities.
In that period I struggled very much with the sea.
I can remember trying to make it work back then in 2005, it really was a struggle.
There were so many things to consider, the importance to keep the perspective, to keep the movement, to keep the shapes that form the sea different to one another.
Those, coupled together with no experience and little confidence in my new subject matter, made it very hard to achieve the result I desired, but I wanted to get the sea looking and feeling correct.
In 2007 I solely concentrated on the sea. I took a chance, to paint a seascape without the J Class Yachts, and my two first paintings were accepted well by people.
Around this time there also was a junction, whether to turn my HND in Design/Wildlife Illustration, which I completed in 1994, into a degree or to take an opportunity to exhibit in Torino, Italy.
I chose Italy, an offer that may never come again. Preparing for that exhibition was a fantastic feeling of direction, and it was an experience that I am grateful for as it opened a door for me into the solo exhibition arena.
Again the work was received well by the public which was good for moral and inspiration to make more such shows.
I have also exhibited in group shows which are always a pleasure to be a part of.
This year sees me with a plan to continue within the maritime field, perhaps in June, returning back where I left off with the yachting theme, but now with eight years more experience of painting the sea and using oil paints.
I also wish to continue the marine theme with seascapes that confront my abilities and inspire me to create. Working in these two fields simultaneously, as I plan it, should be another platform for development.
I am painting the way I want to, with the details I see, the sometimes different wave formations that occur but I think not noticed ordinarily. I enjoy sometimes the things that are unexpected in my work.
I currently work from my own source of reference, which my illustrator training background has no doubt encouraged.
Whenever I get to the sea I take many photographs of it, which I can use as reference when creating a scene.
The idea is that I have as many possibilities and variations as possible at my disposal so that I can create what I want.
Some paintings may have a basis on a photograph I have taken or a combination of elements from a few separate photographs, but I also can paint certain seascapes without the use or need for reference.
Southerndown is an excellent local place for me to go to get great waves, I also enjoy visiting St David’s as it is completely different, offering different colours and coastline.
When I was younger I would just head off and go travelling, but now if I travel I try to make it productive also for work.
I travel a lot to Italy still to visit friends in the north part, and also to Macedonia , as my fiancée, Lidija, is from there.
It’s not a problem for work as I can paint from anywhere as long as I have my reference, canvas, paints and a paint brush.
There are lots of places I would like to go, and for some unknown reason, I am drawn to the cold climates.
I would love to voyage to the South Pole one day, go to the north coast of Russia, Alaska, or the Shetland Islands.
About four to five years ago, I was commissioned to paint a trolley bus with the view down St Mary Street in Cardiff. It was very difficult to imagine the cables as I had to work from an old photograph as a reference.
Going from painting the sea with its beautiful form to painting the straight angles of the buildings was a shock to the system.
In the end I got it, and the client was very happy with the result, but this type of art is not where my passion is held. I have been self-employed since 2005, and I am working on producing art almost every day, especially if I have an exhibition coming up.
Having a good response from people helps to spur me on, and I’m very lucky I paint something people enjoy and can relate to. My art works contain energy, passion and I hope contains a respect of the sea as I am held in awe of its power.
Painting the sea is something I love and I will continue doing, no matter where I am in the world.”
l Vernon Jones will launch his new exhibit, Above the Waves, at the Oriel Barker Gallery at Pontypool Museum on Tuesday, May 13 from 10am.
With a keen eye for detail, movement and atmosphere, he manages to capture the changing facets of waves and his paintings are hyper realistic interpretations of the many moods of the sea.
Call Pontypool Museum on 01495 752036 for details or visit Vernon Jones’ site, vernonwjones.co.uk