Simon Jones – Artist interview

As the world is on lockdown, we thought this would be a good opportunity to get some inside info on how our artists work, below is an interview with Gallery artist – Simon Jones

Firstly a bit if background about Simon,

Simon Jones was born in Llandeilo and combines a background in architecture (BA, AADipl) with that of a landscape painter. As a painter he has exhibited regularly in The Waterman and New Academy Galleries London, architecturally he has worked in offices in London and Sydney. For the last 25 years he has been illustrating major architectural projects: from the British Museum Great Court for Sir Norman Foster, to the Olympics Masterplan by Arups and a lot in between. Apart from architecture he has completed watercolour commissions for: Vidal Sassoon, Tommy Hillfiger, Derwent Art Materials, Diarmuid Gavin, Sainsburys Wine, BT, Thames Water, Institute of Bankers, etc. Work published in House and Garden, American Vogue, BD, Ammanford Guardian etc. He is Fellow of the Society of Architectural Illustrators. Simon has recently been elected a member of the Royal Watercolour Society of Wales.

Simon Jones - Sunset storm near Porthgain
Sunset Storm – Near Porthgain

· Where do you get most of your inspiration?

This varies…I have quite a scientific approach currently…I paint the same area/town over and over again…using similar lighting/weather conditions…this way I reduce the variables kind of laboratory conditions ….rinse and repeat.

· Do you prefer to work outside/in your studio/a mixture of both?

Bit of both really…working outside teaches you to be less precious…basically you have to paint in sometimes awful conditions…Also having the scene in front of you is such a feast for the senses, you cant help reflecting this in freer, more expressive work. I know some people who just work from photos and brief sketches,,,and memory, but I feel they are missing out.

· Do you have a favourite painting that you have done?

“Crow Black, Llandeilo” approx A4, Watercolour. I did this towards the end of last year and was the culmination of one of my “Scientific exercises” see above. Basically I had done maybe 20 rainy dank scenes of Llandeilo…and achieved a degree of fluency/brevity..with the handling of light and weather…but also I had started to get under the hood of reality…and kind of sense the undercurrents. I was born…and have lived most of my life in this town…my ancestors have probably been around here since the last ice age…so it had a lot of depth to me.

‘Crow Black – Llandeio’

· Where/ or what is your favourite place/subject to paint?

Varies…enduring obsessions are Porthgain and Llandeilo.

Simon Jones -Porthgain Sloop_and_Sea
‘Porthgain, Sloop and Sea’

· How do you find titles for your paintings, does the idea come before or after?

I have been shamelessly mining Dylan Thomas recently. Because of the repetitive nature of my paintings its difficult to differentiate them…to be honest I also have a number system…it helps.

· Who’s your favourite artist/artists?

I admire different artists for different reasons…Turner for his early on site sketching and his later large studio impressionistic Chirico for his timeless, universal late afternoon light…Hopper for his allusion to events outside of the picture space, his highlighting the period between events…so basically his highlight of “the other”..or stuff that defies automatic categorization…hence it really makes you look afresh..Knapp Fisher…for his scratchy lines and dark pembrokeshire skies…he showed how you can learn from de Chirico to paint Porthgain..Currently I love watercolourist Alvaro Castagnet…for the gusto of his technique..and the occasional flashes of real poetry.

· Which is the favourite piece of art by another Artist that you own?

We have quite a few original works by contemporary artists…and older 60s expressionist work owned by my dad…but actually my favourite is a print by Ceri Davies…a simple tempera painting of waves and sand…he has a nack..bit like Hopper, for getting under the hood of reality….kind of discovering the secret door in the back of the wardrobe.

· Do you listen to music while you paint?

Different music for different approaches.. Elbow for pushing the envelope creatively…..Zeppelin and Stones if I want to be expansive and pull a painting together.

· What could you not do without in your studio?

Many things…decent lighting…lots of water…

· What does your studio space look like?

One side is full of the computers/printer/scanner…used mainly to set up the geometries for my commercial work as an Architectural Visualiser…the other side is the messy painting area…buckets brushes paint etc. But I do manage somehow to get paint everywhere, even up the walls at the other end of the room. I do sometimes lose patience with a painting and literally hurl paint at it with a large house painting brush….it sometimes works a treat.

Simon in his studio

· How do you feel your work has changed over the years?

When I began painting in earnest for exhibitions galleries etc…in my early 20s…every painting was a delight…every brushstroke was fascinating and fresh…..then later..probably in my early 30s…I became bored with my work…every painting became a chore…the quality decreased…I began to dread painting..I became very disappointed in the results…consequently I gave up “Fine art” for about 20 years..but continued with the commercial architectural visualization…which really went from strength to strength…I worked on most of the major projects around at the time , Millenium Dome…Diana Memorial.. Gateshead Arts Centre, Stamford University, Tate Gallery etc etc. I did have..maybe 10 years of Hopper/deChirico oil painting…this was very obsessive…I think I produced some decent work..I communicated on the web with other artists working in a similar vein…we all loved each other’s work…but unfortunately it was exceedingly niche… I got back into (watercolour) gallery painting only about 4 years ago…which was like a homecoming…mainly inspired by the examples of Alvaro Castagnet and Joseph Zbukvic…and have been trying to make up for lost time ever since.

· What other work have you done apart from being an Artist?

Well commercial architectural visualiser…. I studied architecture for many years (BA, AADip, FSAI)..I did work in architects offices in Sydney…for about a year…but there I mainly did the Visualizing.

· What is the best thing about being an artist for you?

I do wonder sometimes if there are any…someone said it was like an illness…once you’ve become a painter you cant shake it off…Maybe its an evolutionary artefact…bit like our attraction to drugs…something that artists have just got to do. However some of the comments from other people are heartening…someone said recently ” your work is valuable in the current situation (Coronavirus)…as it feeds our souls’ ‘…that was gratifying.

· Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?

I wanted to be a cowboy first…then at the age of 4, I wanted to live in a van…and roam the country..turning left at every other junction…and drive with no shoes on…and this predated the Summer of Love…then I wanted to be an Lepidopterist…then an architect …then a better painter. I am still trying to be a better painter.

· What sort of painting are you working on at the moment?

Currently doing a series of San Gimignano…all looking towards a dazzling summer light…

· Can you show us some images from your sketchbook? Recent sketches and a finished piece maybe?

I normally throw my sketches away, as I see them as just a tool…..I do hate the idea of fetishizing me it brings to mind the phrase “all the gear and no idea”…My sketches (tonal and compositional roughs) are typically done on a ringbound lined notepad…however I have now started to keep them….as I have been told to. I also do digital sketches…this is an easy and quick way to try colour/compositional options. I have sometimes constructed virtual 3d models, and lit and rendered them to explore options..again to me this is an argument against sketchbooks…in many respects they have been superseded.

‘Parrog sunrise’


What is your favourite medium to work in and why?

Watercolour…because its so limited…and when you achieve a great end result its terrific. Its a bit like playing a violin….its a very simple instrument….only 4 strings and no frets……play it badly and its godawful…play it well and it really sings. No I dont play the violin.

View Simon’s Paintings here

We hope you enjoyed that! More Artists interviews coming soon .