Wynne Melville Jones Artist interview
Wynne Melville Jones became known throughout Wales as a pioneer of bilingual PR activities and for his involvement in Wales’ largest youth organisation The Urdd. The former art student has now returned to his main interest – visual art. He works from his home in Llanfihangel Genau’r Glyn (Llandre) in Ceredigion and he is active in the local community.
He is very proud of his roots in Ceredigion and feels a responsibility for things Welsh.
In 1979 he established Wales’ first bilingual PR agency StrataMatrix and ran the company successfully for 30 years.
He is Honorary Life President of the Urdd organisation and he created the ever popular Mr Urdd character – a hot favourable with Welsh youngsters for over 40 years. He was also one of the founders of the weekly magazine Golwg and retains his place as a company Director.
On returning to the paint brush he gave himself the challenge to paint Cors Caron, (the renowned nature reserve near Tregaron) in the four Seasons. He has also painted many Welsh cultural and heritage iconic sites and his inspiration comes from his upbringing in Ceredigion and from the rich heritage and culture of the various communities in Wales.
His art has also generated interest way beyond the borders of Wales. His interpretation of Soar-y-Mynydd, the most isolated chapel in Wales is in former US President Jimmy Carters’ art collection and his picture of Llanddwyn was bought by a German art collector. His painting of the Elvis Rock at Eisteddfa Gurig has generated considerable interest in the US and the picture is now at Graceland Tennessee former home of Elvis which is now dedicated as a museum and archive.
His autobiography Y Fi a Mistar Urdd a’r Cwmni Da was published by Y Lolfa in 2010.and another of his projects The Llanfihangel Genau’r Glyn Poetry Path was officially opened in 2012. The Path celebrates the rich poetic tradition in the community of Llandre, has been built in woodland owned by the family, and is open to the public 365 days a year.
Exhibitions of his work have been held in Aberystwyth, Tregaron, Fishguard, Bala, Llandeilo, Aberaeron, Cardiff and London. His aim is to capture the character and mood of Wales in paint on canvas.
Here is the interview:
Where do you get most of your inspiration?
Most of my ideas stem from my deep roots in West Wales. Many of my paintings are of subjects I have an affinity with and it is my way of celebrating our heritage and rich culture and all things Welsh.
Do you prefer to work outside/in your studio/a mixture of both?
All my painting work takes place in my studio in my back garden. Very often ideas strike me when I’m wandering about in the countryside, the coast and mountains of the stunning landforms we have in Wales. I always have my camera at hand and I work on rough outline sketches in order to simplify what I see with my eyes in order to adapt the image as a basis for my painting.
Do you have a favourite painting/sculpture that you have done? If so which one?
Watch Cottage Trefin, a typical whitewashed Pembrokeshire cottage, has caught the eyes on numerous artist, but I would not feel ashamed of displaying my interpretation of the cottage with others.
Where/ or what is your favourite place/subject to paint?
When I returned to painting, after a forty year gap I decided to give myself a challenge to paint the world renowned nature reserve Cors Caron near Tregaron in the the four Seasons. This is a location I know very well as it was part of my playground as a young lad growing up in Tregaron. It has a wealth of nature, wild life and colour. I had a preconception that it was fairly clear that my palette would contain certain colours to represent each Season but I was very wrong. During my frequent visits to the the bog over many years I have come to realise that the colours change continually as a result of the impact of light the sun and the clouds on the landscape.
I have also painted many pictures of Soar-y-Mynydd, again in the Tregaron area, the most remote chapel in Wales. Former US President Jimmy Carter owns one of these pictures. The chapel was built to serve the hill farm community in Elenydd, the Cambrian Mountains, and my father, a Presbyterian minister in Tregaron would go there to preach regularly. The only mode of travel in those days was on horseback and one of the hill farmers would bring a tame pony to the Square in Tregaron and lead my father on the 12 mile journey up into the hills. The hill community has vanished completely in my lifetime but following the construction of Llyn Brianne there is now a tarmac road leading all the way up the the chapel where services are still held every Sunday during the summer months.
I also have a soft spot for Pembrokeshire and during my regular visits over a twenty year period I have always looked upon the breath-taking coast and countryside as one of the most inspiring corners of Wales.
How do you find titles for your paintings, does the idea come before or after?
As most of my paintings are of specific subjects finding a title has never been a problem. If an idea for a painting suddenly strikes me the title somehow appears before my eyes from that defining moment.
Who’s your favourite artist/artists?
Many Welsh artists including: Ogwyn Davies (my former art teacher in school), Wil Roberts, Kyffin Williams, John Knapp-Fisher, Gwilym Pritchard, David Tress, and on the wider scene many others including: J M W Turner, Cezanne, Walter Sickert, Van
Goch and Nicolas de Stael, Mondrian, and the works of the Post-Impressionist era.
Do you listen to music while you paint? If so what kind of music?
No, never. It would distract me. I need peace and quiet but I do work to the accompaniment of the many birds tweeting in my garden.
What could you not do without in your studio?
What does your studio space look like? ( could we have a photo please? Even better one with you painting!)
On retirement I designed and built a studio in my back garden. It replaces a dilapidated garden shed and has been designed in three units to house my gardening tools, storage and the largest of the three is my studio. It is a small area but three years ago was extended to give me more scope to work on slightly larger canvasses.
How do you feel your work has changed over the years?
I would like to think that my recent work does reflect a more confident approach especially in my technique of painting and that a clear style has been developed, although I do continue to experiment with different approaches depending on the subject matter.
What other work have you done apart from being an Artist?
My first post was as a county organiser in Carmarthenshire for the Urdd (Wales’ largest youth movement) and after two years I was moved to the organisations HQ in Aberystwyth to take responsibility for publicity on a pan Wales basis. After 10 years with the Urdd I set my own public relations and public affairs organisation employing a team of specialist communicators and worked for most of Wales’s institutions over a period of thirty years providing services in Wales and Europe in marketing, PR, political monitoring and working closely with politicians and decision makers.
Did you always know you wanted to be an artist?
Having studied art at Swansea College of Art and Trinity College Carmarthen I then kept by interest in visual art alive by regularly visiting exhibitions, galleries and purchasing artwork but I never thought that one day I would be producing my own art in this way.
What sort of painting are you working on at the moment?
A year ago I gave myself a challenge to produce 20 new works inspired by eye-catching features in Ceredigion in order to support and promote the National Eisteddfod of Wales which was planned to be staged for the first time ever in my home town of Tregaron. Unfortunately the event was inevitably postponed as a result of Covid19 and is now planned for August 2021. The work was developing on target until March 2020 when a lockdown was introduced which restricted movement away from home and meant that although I know the area very well I was unable to leave my home. Now, my aim is to complete the series of paintings over the next 9 months.
What is your favourite medium to work in and why?
For health reasons I now use acrylic paint but my original aim was to teach myself and hopefully master the technique of using oil on canvass. As an asthma sufferer I discovered that working daily in my small studio I realised that the fumes generated by the oil paint and turps had caused me to cough continually and I decided to switch from oil to acrylic .There are clear advantages to using a water based medium but it can be more challenging to get a feeling of richness and depth in the paint when using acrylic.