Paint­ing it ‘the way it is’

The paint­ings of James Jones of Mary’s Har­bour are re­mark­ably re­al­is­tic


MARY’S HAR­BOUR, NL. – At first glance you could swear the paint­ings on James Jones’ Face­book page were the real thing.

From far away, there’s hardly any­thing to dis­tin­guish them from a real scene or a pho­to­graph. It’s only when you zoom in and look real close that you can see the mark of the paint­brush.

Then you come to ap­pre­ci­ate the at­ten­tion to de­tail and care that went into recre­at­ing the im­ages of the land­scapes, water, build­ings and boats of south­ern Labrador.

The paint­ings show the scenes where Jones grew up and, as a na­tive of Mary’s Har­bour, con­tin­ues to live.

And the care and love he has for his home is clearly man­i­fested on the can­vas.

“I try to paint it the way it is,” he said.

All the more re­mark­able is that Jones, 63, has some­how man­aged to do it with­out any for­mal train­ing.

And, in fact, he’s only re­ally started paint­ing fre­quently in the past few years.

Jones says he first tried his hand at paint­ing when he was around 10 to 12 years old. He picked it up from his fa­ther.

“Fa­ther came to Bat­tle Har­bour in 1945 and at that time peo­ple were liv­ing in Bat­tle Har­bour all year round,” he said. “I sup­pose the long nights in Bat­tle Har­bour in the win­ter­time, not much else to do, he used to do a bit of paint­ing.

“When I came along, that sort of in­spired me to try it out too.”

He says he merely dab­bled in it at that age. “When he was paint­ing, I’d al­ways be there with a brush and a bit of pa­per too, try­ing to por­tray what he was do­ing,” said Jones.

Then he put the paint­brush down for many years, pick­ing it up again in his fifties.

The first paint­ing he did as an adult was of the Bat­tle Har­bour church, around 2006.

But he only con­tin­ued spo­rad­i­cally af­ter­wards. Fi­nally, last win­ter he got se­ri­ous about it, com­plet­ing ap­prox­i­mately 10 paint­ings through the harsh win­ter months.

That’s the most he’s ever done. In to­tal, he es­ti­mates he’s only done about 12. He’s hop­ing to get as many done next win­ter.

Most of the paint­ings recre­ate, as re­al­is­ti­cally as pos­si­ble, the scenes of Bat­tle Har­bour and Red Bay in oil paint. Jones has also ex­tended to some sur­round­ing ar­eas.

He says he might do some­thing of Cape St. Charles – an old aban­doned fish­ing vil­lage near Bat­tle Har­bour.

He mainly wants to cap­ture the ar­eas where he grew up.

What he en­joys about paint­ing is the sense of ac­com­plish­ment.

“When you got a fin­ished prod­uct and you’re look­ing at it, it gives you a good feel­ing that you ac­com­plished some­thing,” he said. “You were able to take that im­age and put it on can­vas.

“And for years to come, some­one will al­ways have it.”

His method

To re-learn how to paint as an adult, Jones never both­ered look­ing at any guides on­line or in books.

He sim­ply rec­ol­lected what he learnt from his fa­ther as a boy.

Other­wise, he was en­tirely self-taught.

He says it took a cou­ple years to get a good feel for it, al­though you’d hardly know that from the paint­ing of the church.

He ex­plained his method.

“I take a pho­to­graph of some­thing I like,” he said. “And give it a rough sketch with black lead on the can­vas. And then just take the paint and slap it on.”

Jones says it’s time con­sum­ing to make it so re­al­is­tic – for him it takes about three days, work­ing four or five hours a day, to com­plete a 16x20 inch paint­ing.

And he says you got to have a steady hand.

Recog­ni­tion and sell­ing his work

Since set­ting up a Face­book page dis­play­ing his work, Art by James Jones, he has started to re­ceive some recog­ni­tion.

For in­stance, his paint­ing ti­tled “The Wood­shed Win­dow” re­ceived spe­cial recog­ni­tion in Land­scapes cat­e­gory from the Light Space and Time On­line Art Gallery.

The paint­ing shows the view look­ing out the win­dow from in­side Brazil’s Shed in Bat­tle Har­bour.

So far, Jones has also sold about three of his paint­ings through the page, and a num­ber of them are still avail­able for sale.

He says any­one in­ter­ested in buy­ing one can con­tact him through the Face­book page or give him a call at 709-921-6249.

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