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Marshall Jones: Blending Mediums and Genres in a Harmonious Way

Marshall Jones is a painter, founder of the Art Grind podcast, and teacher hailing from Atlanta Georgia and currently resides in New York City. He teaches figure drawing and painting at the Art Students League of New York, The New York Academy of Art (unfortunately closed right now), the Salmagundi Club, and National Arts Club.

Marshall’s work forces the viewer to go further than just what their eyes can see- moving closer into their physiological thinking to better understand the dichotomy put before them. The viewer is meant to reflect upon their own life when viewing his work. His detailed work is thought provoking and magical at the same time. Marshall Jones’ work has shown in Denise Bibro Gallery, Lodge Gallery, Dacia Gallery, Abend Gallery, and Mark Miller Gallery. He is also the co-founder and host of the Art Grind Podcast.

It is true the power of media is insurmountable over us, at this point, and all we can do is wait and see.

You clearly have mastered realism so well that your latest series “Endangered Species, Life on a Hostile Planet”, a few in which I was privy to seeing in person, shows the blending of many different genres. What is the relationship between the nude women, animals and paying homage to Mario Brothers? 

That series I was exploring symbolic imagery and hidden meanings. I was thinking a lot about semiotics, and the way images function within a collective shorthand, and the massive power of that collective understanding. It was starting to dawn on me the power that culture has to proselytize a society to its civil aims. I think I used to credit religion and politics with the bulk of power and influence. I was thinking about my own experience that Full House and Tide commercials were certainly a more effective influence on who I am than the Church or government ever could be. It is true the power of media is insurmountable over us, at this point, and all we can do is wait and see. I was also using visual rules and underlining ideas that governed what I was allowed to put into them. I think within me there is a real sorrow for the confusion, fear and smallness of contemporary life. I feel, at the time, I was a bit taken with people and think I wanted to elevate the human spirit and have my people overcome the obstacles that loom so large in my mind technology, media, culture, religion and so on, in that series they could just exists I wanted to see people just exist so I painted them. I don’t feel the same, currently, and the majority of what I see is people’s hunger for power; if they have it they are desperate to keep it… if they don’t, they are desperate to get it and that’s such a dark side of us that s currently so pervasive its difficult to see past it to find the beauty . 

That series was a attempt to to clarify the question in my own mind of do I dawn on me the culture like it here… meaning earth in 2020… if so what do I like about here and what can I do to accentuate the positive? We live with many notions that we barely understand, bizarre concepts like truth and beauty that seem to be helpful to socializing a society but I want to understand what they mean to me… are they meaningless propaganda, what’s the line is it all ridiculous or is there meaning? Do we have a nature or is it all just made up, like playing Mario Brothers sometimes life feels like a simulation? Run through the course save the princess feel fairly empty at the end and then onto the next level. Like Mario, that metaphor returns time again in my work and systems in place to keep people motivated and entertained without looking around too much because those who do are often labeled neurotic and in need of intervention whether it be therapy, religion, or the American dream.

I am very used to seeing you paint women. Would you say they were your favorite subject matter? If so- what about the female body inspires you to paint them so often? If not- what is your favorite subject matter? 

I would say women were intriguing to me; I really was into trying to understand things about life through painting as well as more about myself and feeling toward my reality. Painting has historically been a great teacher for me. But lately I’ve been in a different place I haven’t been painting many women recently. Also my previous work had a real positive approach to the wonder of humanity that I don’t really feel so positive about people in general anymore. 

I have had moments where I feel like I’m truly reacting. I try to achieve layers of depth the way I would in a landscape or anything else representational. The methods and color choices are largely braised on indirect painting methods how a transparency’s interact with opacity.

Your abstracts are on the complete opposite end of realism, of course. They are visual bliss. Stunning color choices and deliberate movement of what appears to be a palette knife? Do tell about the process as well as your color choices please. 

I’m so glad you asked about the abstracts! By the way, I do not consider myself an accomplished abstract painter by any means. I do love working that way but unfortunately the way I think about them is all informed from representational  figure painting. Lately though, I have had moments where I feel like I’m truly reacting. I try to achieve layers of depth the way I would in a landscape or anything else representational. The methods and color choices are largely braised on indirect painting methods how a transparency’s interact with opacity. I love oil paint and what it can do it’s so versatile and the abstracts are really just maintaining that love without the constraints of representation. Over time, I’ve developed some strategy to keep a representative painting moving and a confidence that they will generally keep improving the more time I have to work on them. The abstracts I don’t have any systems for so there is a level of stress in them that reminds me of when I was first painting the model some would work some wouldn’t and I didn’t know why I really loved that stress and I miss it.

The abstracts challenge me in new ways that excite me. I’ve had many failures that’s really nice to experience and feel. During quarantine, I’ve been doing zoom classes with an amazing painter, Peter Bonner, and it’s been really great for me to dive deep into entirely different considerations about  picture making . Lately, I have had some breakthroughs on the way shape and color depends on each other, the way you can have a unsuccessfully shape and change the context with a relationship to a new shape it’s like they are in dialogue in real time that’s a thrilling way to paint and think you never know what’s gonna happen it’s pure reactions with a moderately forgiving medium, like oil paint; I’ve been thinking and teaching a lot on this idea of lucid designing.

If I try and fail it’s ok as they are mostly on paper. I usually cut those up and make business cards and some of those look fabulous cut out of a larger context that has been another lesson for me. I have been trying to incorporate the sense of lucid design into my figurative work as well. I’ve noticed that a lot of the great figurative painters had a background in abstract painting that gave them a confidence in there own decisions rather than following ruled guidelines.

I’ve really wanted to avoid the notion of being a branded artist. My favorite teacher used to caution me, “don’t be the guy who paints the coffee cups”; I think he meant if your doing only one thing, your selling yourself short

Is there any medium you want to experiment with? One that you may be fearful to try? Have you created any sculptures before? 

I started learning guitar but had to stop because of time and a broken finger… but I do think it gave my creativity a boost as exploring different mediums often do

I like seeing the depth of work. It has both variety and vibrancy. It shows you can create a lot of different work for various collectors. Do your collectors buy from different series or do you work more based on commissions? Meaning- do your collectors collect the same style of work or do they mix it up like you do? 

I’ve really wanted to avoid the notion of being a branded artist. My favorite teacher used to caution me, “don’t be the guy who paints the coffee cups”; I think he meant if your doing only one thing, your selling yourself short. Now, commercially that’s a good thing. I think there is a certain success that comes from that sort of repetition. It works for Instagram and galleries but I find it difficult to stay motivated to work that way. I’m way more interested in learning and growing than making a career; honestly, I think the only reason I paint is to continue to educate myself. I would way rather learn than make paintings people like. I’m always intrigued by how I hear people describe what I do because I’ve noticed people usually know me for only one thing and think that’s the only thing I do. It’s not great from a branding standpoint- but it’s a lot of fun to create within that place. I’m really lucky I have somehow managed to meet some really interesting collectors who indulge and appreciate that side of me. 

I’m way more interested in learning and growing than making a career; honestly, I think the only reason I paint is to continue to educate myself. I would way rather learn than make paintings people like.

What are you working on now? 

Lately, I’ve been working on new ways to compose pictures more of a shape forward approach instead of narrative. I’ve been trying to have the shapes set the whole feeling of the painting before any action is set I’m working on technical problems and creating completely for myself to work within. I will be starting a new series in the fall… this time, I’m taking some time to consider the technical considerations before I start. I have sketches of some of the imagery that I’m excited about, too.

Is there something you can tell me that you have not shared with another art journalist before? 

Haha, this could go in so many directions. I guess I could answer… silly, dark… or I could avoid it with generality. You pick one!

I definitely want to talk about your teaching and what you see in your students talents. For the next generation-I want to know if there are/were any students that blew you away and the connection of what you may have learned from your students? I often hear that one helps the other to grow and flourish as an artist. I also must ask about the Art Grind Podcast with your fellow artists. When did this podcast come about and how come I was not aware of it? Reisha, Tim, Jonathan, etc. all key people in the art community with wonderful experience and knowledge! 

I really love that show and the mission of it. I think Sophia is one of the smartest people I know and I love to hear her point of view. It’s strange to think that we have conversations in real time then they just go out into space and mean something to people. The original impetus for the show was to converse like how we do in bars then record it, all very casual. I didn’t really think anyone would listen. But now, during Covid, its really become something I look forward to doing and when I look back I’ve learned a ton about peoples motivations as well as techniques. I’ve also made many friends along the way. In the beginning, it took some time to find a audience I think most people listen to those things to get practical tips like how to get a gallery or get more Instagram followers. That’s really not where my head is at all, as a result of that. I think the content in our show was frustrating and possibly annoyed some early listeners. But now we really have a solid community of interesting artist that certainly has been a unexpected surprise!

Marshall Jones Social Media Accounts

Website | Instagram


About Author

Having interviewed over 150 artists from around the world over the past three years has been a wonderful experience. I have learned so much from the art community. I live and breathe art, literally. Art is my oxygen. Art is my passion. I am also a Mother to 2 teenagers living in New York City. As you could imagine, I wear many hats. I wouldn't have it any other way.

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