Genres of Creative Practice: Painting and Drawing
Themes: Figurative. Mainly iconic celebrities and musicians 
Location: Western Australia 


Michael Earl Jones is a creative who has a fascination with the iconic persona of a well-known figure and their narrative; hidden or emblasoned on an LP album cover or splashed across the daily news. His light, painterly layers give the portraits sincerity and a simplicity that is refreshing and easily relatable.

He has had a varied career, which included teaching. Mike also has a strong relationship with music and enjoys working in community radio. In recent years he has had to deal with his own mortality, which in turn affected his creativity and self-belief.

A personal friend of mine, I was delighted when this lovely, modest and quick-witted man agreed to an interview. He and I had an exhibition in the 'pipeline' when the  COVID19 pandemic struck.  As he would say; 'watch this space'.  Please welcome my friend, Mr Mike Jones and read about his interesting blend in loving art and music: 

JFP:   Hello Mike, thank you for your time. Please tell us a bit about yourself, your inspirations and maybe some highlights in your career as a creative you would like to share.

MEJ: I was born in Tamworth, England in 1950 and was given a pretty complete collection of Rock ‘n’ Roll records by a Teddyboy friend of my parents at a New Years Eve party in 1958.   I had received a record player and two 78 records by Petula Clarke and Connie Francis. Wonderful, but I think the leap from ‘Lipstick on Your Collar’ and ‘Sailor’ to Elvis’ version of ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ (the first record of his I ever heard) and 78s and albums by Little Richard; Bill Haley; Johnny Ray; Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison; Guy Michell; Chuck Berry and Fats Domino, pretty much ensured a lifetime interest in rock and the projected imagery via album covers and pop/rock magazines.  

My career in the arts has been pretty unremarkable.  At the age of two or three, I was taught how to draw people by my Great Aunty Gladys. Start with a faint stick person and then how to fill in the form and face etc. I thank her for sowing that seed at such an early age. It would be a few years before I discovered the amazing artwork of David Oxtoby; Guy Peellaert; Peter Blake and Andy Warhol …and one or two other fine artists. The seed took some time to grow and I didn’t realise at the time that it would lead me to four years at Birmingham Art College and a Post Graduate Art Teaching course at Birmingham University.  

 JFP: Could you describe a bit about your creative process, your favourite themes, mediums/genres? Anything you would like to share about what inspires you to keep creating, believing in your abilities?

MEJ: Mostly ‘portrait’ painting and drawings of well-known musicians and other personalities; such as Marilyn Monroe and Che Guevara. Inspiration comes from a number of sources. Fascination with the individual(s) their creative abilities and real or manufactured persona. Including, at times, the stark contradictions between image and reality; sanity and insanity etc.

Sometimes it may be a particular event in that person’s life, such as the death of John Lennon.  I may also be inspired by a specific photograph or scene in a movie.  At other times the need it is some sort of overwhelming necessity; one that I often fight. I don’t want to …I don’t enjoy it …it is a chore.  All of my earlier work was in oil, charcoal or Conte and pencil. Now I use acrylic on canvas and pastel and pencil on paper for most of my drawings. 

For me ‘a belief in my own abilities’ is a ride on a see-saw. In the zone and a higher being is guiding my hand …totally unthinking bliss.  At other times a struggle of disbelief exemplified by a recent portrait where I couldn’t even seem to mix simple colour matches or shapes. OK …look at the negative space …break this colour down …start simple etc. All to no avail. Give it up …destroy.  Yet strangely …the painting I'm thinking of suddenly came together very quickly and is one of my favourites. But it can feel sadomasochistic at times.

Nevertheless, over the past few years following major operations, friends and the painting process have been the support that has kept me afloat. Process wise, I have no formulas, but generally begin with a drawing in pencil or pastel and then outline in raw umber or a key colour. Sometimes straight onto a primed white canvas and at other times on what I intend to be a  background colour. 

JFP: Have you ever experienced a creative block or time in your career as a creative where things were difficult that made it difficult to practice your craft? Would you mind sharing that in some way? How did it affect you? How did you move on from that?

MEJ:  There was a long period when I didn’t paint at all and any work I did was because a family member or friend asked me to.  Jagger for Karen; Robin Williams for her friend and so on. Perhaps a couple of pieces a year and definitely not the Sistine Chapel.  A turning point was when I painted a Dylan composite for myself and was persuaded to take it into work by a colleague. People were surprised and very supportive and my manager at the time invited me to some of his brother’s exhibitions. It was still a slow process and a turning point was three portraits I did for a friend’s 60th birthday as a surprise and discovering that someone I knew as a community-based employment officer was an artist and we started to meet and paint together with her friend. The mixing with like-minded people was another instrumental part of becoming more creative. Output increased and using pastels and pencils was helpful in that it was more immediate.  

Things ebbed and flowed though and I don’t think ‘the block’ will ever leave me entirely and after my operations, I didn’t create for a long time …and then after maybe two or three years a voice seemed to say ‘don’t let this define you’  it is a very small slice of your pizza supreme …even though Hawaiian is my favourite. And I started painting, using light weights and going back to present a radio show and eventually doing some training of new presenters. 

More recently I met a local artist who encouraged and supported me and is a kindred spirit. Above everything, I think opening up to creative friends and the creativity of the world has been very important.

JFP: What would you advise someone in a creative block/to move on with their craft to do? What are some steps, some words of encouragement you could give them? (Or even a source/book/person/etc to look towards?)

MEJ: Two books that immediately come to mind are ‘The Artist’s Way’ and its companion piece, ‘The  Artist’s Way at Work’ by Julia Cameron.’  Very similar so I would only buy one. They take you through a whole process of clearing blockages in your life, including creative blocks to becoming the best you can be. Lots of inspirational quotes as well.  I have found talking to friends and artists a big help. The mutual energy and the realisation that you are not alone or strange or the only one who experiences ups and downs.

I have also found watching art programmes on YouTube and Netflix etc a big help and definitely an inspiration.  More recently tuning in to watch the UK show ‘Artist of the week/month’ throws a lot of techniques and energy your way.  Watching bios on the greats, like Turner (one of my favourite artists) Rembrandt, Van Gogh and visiting galleries etc can also be a great help in rekindling the urge to create and live creatively.

I sometimes dip into depression when I realise I will never match their sheer genius and natural talent, but hey, I can be a pub singer or bathroom baritone. I love to see all art and will never forget the look on young students’ faces  (I was an art teacher for a while) when I framed their work on coloured paper and put it on the wall. It’s the doing that really counts. I find fete and country cafe exhibitions an absolute and utterly pure artistic experience that always help lift my creative energy.

It’s often said that trying a different medium and/or style is a great way to rekindle the creative process and I would tend to agree. Plant some beautiful flowers, try a different medium/subject matter, pour like Pollock or print like Warhol for example and it’s okay to take a break for a while. But don’t forget to pump up your tyres and oil your chain during the downtime and then jump back on for the ride of your life.  Fuel your dream!  

JFP: Some really good, honest and innovative points there, Mike. Thank you. Thanks for the chat. 

To see images of Michael's work please go to our Gallery