By MARIE GILBERT
5:12 PM EST, March 8, 2012
It's an idyllic setting for an artist's working studio — a century-old building overlooking the Hudson River.
Here, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, large windows provide the perfect natural light while the streetscape below offers a treasure trove of inspiration.
There are iconic buildings, to be sure. But there also are personal discoveries — an arch of a bridge, the sleekness of a column of steel, the tautness of a cable.
Eric Ryan Jones might live in New York. But his talent takes up residence at the intersection of art and architecture.
While other painters interpret beauty in the form of a rose or a cloud-filled sky, Jones finds aesthetics in a high-rise, a doorway or a subway station.
It's his eye for architectural detail that has helped the former Hagerstown resident become an emerging artist.
"Sometimes, you need to step back and look at the things you see every day to have a new appreciation for them," Jones said. "My art is just that — an appreciation and an acknowledgment of beauty, no matter what the subject."
An alumni of St. Maria Goretti High School, Jones has come a long way from the kid who liked to doodle — "no matter what the topic or subject."
He recently was selected as one of 15 artists to display his work at a prestigious New York show "RAW: Natural Born Artists Activate Installation" at M1-5, a hip lounge in New York's trendy Tribeca. The event was one night only.
The mission of RAW, an independent art organization, is to provide artists of all creative genres — visual art, film, fashion, music and performance — with the tools, resources and exposure needed to cultivate their craft.
Jones was hand-picked from more than 500 submissions.
The show spotlighted six pieces from Jones' most recent architectural series, including the Brooklyn Bridge, the Gothic Bridge in Central Park and the Empire State Building.
Jones, who specializes in charcoal drawing and oil painting, said his selection to the RAW show "was totally unexpected, being that it was my first real, mass audience posting of my work."
Up to this point, he noted, he had been successful with private viewings.
"But I have kept it just that — private," he said. "So when I decided to enter my work into RAW, I didn't have any expectations whatsoever. Being chosen as one of the 15 spots was a shocking and incredibly exciting experience."
His inclusion in the show, Jones admitted, opens many doors of artistic opportunity.
"Placing my work in front of a large audience was rewarding on multiple levels," he said. "I guess the only real desire for an artist — beyond creating his work — is offering those around him enjoyment and pleasure from his work. RAW allowed me to do this on a very large scale. With over 500 attendees, who ranged from an eclectic group of avid collectors and gallery owners to curators and New York City influencers, this was far from the one-on-one showings I have become familiar with."
And the feedback he received from strangers, he added, "was exhilarating. I was incredibly humbled when a national television personality and his wife showed a great interest in my work."
Jones said he doesn't remember a time when art wasn't a part of his life.
"As a child, if there was a piece of paper around, chances are I had made my markings on it."
His mother often reminds him, he said, "of a time when I was around three years old and drew my version of Joe Camel out of a magazine advertisement. She jokes in saying, as a mother, the subject was certainly not appropriate for her child. But she said she knew then and there that I had a natural gift for drawing."
That gift, he said, probably comes from a family of artists.
"My mom was incredibly artistic. The house was always filled with her arts and crafts supplies," he recalled. "I have fond memories of being little, sitting in the kitchen and helping her make scrapbooks and holiday decorations."
Jones said his grandfather, Sonny Jones, is a talented architect "and since having seen my most recent work, has once again picked up his own set of brushes. It's amazing to see how similar our styles and techniques are and makes me proud to have received such a wonderful gift of raw talent from him."
In addition, Jones said his sister, Karissa, was a professional dancer for most of her life. "So our family was always involved in something arts related. There is no doubt an artistic gene runs strong and deep in my DNA."
While attending Goretti, Jones said he never was the bookworm type, but flourished and excelled in art classes.
"I remember taking art classes with Mrs. Nancy Blank," he said. "Reflecting back, she was a big influence on me — my confidence, my ambition and my overall technical skill. I'm not sure if I ever articulated that to her. I guess if she is reading this now, she will know. So, thank you, Mrs. Blank. I hope I have done you proud."
Jones also excelled in soccer at Goretti, he said.
"It's an interesting juxtaposition of interests. I think the freedom of the arts in a way harnessed the structure of my sports. One opened my mind to think outside the box and work independently. The other taught me about structure, dedication and teamwork," he noted.
After graduating from Goret-ti in 1993, Jones attended the University of Mobile in Alabama on a soccer scholarship and majored in art. He transferred to Marshall University in West Virginia for his sophomore year, majoring in graphic design and illustration, "along with a full-time major in soccer."
Jones believes that it was the training in illustration that influences his work today.
As electives, Jones said he took oil painting and drawing classes, but never officially trained as an artist.
"I thought about changing my major to painting and drawing within the fine arts curriculum," he explained. "But with new advances in graphics programs for MacIntosh, like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, I decided to stay within a technologically driven degree."
That decision benefited him greatly, he said, "as it is what supported my move to Manhattan. My first job in New York City was with the in-house visual merchandising design team at the Estee Lauder Companies on Fifth Avenue."
Jones said it never was a goal to end up in New York City but he remembers a Goretti school trip to the Big Apple his junior year of high school.
"I instantly absorbed the energy and excitement in the city," he said. "The city felt right to me, which, at the time, struck me oddly, since I had grown up in suburbia. That was the first time I realized I could definitely live here and be successful at whatever I chose do so. Somehow, deep down, I knew I would be back."
Jones said he is fortunate to have a studio within his apartment in Manhattan.
"I was able to convert and build a few of the rooms to accommodate my work and to have private viewings and showings when requested," he said. "One room is my drawing studio and the other is my painting studio. Both face the Hudson River and offer incredible natural light."
Jones said he prefers to work in his own space, away from the distractions of others, in his own element, surrounded by his own energy.
"Having an art studio within my living environment also lends nicely to my random, middle of the night drawing and painting sessions," he said. "When I'm inspired at 2 a.m., I don't have to go very far to get an immediate hand to canvas. To me, it is crucial to get my ideas out when I see them in my mind's eye. When I sleep, I sleep near my art."
Jones said his inspirations come from a variety of areas, black and white photography, architecture and the compositions and details of M.C. Escher and Salvador Dali.
"My drawings have a surrealist monochromatic undertone in both technique and overall composition," he noted. "I use my own photography as creative reference, showcasing dynamic and exaggerated perspectives using foreshortening and chiaroscuro techniques. Where necessary, color is incorporated to sharpen focus on the intricate and meticulous details that live within the monochromatic space."
Jones said he currently is finishing up a series on architecture specific to New York City bridges but will soon begin a series on the New York City subway system.
"I'm fascinated with these two subjects and how they connect individuals and influence everyday life," he said. "They carry such a serious energy, being traveled by so many different people every day, and have such depth of beauty and character. People have lost sight of the refinement and grace within these structures as they have become too accustomed to them. My goal is to highlight that beauty, the inner charm of what people have learned to overlook in their day-to-day rat race."
Jones said he is planning a private gallery exhibit in New York City for the fall. He also is submitting selected pieces of his work to national juried exhibitions throughout the country and plans to travel to several cities this year to begin developing future architectural series concepts.
But Jones plans on keeping his Manhattan apartment as his home base.
"There is no other place like New York City," he said. "It is in a class by itself."
On the web
More information about Eric Ryan Jones is available at www.erjdesign.com
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