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.”
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.