Jon Jones

Born: Birmingham
Lives and works: Birmingham
Education: De Montfort University
Awards: BP Portrait Award (shortlisted, 2006)
Exhibitions: National Portrait Gallery, Aberdeen Art Gallery, National Library of Wales, Royal Albert Memorial Museum and Art Gallery
“Whenever I choose a portrait to paint, I want to make it feel alive. You read a face by its emotion.”

Figurative artist Jon has enjoyed sell-out success in both the UK and Australia. He has been shortlisted for several prestigious awards, including the BP Portrait Award hosted by the National Portrait Gallery in London. Often depicting celebrities or the Peaky Blinders gang, his haunting portraits are perfect for both traditional and contemporary spaces. A 50-metre mural created from his original paintings is currently on display outside Birmingham's New Street station to raise money for Birmingham Children's Hospital. Find out more below!

Inspiration

Perplexing, humorous and melancholy, Jon's work is created from the heart. With a background in fine art, sculpture and ceramics, he cites Rembrandt amongst his influences and enjoys discovering the techniques behind a painting.

Jon says: “I don’t like to scrutinise and dissect Rembrandt’s work too much as it takes away that magic, much the same as when a magician explains his tricks. I still get butterflies going to see an exhibition of his work – he makes me want to paint! I like artists who use thick impasto paint, like Lucian Freud, Leon Kossoff and Frank Auerbach. In my mind, this is how oil painting should be: seeing the brushstrokes and understanding how a painting is constructed.”

Growing up in Kings Heath, Birmingham, he was drawn to the darker side of history and shunned playing football with this friends in favour of exploring the local Hare and Hounds pub, where the landlord regaled tales of hangings and said the cellar was used as a mortuary. As an adult, he went on to hold exhibitions based on prostitution in 18th century London and the history and meanings behind nursery rhymes.

He has worked extensively with the West Midlands Police Museum to explore the criminal underworld of 19th century Birmingham. His haunting paintings delve into the history of the infamous Peaky Blinders gang, made famous by the successful BBC series of the same name. Through contributions from the sale of these artworks, we have been able to contribute to Birmingham Children's Hospital's 'Out To Play' appeal. 

Since March 2022, Jon's art has taken over Hill Street outside New Street Station in Birmingham for a 50-metre mural to raise money for Birmingham Children's Hospital. Featuring many of the main characters of the award-winning TV show – including Thomas Shelby, Alfie Solomons and Polly Gray – the large-scale installation has already wowed the creator of Peaky Blinders, Steven Knight, who described it as "vivid and brilliant". Castle Fine Art will donate £1 for every image of the wall that @castlegalleries is tagged in on social media with the hashtag #Brum4BCH. 

Jon says: “When I paint, I want to think 'Wow, I did this...how did I do it?' Amazing myself is my ultimate goal. There is a quote I like from Salvador Dalí, who said: “Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.” I’m always looking to improve my painting."

Shop Jon's latest limited edition and original artworks here

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Inside the world of Jon Jones

Jon starts his work with just a scribble, preferring to keep his sketch loose and give his energy to the final painting. He uses oil on board, with Indian ink and pencil. While creating his art, he listens to David Bowie, Arctic Monkeys and Nick Cave. He once worked at a special needs school, and the music helps to add some chatter to the relatively solitary environment of an artist’s studio.

Jon uses brushwork to explore the relationship between light and shadow, using a technique called chiaroscuro. This method, which involves creating tonal contrasts, was used by artists including Leonardo da Vinci. He also uses the Impressionist technique of marking, whereby separate brush marks and dabs of paint add light, life and movement to paintings. 

Jon says: "When I start a new painting, even though I’ve been painting for years, I still have a real fear and anxiety. There’s nothing worse than looking at a blank wall. But as soon as a scribble is on the board, it’s broken up and I can relax again. I treat a painting like a jigsaw puzzle: you just try and work out where everything is, and hopefully everything then starts to make sense. Towards the end, it all fits together."

To add emotion to his portraits, Jon focuses on the eyes. He explains: “My mother used to say that she disliked Lucian Freud because the eyes are dead and expressionless; whenever I choose a portrait to paint, I want to make it feel alive. You read a face by its emotion.”  

If you like reading about our artists' studios, don't miss our regular Studio Sessions feature in Fine Art Collector magazine. Catch up on previous issues here

From the blog

Made in Birmingham | Jon Jones 2022

Jon Jones has kept true to his hometown and artistic genre throughout his career. Here, he explores the dark history of Birmingham through macabre colour palettes and atmospheric figurative works.

New Arrivals | September

Discover our newest collections of art this month including exciting new releases from Richard Rowan, Nic Joly and Jon Jones.

Magazines and brochures

Fine Art Collector | Spring 2021

Showcasing the very best of our artworks, along with behind-the-scenes updates and interviews, the new issue of our Fine Art Collector magazine is a must-read!

Fine Art Collector | 2020

Showcasing the very best of our artworks, along with behind-the-scenes updates and interviews, the new issue of our Fine Art Collector magazine is a must-read!

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