The Swelling Shapes of Women: The Art of Derek Jones

To create art is to be honest with oneself and with one's work. In a world where the artistic path isn't always easy, but rather one where the soul speaks - if the artist lets it and listens to it - then the path that is created is unique and exists in another realm entirely. To listen to and dream with our creative soul is to be in two worlds, or more, at once. 

And since honesty is paramount in order to live by the rhythms of our soul's creativity, I am attracted to art that comes from this special place - I'm happy to find that there are artists I can share and converse with that create and follow their passion despite conventionality or society's standards.

One such artist is Derek Jones, an artist who's work I've admired from afar for a couple of years now and have learned so much just by viewing his masterpieces. Derek focuses on depicting the feminine figure with all its honesty, truth, rawness and personal stories that come with it. Upon viewing his work I'm immediately struck by its clarity, sensitivity, and care he puts into his pieces. There is softness, darkness, sudden bursts of passion, careful observation, and always a certain delicacy and elegance that is entirely his own in every piece he creates. One can easily sense that this artist has taken time to truly capture every nuance, detail, shade of emotion, and sensual expression of women. His models - whom he expresses great appreciation for - lie at the heart of his creations.  

He's very humble and quiet about his ability, though one can see his work is of the highest quality and caliber. It is the work of an artist who has spent much time and dedicated his life observing and painting Woman.

I'm happy to share with you a recent interview I had with him. He was kind enough to give me a bit of his time and talk about his observations, his models, and artistic process.

What medium do you usually work with?

Whatever medium suits my ideas or model at the time... sometimes it takes a while to work out the approach and suitable medium for a model - but favourites are charcoal, conte, pastels, watercolour and gouache with acrylic, which is an irritating addition to the list. 
Paper is crucial and I usually work on prepared papers - they're prepared with gesso which gives it a lot of tooth and resilience.

You said you find acrylic an irritating addition to the list of materials work with. 
I find interesting you say that, how so?

I prefer materials that are vulnerable and can be changed later on - like pastels, gouache, charcoal and others similar to them. Acrylics are so useless when they set - and as a figure painter it is difficult to get flesh tones... Oil paints have a mellow yellow binder that is perfect for flesh - acrylic binder is too clear so the colours don't have that soft moderation. 

When did you start drawing/painting?

When I was ill a lot as a kid I had to drop some lessons that caused me health problems (games, woodwork) and during those periods I sat at the back of the art class and just painted.

Did you go to art school?

A local art school instead of sixth form at school, then a fine art degree at Newcastle-upon-Tyne University Fine Art department...this was during the time when artists such as Richard Hamilton ran the course, and folk such as Hockney and Peter Blake were visiting lecturers.

I see the female form is your main point of interest - tell us why this is your favorite subject, and how it has developed or grown over time for you.

The female face and body has been my main subject since university days... just fascinated by them. The face because of the need to reflect humanity and emotions in them, and the body because I am comfortable in the situation of sitting with a model, and looking, being stunned by the beauty of soft lines and swelling volume, then trying to find a way to translate that onto paper.

Do you have a series of works that you enjoyed working on, or perhaps an artistic phase you enjoyed?

I work long periods with some models and when I do that I get quite involved with them and their lives and emotions - so with, say, Louise who modelled for eleven years some of the work I created with her reached into her character and situation, and those works I like.

These works inspired by Louise are beautiful. 
I especially am drawn to the ones with the warm, conte tones - the hair, the neck, the soft expressions, very graceful and sensitive pieces. There is definitely a richness and warmth in these that make them special. 
I can imagine as you get to know a model more, the more comfortable and familiar you become with them and the drawings take up almost a life of their own... 
I suppose it is a unique type of intimacy that artist and model share, like a very trusting friendship... is it so?

Any model must trust me to keep them safe while they do something odd - sit undressed in a room with a stranger - the more I get to know them the more I can honestly try to draw them - the way they sit, hold their heads, the way their problems and delights are shown in their eyes... they must be themselves and allow me to create from that...

When did you begin drawing from real life models? Did it enrich your overall style?

From art college onwards, and I have always had local amateur models who work in a one-on-one situation... they are my inspiration, and my failure to create paintings that equal their presence is the cause of many dark days. You can tell when folk work from photos and not from life - humanity and the spark is missing.

How long does a model sit for you during a session? does it depend on the pose? 

I need them from about 9.30 till 12 noon... this involves setting the pose, do an hour's drawing, have a break - a drink and chat - and then an hour to get the drawing a bit further on and pack up. They know if they are stiff and stretch, they must be relaxed.


Not only is your work beautiful, but you also capture darker emotions - does this occur depending on the mood of the model during a session?

Yes, if a model is sad or upset I will feed on that to make a better drawing - the models know that.


I see you enjoy mixing media and are quite brilliant at it too! You have a very distinct style, yet it's versatile in the sense that it "travels" through different mediums very beautifully. 
Do you experiment a lot?

Experimentation with materials is crucial to keeping me fresh. To find a mix of materials that reflects my model is important. 

I see also that you incorporate very loose brushstrokes creating a more expressive, abstract feeling in certain pieces - I'm very attracted to those too, they feel raw and emotional and urgent in a way. 

I do all I can to avoid being tight and boring - so I try to begin messy so I have something (the mess) to fight against.

Just curious.. do you have older works that you did back in your university days?

No, I love a good bonfire and have little interest in old work - the present drawing is all I am concerned about.

Are there certain artists whose work have inspired you or influenced you?

Schiele, Degas, Singer Sargent, Modigliani

Tell us something about you we don't know. Maybe something that you feel is quirky or unique about yourself ;) 

Not really anything unique - a bit like a failed Degas... miserable sod who tries hard (Degas was a miserable sod who succeeded)

Any thoughts you'd like to share with other artists and people reading this? Perhaps words of encouragement or inspiration to stimulate creativity in society?

Have no intention to engage with society!!! But I do believe one should be true to oneself and not to buyers or galleries.... I have had little financial success over the years, but I feel I have always searched and tried my best - and I know that public success is NOT a sign of being a good artist... 


To see Derek's recent works visit his blog:
His work can also be viewed here:

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