Jason Jones is a name you have probably heard around Northwest Arkansas. If you haven’t heard of him, you’ve likely noticed his whimsical murals popping up in many of our community spaces. He’s the artist behind the Enjoy Local mural in downtown Fayetteville, along with the Bentonville Octopus, and many others.
The West Fork native says he knew from a pretty young age that he had an interest in art. One of his earliest memories is from when he was four or five years old and drew a very detailed picture of his parents. He recalls his mother’s reaction upon seeing the artwork. “My mom just kind of lit up; she was just ecstatic,” he says. “She’s kept that drawing all these years,” he adds.
Throughout his childhood, Jones was quite introverted and spent much of his time drawing. As a teen, his mother enrolled him in painting classes, which helped him polish his skills. His blossoming talent led to job opportunities like painting the mascot in his school’s gym and creating a mural on a fence for a local video store.
Jones went on to graduate from the University of Arkansas, where he studied fine arts. He originally thought studying graphic design would be his course of work, but decided he wanted to do something with more artistic creativity. He dabbled in sculpture but ultimately landed on painting as a study focus. Jones says he has always enjoyed making sculptures, usually from items found on his hikes in the country. “To me, it’s all kind of connected, whether it’s sculpture, photography or painting. It’s all kind of the basic elements you’re dealing with, like color and texture,” he says.
Jones points out that success didn’t happen instantly for him. Many people may not realize that he’s been quietly working as a professional artist for almost 20 years. “Nothing happens overnight,” he says. “It’s something you build.”
While he admits that not all of his work is great, he does enjoy the experience of creating something unique. “I don’t know anyone else that’s doing exactly the same thing,” he says of his artwork. He finds that listening to music and science podcasts while he works helps keep him alert and moving, especially on projects that take several weeks to complete.
Altered thrift store art is the term Jones uses to describe one type of project he creates, which came from his desire to upcycle and create sustainable art. Because he has always shopped flea markets and thrift stores for old frames to reuse, he was inspired to use the existing pieces of art and paint on top of them. “I’ll sit for hours trying to match colors and textures,” he says of the process. Jones later learned that other artists have done similar artwork and that this type of upcycling has grown in popularity.
He recalls how he once bought a framed picture of a western scene that was old and torn. “I had the random idea to paint a robot over the tear. People really loved it,” he explains. The robot is now a common character in many of Jones’s pieces, and one of his best sellers. What started in college as his recollection of childhood memories was loosely based on Grover the Muppet, and eventually morphed into his robot character. “I like it because it’s a light-hearted character and has a whimsy to it,” he says.
It’s not easy for Jones to choose a favorite among his creations. “I’m not one to get into one thing, so I end up having lots of favorites,” he says, when pressed. Having a variety of projects keeps the work interesting to him, he notes. Sometimes, he enjoys working on murals because of the interaction with other people that it brings. Other times, Jones prefers working on smaller pieces in private.
Working on the Green Candy project in Fayetteville last year was something that Jones really enjoyed. He was selected to participate along with many international artists, as part of the campaign that focused on conservation and sustainability. His submission was a mural of a jackrabbit next to a terrarium landscape. His favorite large mural is the Blue Octopus in downtown Bentonville, which took him about four weeks to complete.
The Blue Octopus project was originally intended to be a more traditional postcard type of mural, with a focus on local landmarks. However, Jones was able to convince the client to go with a more creative approach to the idea. “Let’s make a landmark,” he urged them. The client agreed, and Jones began to work with a local photographer in the design process to merge both ideas together. “I was super stoked they went with something creative,” he says.
Until now, Jones has preferred to work in Northwest Arkansas to be near his family. But as he is becoming more known regionally, the calls have been coming in for opportunities outside of the area. And now that his son is older, Jones says he’s starting to consider more business travel. He is especially interested in the growing popularity of street art and mural festivals all over the country. Jones has worked as volunteer and assistant in The Unexpected art project in Fort Smith, and hopes to continue similar work. He missed a lot of the first year of that project due to his work on the Enjoy Local mural in Fayetteville. “I was sure to be a part of the next year,” he says of The Unexpected.
Jones has provided Northwest Arkansas with many examples of timeless beauty and creativity in his public art displays that will be part of the landscape for years to come. “I put a lot of thought into my work,” he explains. “I keep it whimsical and light-hearted so it doesn’t feel heavy.”
Visit www.artistjasonjones.com to see a portfolio of the artist’s work in Northwest Arkansas.