Students of Atelier Joel Carson Jones show work at Kingston art gallery
Kingston artist Joel Carson Jones is a living master in realism as honored by the International Art Renewal Center.
The 42-year-old Plymouth native shares that status with only 84 artists worldwide, but while Jones’ hyper-realistic work is shown exclusively in Cavalier Galleries across the country, the art of the apprentices at his atelier (a studio comprised of a principal master and students) is currently displayed in the Wyoming Valley.
“Atelier Joel Carson Jones” features the oil paintings, drawings, etchings and engravings of 14 of Jones’ disciples and shows through July 31 at Main Street Galleries in Kingston.
After graduating from Wyoming Valley West, Jones began his art education at Luzerne County Community College in Nanticoke.
“That provided me with a beacon, pointed me in the direction of the kind of work I wanted to do, which was more representational,” Jones said.
He earned his associate’s degree and matriculated at Marywood University in Scranton, where he earned a bachelor’s degree and studied abroad in Angers, France.
But he credits a Nanticoke native and fellow living master with helping him reach his potential.
Anthony J. Waichulis studied with Jones at LCCC before heading to Baltimore to further his education and returning home to start his own atelier.
“Under his guidance, that’s where my skills developed,” Jones said. “He’s one of my closest friends today.”
As a younger artist, Jones said, he paid attention to the work of an almost overwhelming number of creators, but six or seven years ago he “turned the blinders on.”
“Once I started doing that, my own voice came out,” Jones said.
Finding that voice is encouraged at Jones’ atelier where artists like Neil Mattern, Lucy Shemo and Tom Martin have worked on their craft.
“Neil Mattern works in charcoal and at a high level of realism,” Jones said. “Now he’s doing etchings and drypoints (engravings), and there’s more movement in them. He’s finding his own voice.”
Lucy Shemo, 19, of Luzerne, is the youngest member of the atelier and she said she gets a strong sense of camaraderie at the studio where she learns from not only Jones but also other apprentices like Martin and Bernard Poremba.
“I was learning charcoal when I started,” Shemo said. “Tom is stuck on charcoal. He’s always refining pictures.
“Bernie will show up with a tackle box full of paints. He has a notebook with his paint mixtures recorded. He’s the picture of the organized artist.”
Shemo said her most important lesson was embracing her own style.
She has several portraits of family members — including one of her brother, humorously titled “Portrait of a Loser” — displayed at Main Street, but she’s also beginning to work her other interests, such as expressionism, design and history, into her latest works.
“I can take that formal teaching anywhere,” Shemo said of Jones’ instruction.
Martin, 66, of Hanover Township, has been drawing and painting since his childhood, but after retiring in 2011, he began to seek more focused instruction to rekindle his passion.
“I saw a picture by Neil Mattern … at the Fine Arts Fiesta, and I was stunned,” Martin said.
Martin said he always felt he didn’t have enough technique but that he no longer feels he has that problem.
“He’s a great teacher,” Martin said of Jones. “If you’re with him, you’re in another world. The sky’s the limit when you find this guy.”
Martin’s contribution to the Main Street exhibit is a modern rendition of an ancient symbol, an East Indian power ring (talisman), that depicts his hand holding bones and an egg.
The work is also scheduled to hang at the Salmagundi Club in New York City in coming months.
But even as he’s entering international competitions, Martin is grounded by his fellow students at the atelier.
“The people at the studio are really exceptional,” Martin said. “Everyone is humble, because you think you’re getting good and you look over shoulder and somebody blows you away.”
Shemo said the Main Street Galleries exhibit was a pleasing opportunity to see all of the apprentices together and showcasing their work, which, she noted, took plenty of labor to render.
“We spend so much time there and work so hard,” Shemo said. “I get charcoal all over my face. To sit back and watch that kind of stuff is unique.”
In an interview separate from that of her mentor, Shemo echoed one of Jones’ key principles. Although Jones does request work from incoming students, he uses a portfolio as a gauge only, never denying a willing apprentice entry to the atelier.
“The door’s always open to anyone who can put in the time and effort,” Jones said. “I believe if you work hard enough at anything, you’ll become very good at it.”
For more information on Joel Carson Jones and his work and atelier, visit joelcarsonjones.com.
Reach Matt Mattei at 570-991-6651 or on Twitter @TimesLeaderMatt.
IF YOU GO
What: “Atelier Joel Carson Jones” featuring work of 14 of Jones’ apprentices
Where: Main Street Galleries, 870 Pierce St., Kingston
When: Now through July 31. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Additional information: This exhibit is free and open to the public.