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Speaking with Fountain House Gallery Artist Roger Jones

I first came upon Roger Jones’s infectious aesthetic while visiting the group exhibit The Flâneur at Fountain House Gallery this past July. I then met the artist at Fountain House Gallery Open Studios in Long Island City, where I had the opportunity to speak to him.

When did you first start drawing?

As a kid, I was always scribbling and doodling. But when I was around 20, I began to become serious about art.

What inspired you at the time?

I started noticing the artists around West 42nd Street drawing portraits. I used to stop and watch them.

What were your subjects when you began drawing?

I began with portraits — mostly of women.

What inspires you these days? 

The programs at Fountain House and some of the other spaces I’ve been involved with.  And visiting museums is a great source of inspiration.

Who are some of your favorite artists?

Picasso, Jackson Pollack and Van Gogh are some my favorites.  And I love the Congolese sculptor and painter Bodys Isek Kingelez., whose work I discovered at MoMA.

What about cultural influences?

African culture, Black culture and American culture, in general.

How has your art evolved since you first began to take it seriously?

I went from drawing portraits to focusing on faces. And these days I work with lots of repurposed materials, including coins and stamps that folks share with me.

How long do you usually spend on a piece?

Anywhere from two hours to two days.

What percentage of your time is devoted to art?

As much as I can. Most of it.  I’d say about eight hours a day.

What are some other activities that interest you?

I love going to the beach and spending time in Coney Island.

I discovered your work at the Fountain House Gallery. Have you exhibited elsewhere?

Yes. I’ve shown my work at several places including the ACE Hotel and Henry Street Settlement.

What are your favorite work settings?

I like working here at Fountain House Gallery studio in Long Island City and over at Community Access at 621 Water Street on the Lower East Side, where I grew up.

What media do you prefer to work with?

Acrylic, markers and sharpies. I also love to work with found materials.

What is the main source of your income?  

Cleaning buildings and other assorted tasks. I also sell my art. On weekends you can often find me at 14th Street and 1st Avenue.

How has your family responded to your artwork?

My girlfriend loves it.

Have you a formal art education?

No. I’m self-taught.

Where are you headed?

I’d like to get my work out there.  And I also want to teach art to others. I’d like to help people learn how to express themselves.

That sounds great! And I’m looking forward to seeing more of your artwork.

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky; photos of artworks and of artist, Lois Stavsky