Brian Jones - Biography
BRIAN JONES was born in Manchester and grew up near the Lancashire mill town of Rochdale, in northern England. He received a state education, excelling in Art & Design and Technical Drawing. Thanks to early childhood outings by train to sea-side destinations in the north of England and equally exciting visits to the Avro aircraft factories around Manchester, led by family members who worked for the company, it soon became clear that both railways and aviation would be dominant in his life. By his early teenage years, he avidly pursued his interests in the great machines that by the late 1970s, were still plying the British Rail network. His interest in aviation too, saw him become a cadet in the Air Training Corps - a precursor to his joining the Royal Air Force at age 18.
By his early teenage years, Brian pursued his interests in the great machines that by the late 1970s were still plying the British Rail network. His interest in aviation too, saw him become a cadet in the Air Training Corps - a precursor to his joining the Royal Air Force at age 18. His railway interests, restricted to certain machines, continued and led him deeper into involvement with The Class 40 Preservation Society, following the groups purchase of at first one, then two redundant machines, from British Rail.
RAF service as an MT Driver at RAF Coltishall put him where he wanted to be, Tanker Pool refuelling aircraft and aircraft towing for the Jaguar squadrons based there. After detachments to Belgium, Denmark and Norway, and still travelling all over Britain by train in the dying days of Class 40 operation until 1985, RAF service came to an end in 1988. That was marked by 41 Squadron - who gave him a trip in the back seat of a Jaguar through the valleys of Snowdonia. Work in commercial aviation followed, with aircraft handling agencies at Manchester airport, in flight dispatch, load planning and control, ramp operation and aircraft ground handling.
RAF service as an MT Driver at RAF Coltishall put him where he wanted to be, Tanker Pool, refuelling aircraft and aircraft towing for the Jaguar squadrons based there, operating Unimogs. After detachments to Belgium, Denmark and Norway and still travelling all over Britain by train in the dying days of Class 40 operation until 1985, RAF service came to an end in 1988 - marked by 41 Squadron who gave him a trip in the back seat of a Jaguar through the valleys of Snowdonia. Work in commercial aviation followed, with aircraft handling agencies at Manchester airport, in flight dispatch, load planning and control, ramp operation and aircraft ground handling.
Drawing and painting was still a feature of his life, through his RAF years and the 1990’s, a period beginning with an attempt to continue his fine art studies, at Stockport College. As a ‘mature student’ he could still potentially go on to study painting at an advanced level. However, nomination by his painting tutors for placement with the Chelsea School of Art in London, could not, in the end, do anything about the costs involved - falling beyond criteria for scholarship or realistic financial support for the four years he would need to be there. Nevertheless, this period saw him create the large oil on canvas, ‘Building Vulcans’ and by the turn of the millennium, working full time and trying to paint as well (seeing the creation of canvases such as ‘York Races’ and ‘Plymouth Sounds’) wasn’t sustainable.
Brian left the aviation industry at the turn of the Century and went into retail sales, first with Ian Allan Publishing at their bookshop in Manchester and then Aga, in Wilmslow. Life became unusually stable... but pedestrian. By 2005, he speculatively applied for an administrative support role for a young, developing wildlife conservation organization (Cheetah Conservation Botswana) and... was offered a volunteer role for a year. One year in Africa became four, designing visual communications material for funding and local education programmes. He set up a small graphics design business and maintained his environmental conservation support efforts, before increasingly becoming involved in Botswana’s fledgling aviation industry again, as a freelance consultant. The events of 2020 brought an end to that, the effects of a global health crisis also devastating to the global aviation industry. Drawing again during the initial doubtful months, the results of his innate, life-long interests and striking artistic abilities became a fulfilling way to also draw a line under another of life’s chapters. With that, his railway art and the arresting nature of it, are dominating his life once more.
ARTWORKS BY BRIAN JONES
Brian Jones looks upon his subjects and the railway art genre more widely, with different eyes to everyone else. He’s been drawing diesel locomotives since early childhood, first bowled over and hooked as a six-year-old by the atmosphere, activity and dragon-like machines at the start of exciting seaside outings from Manchester Victoria station, in the early 1970s. His fascination solidified as a teenager, as he became an element of the substantial enthusiast following that many now vintage machines, the classics (introduced in the 1950s and ‘60s) attracted as they became redundant and began meeting their fates in the breakers yards.
When as a youngster he first saw paintings by Terrance Cuneo and David Shepherd, he knew he at least ‘had permission’ to draw what fascinated him. However, in terms of twined inspirations, the artists he most admires are generally not railway artists at all. Rather, they’re from the fine art world, past and present. Richard Estes, Denis Peterson, John Baeder and more recently, Fidel Molina and David Kassan have evolved out of the 1960s and have enduring influence. They court attention for their ability to control of colour, to create eye-seeing realities and optical illusions of depth in unidealized, matter-of-fact snapshots. Impressionists too (though a style far from Brian’s own) retain another influence, Walter Sickert, Lucean Freud, Eduard Vuillard, Cyril Mann and youngsters now like Rob Pointon, all fascinate for illusions with light and for their oily, free way of working.
Brian’s artistic transition from the crayons of early childhood through to oil painting has also now, unlike many contemporaries and after a decade of practice in overcoming numerous challenges, progressed to digital ‘painting’. He’s well known in certain circles, for capturing uncanny realities in his machines, derived from his own experiences with them in his youth and extensive research of masses of period photographs, re-imagined into his own, original take on things. Draftsmanship and forensic attention to detail, control of structures and colour, achieve a kind of hard-edged, stark, almost anti-picturesque realism. Scruffy, weather-worn and battle-scarred machines in the late stages of their operating lives are greatly favoured. “They have more to communicate - much more of a story to tell, over a mere likeness”. These were working machines, stained and rough as they sometimes became.
Having mastered capturing the nitty-gritty of the machines themselves over more than 50 years, new compositional pieces are placing the things in more context. There is of course much more going on, more of the story-telling starting to come through. Locomotives are not just utilitarian machines, they are open expressions of human design and failings too, so they create feelings and emotions in a manner to almost become something else. “In my mind, machines like these took me to more places than merely the geographical destinations of the trains they hauled. As far as I possibly can, I’m trying to express their emphatic presence, their effect and a realistic, unidealized condition. In pencil, oils, digitally now, it doesn’t matter, as long as the tools are suitable to help me continue to try to get that across - and that’s not necessarily always a pretty picture. I’m trying in these as I go forward, to communicate a sensation, or a condition and to bring in more the environment and events that will allow the viewer to give them the coup de grace."