Whether it’s inventing a gadget for golfers, collecting war memorabilia for re-enactments, designing his own home, or perfecting a method of “painting with a pencil,” it’s the spirit of creativity that drives Nathan Jones.
The Preston Hollow resident has made a living as an artist for more than 40 years in every sense of the word. In 1981, he was commissioned to create a commemorative postage stamp honoring Dr. Charles Drew. His works — which consist of pencil drawing, oil paintings, and watercolors — have been in the collections of two presidents and several celebrities around the world. He’s attended shows nationwide to exhibit and speak about his art.
And Jones, 73, retains the same passion for his work that he did when he finished his first watercolor landscape at age 7. That was when the Louisiana native lived with his aunt in a rough neighborhood in West Dallas.
“She decided she wanted that picture and she kept it for all these years,” said Jones, who finally convinced his aunt to relinquish the painting a few years ago.
While the artistic seed was planted at an early age — thanks to a mother who was a painter and sculptor — Jones studied architecture at the University of Texas, and went into the business for a few years afterward.
His paintings and drawings were a hobby, with finished works accumulating in his home until a friend encouraged him to set up a booth at an art show at Reverchon Park in the early 1970s.
“I had never made a nickel with my paintings,” he said. “In a few hours, I had no paintings left.”
Jones’ popularity grew from there. An investor from Highland Park bought 17 works and hosted a private show. In 1975, his first museum show in Midland resulted in 25 paintings being purchased for a total of $30,000.
“From that point on, I could not do enough art to keep up with the market,” said Jones, whose work was in 51 galleries simultaneously at one point.
His pieces range from painted landscapes to character studies that Jones creates with a painstaking pencil technique that incorporates a very hard lead that doesn’t age and won’t smear on fabric. And most importantly, he never erases.
A black history theme runs through many of his works. In particular, he’s done a series of oil paintings depicting the Buffalo Soldiers.
When he first started, Jones was selling his lithographs for $1 apiece. He’s since had some prints go for more than $200,000.
In 1986, Jones designed and built his current house (along with three others in Preston Hollow), and later added to the property with a studio and gallery where he spends most of his time. As a golf aficionado, he also invented the Jet Caadee, a mechanism for cleaning balls and clubs, and even launched a company to manufacture and sell it.
Yet it’s art that remains the constant for Jones after all these years, not only as a career but as a creative outlet.
“You get rid of all this stress. When an artist has a brush in his hands, his mind is totally tranquil,” he said. “That’s something I won’t give up.”