British artist Gareth Jones decided that he wanted to bring his work to a bigger audience, and over the last few weeks created Gaz Jones Art, his new website on WordPress.com. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder, ADD, borderline personality disorder, and OCD, Gareth was advised by his doctors to write it all down; he chose instead to create a visual log of his illness to document a chaotic mind. As his art took off it became more than just a hobby — and setting up a website is part of Gareth’s progression toward making a career out of his work.
When did your interest in painting first start?
Pretty late to be honest. I was diagnosed with a load of mental illnesses and spent time in a psychiatric hospital. The doctors there encouraged me to take up a “therapeutic hobby,” and as my dad paints, I just holed up in his studio for a few manic days and painted 24 hours a day. I absolutely fell in love with making art and now I’m lucky enough to do it as my profession.
I started with painting, and it’s still probably my first love, but making digital work is also fun and satisfying in a completely different way. It’s liberating as you don’t need to cart a full studio about — just your camera, your laptop and a twinkle in your eye.
Can you tell me more about how your work is linked to mental health?
It’s almost as if any work I make is created through the prism of whatever illness is raging in my head that day. A clearer example is, I’m quite severely bipolar so any work I make when manic is always very out there and a bizarre take on the subject. Any work I make when low is usually searingly honest and tends to make viewers quite uncomfortable. In that way, every piece I’ve ever made has been informed by my frankly rubbish mental health!
You paint some very some diverse topics — where do your ideas come from?
Well, I’m sick quite a lot so many of my ideas come from TV, music, film, and books. Anything I can watch or listen to in bed! I recently read Harris’s list of Covent Garden Ladies, a kind of Georgian catalog for prostitutes. I found it hugely upsetting in terms of the flippant and degrading way these women are described, so I was compelled to make work as a tribute to them — to reimagine how their lives would have been different today and celebrate the bravery of these lasses.
Where did you first start showing your work to an audience?
Social media, I think. I made my first piece and kind of jokingly posted it on Instagram and it sold straight away. That happened with the next few pieces as well and that’s what got me thinking that I could do this as a job.
I know you’ve spent the last few weeks building your site. What made you decide to set up a website?
I just wanted an online home for all my work. A place where I could direct anyone who was interested in what I was doing and somewhere I could store the work in individual collections for easy access. I asked around on Facebook about who the best website builder was and WordPress beat Squarespace 7-3, so here I am! Since setting it up the support has been amazing. People have really taken to my work and have got in touch with some bloody lovely comments. It’s always a buzz when people “get” your art. It’s often so solitary working as an artist so when the piece goes up in a gallery or on an online platform and you can see the impact it’s having on people, it’s a pretty incredible feeling.
My engagement with the public has gone up exponentially with the website and it’s great to have room to be able to go into lots of detail on my latest series of work — which is quite complicated. I’ve also met loads of people who are interested in buying my recent work and it’s fantastic to have a site where I can take them through what’s available, either at posh arty events or just down the pub.
Did you have any problems setting up the website?
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I’m not brilliant with websites so it was tricky to get the hang of. I just kept at it though and many things were self-explanatory, so WordPress and I ended up getting on just fine. Just always remember to save your work! I did love how easy it was to set up a great homepage. There was an existing template — Maywood — that I used and made it my own and that meant I picked up little tricks of the trade for when it came to creating the pages, and making the site became easier and easier.
What are your hopes for Gaz Jones Art in the future?
I’d love it to continue to grow and to keep being bloody brilliant! I like to sell my work after creating a bit of a relationship with the collector so I probably won’t sell directly from the website, but I have just received the samples back from a line of merchandise I’ve created that has gone down really well, so I would be definitely looking to sell that directly on the site. But if you have a look at my work and something takes your eye, email firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll sort you out! I also take commissions if you have something specific in mind so just email away and I’ll make you something lush.