Coffee and Conversation with Jerel Jones

Terrific Tuesday, everybody!  With only a few few days remaining in December, we are coming into the homestretch in our mission to highlight the talented illustrators in our region.  Today, we have Jerel Jones in the cyber cafe with us.  While we are getting settled at the cafe, I’ll let Jerel introduce himself:

I attended Towson University as an art and marketing major. I began my career at the Baltimore Sun and took my first job as a layout artist. I worked for several small agencies and then in 1980 I became a senior art director at Earle Palmer Brown, Washington DC’s largest advertising agency at that time. In 1983 I left EPB to start my own advertising agency “The Jones Group” in Baltimore Maryland and remained president and creative director of the agency until I sold my interest in 2009.. Until now my illustration work has been for advertising. I’m currently working on a children’s picture book.

Here are some examples of his extraordinary work:

And now that Jerel is settled with his favorite beverage, an Earl Grey tea,

… and his favorite snack, glazed Dunkin Donuts,

 Let’s begin! First off, Jerel, when did you decide to become an illustrator?

I was an artist as far back as I can remember. I won a TV show drawing contest when I was 11 and that was all I wanted to do after that.

The summer after I graduated from high school,  I was offered an apprenticeship at Williams and Wilkins Publishing Co. in Baltimore to be trained as a magazine designer by way of a recommendation from my art teacher.  After college, I went into advertising illustration and later became an art and creative director for a large ad agency.

What’s your favorite Medium?

Prisma Pencil and watercolor.

Where is your favorite place to work?

For small illustrations I work as much as possible on the couch (believe it or not)…I’m sitting at the computer too many hours in the same chair I use with my drawing board. So, I use a Lap board and line everything up on a table in front of me. With watercolor and pencil, it’s very easy and comfortable for me to work like that. I like the TV on, but don’t really pay much attention to it. Of course, this doesn’t work all the time.

Larger things need to go on the drawing board.

Which illustrators have inspired you?

NC Wyeth, Norman Rockwell, Seymour Chwast and Milton Glaser

For children’s books: Jerry Pinkney, Chris Van Allsburg, David Wiesner and David Shannon. But, my style leans more toward Emily Gravet’s. I like the simplicity of her work and her incorporation of graphic design into many of her images.

What was your favorite book as a child?

Little (Black) Sambo was it for me.  Tigers turning into butter for his Mom’s Pancakes… (I still can’t remember if he told her where the butter really came from.)

How do you describe your style and has it changed throughout your career?

I did advertising illustration until recently. So my style was more like Magritte – Stylized Realism in acrylic on canvas board.  Now it’s loose, fun and simple watercolor and pencil on cold press watercolor paper or illustration board.

How were you inspired to illustrate your current project?

My first book is called “Boris in the key of G”

My inspiration was my younger sister, a professional photographer who does animal rescue in her free time.  My inspiration as an illustrator came from Chris Van Allsburg. I started out wanting to work in tight detail like him, but I’ve ended up doing just the opposite.

Time for the lightning round!

Do you . . .

Work from photos or imagination?

I do most reference on Google Images to build my memory of the elements I will need. But, I don’t use it at all for the illustration. I find that if I work from photos I get hung up in the details. So, I work from memory only and do rough tissue sketches- tracing over top of the first rough in layers. Each tracing becomes tighter and corrects things I don’t like about the previous tracing. When I’m happy with one, I’m ready to go to the board. But I don’t transfer it. Instead I use it for reference. Since I’ve drawn it so many times it usually comes quite quickly.

Talk about works-in-progress, or keep it zipped? 

Zipped.. If I show it around it kills the excitement for me.

Prefer sketching or final art? 

Final art

Dread marketing/blogging or love it?

I need to do a blog!

Enjoy brainstorming more or researching?


Read Kindle or traditional books?  

Traditional books

And finally, what’s your favorite:

Time to work? 

  In the Morning after a three mile walk. The walk calms me down so I don’t ruin the work I did the day before from over enthusiasm.

Favorite assignment?  

The one I’m currently working on is always my favorite.

Music to listen to while drawing?

I’ve found Motown to be the best.

Traditional media or digital?  


Pair of shoes? 


Guiltiest pleasure? 

Going to the Movies at noon on a weekday. I still feel like I’m getting away with something very sneaky after years of doing it.

Line from a movie? 

From Dudley Moore’s butler in “Arthur” – “I shall alert the media!”

Thanks for dropping by, Jerel.  We enjoyed having you and good luck with your illustrations!  Happy writing and illustrating, everybody:)

This entry was posted in Interviews: Illustrators. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Coffee and Conversation with Jerel Jones

  1. Edie Hemingway says:

    This entire series has been a wonderful eye-opener to the many talented illustrators we have in our region! And there are still more to come…

  2. Wonderful post. I’ve really been enjoying reading all of these posts. You are all doing a wonderful job!

    I really liked seeing these amazing illustrations. So cool. BTW, one of my fav books as a kid was he same. I still remember wondering how those tigers could turn into butter. There was something magical about that book.

  3. Thanks for a fun and interesting interview. I like your illustrations, especially the way that you change the point of view. I look forward to seeing more of your work, and best wishes for the new year.

  4. Pingback: December Illustrator Spotlight Recap « As the Eraser Burns

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