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Artist tells the stories behind his work

November 20, 2003|by KATE COLEMAN

katec@herald-mail.com

Hagerstown artist R. Benjamin "Ben" Jones says he's learned to paint in three ways. He had some formal training, he's studied other people's paintings and he's learned by trial and error.

"The most important thing about anything is work," he says.

And work he does - from morning till night.

Jones, 67, starts several paintings and works on one until it makes him "crazy."

Then he turns to another.

What drives artist Ben Jones?

"Too many ideas and no time," he says.

Jones has been working to complete some of the acrylic paintings that will be shown this weekend at Hagerstown Community College. There will be 70 works on display, including three pencil drawings - an art form Jones says he loves and one that got him into art school at Maryland Institute of Fine Arts. He worked in a factory for a few years, returned to school at University of Maryland and studied for the ministry at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He came to Covenant Presbyterian Church in Hagerstown in 1966.

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Jones has been painting full time since 1979 but has been ministering one Sunday a month for 22 years at churches in Taneytown and Emmitsburg, Md. He will wrap up 23 years of teaching a class at HCC this semester.

His work includes local scenes - Holstein cows in a snowy barnyard, a gate, a portion of a fence and a rusty milk can, the remains of a once thriving dairy farm. There are scenes of the Amish world of Lancaster, Pa., the roses and gray buildings of the Massachusetts island of Nantucket, faces of Amish men and New England fishermen. And even in the works without people, Jones says, "It's always the person."

"My New Scarf," a painting of a young Amish boy in uncharacteristically brightly colored neckwear, was inspired by a youth the artist saw.

That's true of all his work.

"I can't make anything up," Jones says.

The raffle and a portion of the proceeds from the sale of Jones' artwork will benefit the scholarship fund of the Hagerstown Community College Foundation Inc.

It's a family effort. Becky Jones is on the foundation's board of directors and serves as namer, framer and marketer of her husband's work.

"You have to give back to the community," Ben Jones says. At a show in 2000, his paintings and those of his son, David, raised $16,000 for the foundation.

The weekend show also will offer an opportunity to learn what's behind the work. In recordings accompanying the art, Jones tells a little of the story of each.

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