Painter exhibits one year's work for HCC sale

Annual show raises money for scholarships

Annual show raises money for scholarships

November 16, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

In R. Benjamin Jones' most recent panting, "Jams and Jellies," an Amish man reaches over several jars of homemade jam he's selling at a market in Lancaster, Pa. His pearly flesh seems to sink into the whiteness of his beard and hair. The jars, painted in vibrant shades of red and orange, contrast with the darkness of the man's blue, black and gray clothes.

Amid that contrast of light and dark, the man's face seems to glow. There's even an iridescent quality to the jars of jelly, as though the composition were a photograph and not a Jones original.

Jones, 70, unveiled the painting - its varnish still drying - at his home gallery during an interview Tuesday, days before it would appear at his seventh annual show Friday and Saturday at Hagerstown Community College. Jones has spent the year creating the collection of 63 original paintings for the show.


A portion of the paintings' sales will go to the Hagerstown Community College Foundation, HCC's fundraising arm and provider of student scholarships. Last year, the event raised $33,000, said Lieba J. Cohen, the foundation's executive director.

In discussing the upcoming event, Jones, a former HCC instructor who lives just east of Hagerstown, talked about his philosophy on art, artistic growth and the challenges he still faces each time he begins a new painting.

He began his career painting winter landscapes more than 25 years ago partly because he was afraid to paint green leaves.

"I was afraid of getting lost in all that green," Jones said. "I would wait until winter came to paint."

Over the years, he gradually took more risks in his work, moving on to leaves, then flowers, to full-blown landscapes, and then to portraits, the most challenging of all forms, Jones said.

While his landscapes seem to be the most popular among art buyers, Jones said portraits are his favorite paintings - partly for their difficulty. For inspiration for his portraits, such as the Amish man featured in "Jams and Jellies," Jones said he relies on influences from 17th century painters such as Rembrandt and Diego Velzquez, artists whose use of light gave their portrait subjects a luminous quality.

Despite his success, Jones said he is sometimes reluctant to call himself an artist. "I consider myself as an artist but in a broad sense," Jones said. "That term I like to reserve for the greats. There's a fine line between talent and genius."

Whether or not he's an artist, art is likely to always be part of his life.

"There was a poet who said a poem is never finished, it's only abandoned," Jones said. "The only time to stop is when you think you've attained everything you had hoped."

Cohen said Jones donated a painting, "July on Nantucket," to be raffled. Tickets ($20) will be sold both days, and the winner will be announced at the end of Saturday's show, Cohen said. Notecard reprints of Jones' paintings will be on sale for $10 for a set of 10. The proceeds from the reprints and raffle will go to the foundation.

If you go ...

WHAT: Reception, show and sale of paintings by R. Benjamin Jones, hosted by the Hagerstown Community College Foundation

WHEN: 5 to 9 p.m. Friday Nov. 17, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18

WHERE: Kepler Theater, Hagerstown Community College, off Robinwood Drive, east of Hagerstown

COST: Free

MORE: For more information, contact Lieba Cohen at 301-790-2800, ext. 348, or by e-mail at To view samples of Jones' work, visit his Web site at

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