Since he was a child, Charles Jones has loved making art, but painting only became the Lee’s Summit West senior’s singular passion and focus during the last two years.
During that time, Jones, 18, also has seen his artistic star dramatically rise. He’s exhibited solo, completed commissioned works, and even won several juried art shows. Jones also has been awarded a full scholarship to the Kansas City Art Institute, where he will enroll in the fall.
As a sophomore, Jones passion for painting was ignited in his first art class with teacher-turned-mentor Brandon Briscoe.
“When I first went to Lee’s Summit West, I enrolled in an art class with Mr. Briscoe,” Jones said. “After my first painting, I knew I wanted to learn to paint. I was passionate about it and Mr. Briscoe saw my potential. He mentioned that he got a full-ride art scholarship to UMKC. I didn’t even know it was possible to get a full-ride art scholarship, so I asked him how he did it and made it my goal.”
In 2016, he also started taking painting classes from local artist, Bonnye Brown.
“I loved Bonnye’s classes and had so much fun,” Jones said. “My second painting was a portrait of Michael Jackson. Bonnye asked, ‘Are you sure you want to do a portrait? That’s pretty ambitious for your second painting.’”
That portrait of Michael Jackson was just one of many of Jones’ paintings that have won awards during the past 18 months.
Jones placed first in the 2017 Mid-Continent Library Senior Show of Excellence and the 2017 Ray-Pec Invitational. He also won the Longview Fine Arts Challenge, a high school juried arts exhibition, in January. Of the roughly 200 works submitted, 25 percent were selected and three of those were Jones’ paintings.
“Within six months after I started painting, I realized I could take my art somewhere,” Jones said. “I knew I had something inside of me and I started researching how I could become the best painter I could be.”
That desire to be the best started at an early age for Jones.
“I started drawing when I was 5 (years old),” he said. “I saw a drawing my mother did of me and I thought, ‘I’d like to do that.’”
Along with his creative gifts, Jones also has cultivated an entrepreneurial spirit from an early age.He sold his cartoon drawings for a dollar to fellow students in third grade then launched a business customizing shoes using an airbrush technique he researched and taught himself in eighth grade.
“My parents are entrepreneurs and have been my mentors,” Jones said. “They gave me the confidence that I could do anything and always encouraged me. My family fed my entrepreneurial ideas, so I was thinking at an early age about making money. I’ve always seen myself as an entrepreneur and working for myself.”
In order to achieve these goals, Jones’ commitment to his work requires absolute focus, leaving little time for a social life.
“When I put in as many hours as I do, my friends don’t necessarily understand or see the amount of hard work that goes into it,” he said.
It’s a good thing Jones relishes the solitude of the creative process.
“When I work alone, I can put more passion into it,’ he said. “I can put whatever I want into it. I have a one-on-one, heart-to-heart with myself when I’m working.”
Through his work, Jones explores his experiences and questions about life and faith. In his search, he dives deep for answers and is both visually and verbally adept at articulating the meaning of his pieces, many of which are portraits and autobiographical in nature.
“The way he looks at art and the way he can dig into his soul and express it is amazing,” Charles’ mother, Mya Jones, said. “When he talks about his work, you want to listen to him and what he has to say.”
Late last fall, Charles completed a commissioned portrait of Destiny Weaver for her mother, Dihaan Coody, and her organization, Justice 4 Destiny Inc. Weaver was murdered in 2017 and Coody founded the organization to honor her daughter.
“Working on the piece for Destiny was an honor,” Charles said. “Her mom is such a nice lady with a big vision. I’m just thankful to have been chosen.”
Although Charles plans to attend the Kansas City Art Institute and graduate with a bachelor’s of fine art in painting, his interests extend beyond painting.
“I’m really into fashion,” he said. “I’ll learn about garments and fabric construction at KCAI, so fashion design is a consideration.”
Whatever path Charles chooses, you can expect that he’ll flourish.
“Charles has always wanted to be the best,” Mya said. “I see he’s doing what he loves and he puts the work in. Now, I can’t wait for his next painting. I can’t believe the artist he’s become. He’s my son and he’s an amazing artist.”