|Image Credit: MLK BY HENRY JONES|
I'm happy to welcome to Pen & Prosper visual artist, author & Poet, Henry Jones.
Our paths crossed over a decade ago, when we met and connected over our mutual love of poetry and the arts.
He's a super talented guy, who wears many creative hats well.
I had the opportunity to catch up with Henry recently, and am excited to share what I discovered via our interview.
Please make him feel welcome with your questions and comments, readers.
Hi, Henry. Thanks for joining us today.
Hi, Jennifer. Thank you for inviting me.
Q. Can you tell readers a little about who you are and your creative background?
Well, I’m an artist and a writer. I juggle both those worlds. I’ve been creating art and writing professionally for over 30 years. As a writer, I’ve published several books. My most recent one is a book of poetry, Run into Blackness: Feeling My Poetic Gumbo. Also, I’ve published many articles in magazines and newspapers. I stopped writing articles for about seven or more years. In April of this year, I published an article in NOU Magazine. I guess I’m back somewhat. I had to write that article because it was about a cancer survivor. That disease killed several of my family members and friends. My editorial background includes: PREVAIL Magazine, The Stethoscope, Purpose Magazine, N4ART Newsletter, Blacks n Asia Magazine, and a few others. My art past includes exhibitions, book covers, some sculpture, commercial art graphics, set designs and other visual projects. I tend to keep busy with anything related to art or writing.
Q. Many may not know that you are truly a renaissance man. You have won various awards for poetry, art, etc. what is your favorite form of artistic expression? And why?
This interview was going well until you asked that question! J I don’t have a favorite. I look at artistic expression almost like our children. My wife and I have three children. We don’t have a favorite. We love them each, because they are each unique individuals. Even their views and approaches to things are different. They are extensions of us, but their own. Do you see what I mean? My art and words are like siblings who argue sometimes but are both from the same love. I love them both but sometimes I must write instead of paint or vice versa. So, as a creative person, my function is to share my expression the best that I can AND to improve on those expressions so they may have a possible impact on others lives. I want people to feel and remember.
Interesting explanation, Henry. I can dig it.
Describe a typical day.
That doesn’t exist. My days involve many episodes of creative chaos. I’m a list maker which helps. If I see what I must do, it will get done. There are usually various projects to complete or deadlines to reach. It’s nothing like the Hollywood image of being an artist or a writer. It’s hard to do what you love and make some money doing it. Hard, but not impossible. I want to be a laid back creative type but there are priorities to be done. So, if there’s anything typical or regular it’s my brew.
Q. How about your caffeine addiction…Coffee or tea?
Yes, I’m an addict of caffeine and coffee is my source. I drink tea, but not too often. I believe I was 12 years old when I had my first cup of java. Now, starting my day with a strong cup of coffee is a daily ritual to meditate about the day and decisions.
|Henry Jones @ Book signing|
Q. What inspires your muse?
I’m inspired by people and society. After a child figures out how to move fingers, hands, legs and head, thinking begins. A child begins to wonder about the objects in the world. Humans and other creatures must question and understand what’s food and nonfood. So, you hear these children ask questions such as What is that? Why is that? Where did so-in-so come from? We give them answers the best we can and eventually those children become adults and believe they know themselves and the world. I’m still very stupid...well, I’m ignorant. I want to know and understand but look for sources. So, my creative mind digs and digs until some insight emerges. It may come from my personal experiences, from others who I’ve known or met, or historical or cultural events. I don’t do anything generic. If you ask me to paint a flower, I can and will but that isn’t my journey. So, my ultimate inspiration is to find the answers to the many questions I have. I hope to never silence that inner child because he still finds life and our world exciting.
Q. What’s your proudest accomplishment to date?
I guess the best way to answer that is to say the last project I completed. I’m proud of what was done. Recently, I participated in a program funded by A THRIVE grant from the Nashville Arts Commission. This program was the idea of Lydia Cook, a poet, who coordinated the program called Beautiful Brown Faces (BBF). I love Cook’s poetry it’s intense and reaching deeply. I understand and feel it. I must admit when she explained to me the idea for her program I was a little confused. So, at first I didn’t see her vision. In the program, I was a visiting artist and poet sharing and teaching a group of teenagers. They got into my material I brought. It’s difficult to grab and keep teens’ attention sometimes. I was one of several poets and others who brought elements of the bring the arts in BBF. The teens appreciated the program. Lydia’s idea worked. An anthology was published which contained art and poetry from the program. That book solidified a lot of what was taught and experienced in BBF. I’m proud I was able to reach those young minds and of the contributions of all of us creative folks in it.
Q. How can other creative artists survive the “feast or famine” cycles associated with this line of work? Any suggestions here?
It’s difficult to find work BUT not impossible. Persistence is very important. You must have faith. Also, gratitude is essential. Send a sincere “thank you” card. Such little things go a long way. And believe in yourself because there will be many people and situations to discourage you. You’ll get tired, discouraged and broke. You must have a powerful way to rise above that. With that in mind, it’s very important to surround yourself with people who believe in what you’re doing. People who say, “Writing isn’t a real job” or “Go get a real job,” aren’t the types of people to have near.
Creative work, that intellectual and emotional pursuit, has value. Some people will value your work as long as it’s free. That’s so disrespectful and arrogant. What they do is more important and should be paid but as a writer or an artist, we should get a side gig until that BIG break. There is no BIG BREAK. There’s only work and you should get paid as long as you do the job. That’s universal for any job. If you ask people in other professions to do something for “exposure” they’ll think the idea is nuts. They want to be paid. But writers, artists and other creative people do this and some think it’s okay. It’s not. They should say politely, “Hell no.” Then, add something like “I can do that for…” and request a reasonable amount of money. It’s hard but not impossible.
In the arts, things are done without payment a lot. I do this for certain projects and programs that I know want to help communities, but it’s MY choice. There is no famine if you’re paid something.
I believe it’s important to share creativity but not be someone’s creative flunky. We have value and worth. There’s no need to get off on a few applauds and smiles.
Q. Is there a message behind your art? If so, what is it?
Yes. In most of my creative work there’s a message-- a story. I’m not really into the purely decorative part of art. I’ve done decorative projects. They’re important. But, when I create art to exhibit or write a creative work, I definitely have a message. What is it? Attend one of my exhibits or read my work. It’s for you to find after I put it out there as a storyteller.
Q. How can we learn more about your projects or products?
Where can people find me? I’m on the Internet. I’m not everywhere, but I put notices and updates on social media. People can find me on sites such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and others. I try to get the word out as often as I can. That’s the world we live in for communicating with people.
Q. What’s your take on social media? Necessary or nuisance?
Necessary, but remember what its purpose is. The bottom line is social media is to provide news and entertain. Now, if you want to reach people you must use these platforms. I see the social media sites as rooms. If you’re in that room and have something to say, the people standing in that room will hear you. If you refuse to go inside and want people to come to you, you’re being stubborn and a little arrogant.
I’m talking about communicating. Even before the Internet and those sites, there were newspapers and magazines and word-of-mouth. Now, let’s say you decided to use cup and string to talk to people. It would be silly. You know the toy with two cups and a string in which you talk to each other. My brother Fred and I used to do that.
My point is you have to know the best way to reach people. I do the traditional AND social media. I don’t want people to be left out. Then, when they attend my event or one I’m participating, I ask, “How did you hear about this event?” If most say Twitter, I know to use more Twitter. If many say in the newspaper...ah, which can be either print or online, then it’s best to use the newspaper.
Keeping in mind, what works for one person may NOT work as well for you. You have to find your best source to get the word out to people and obtain results. Social media isn’t bad if it helps to reach people well.
Q. Anything else you’d like to add?
Yes, the arts are very important for society. We, artists of all kinds, must not let people steal our work. We see the impact of people downloading AKA stealing musicians’ work. It’s wrong. It’s up to us to change that. It starts with the artist.
Thank you Jennifer. I enjoyed the interview. Now, I hope to see you at one of my art exhibitions or literary events in the future!
Noted, friend. Wishing you much continued success!
Here's a link to one of Henry's exhibits:
Henry L. Jones is an award winning artist and writer who resides in Tennessee.
His art and writing explores (and creates awareness of) social issues. His latest book of poetry was RUN INTO BLACKNESS: Feeling My Poetic Gumbo (Pneuma Publishing International, Inc.).