James Mark Jones
“I am a mental health advocate. I speak openly about my own mental illness in the hopes that it will help break the stigma. When I'm at art markets, I hang a sign that says, "Talk to me about mental health. Let's break the stigma." I also want to bring awareness to the importance of recycling and the world's plastic crisis.”
James Mark Jones is a passionate advocate for mental illness, recycling, and an incredible, process focused artist. Born in Huntsville Alabama, James enjoyed creating art since childhood, but didn’t explore it professionally until he began making stained glass, hammered metal sculptures and assemblage shadow boxes. However, living with untreated mental illness, depression, generalized anxiety disorder, OCD, and PTSD made it very difficult for him to feel at peace.
James has lived with mental illness his whole life. He explains, “Once I was finally diagnosed some twenty five years ago, I've done so much work to ease my discomfort.” Through therapy, spiritual practice and treatments, James has improved his quality of life greatly and found his way back to creating which is a therapeutic outlet for him. James shares, “Creating art quietens my mind and I become one with the work. Focusing on the work keeps me calm. It is part of my therapy.”
All of James’s pieces are made using recycled materials. He is passionate about reuse and keeping trash out of landfills. One day when he was breaking down a box for recycling, he began looking at paper package inserts in a new way. James shares, “I saw the texture and I realized its potential.” From there, he explored using this medium to create his work – a process that he has now mastered.
His process involves intensive labor and several weeks of work. For the substrate, he utilizes wooden boxes and artist panels from a local recycling center. He then carefully cuts the inserts into usable pieces and soaks them in water before using a rubber mallet to flatten and bind the pieces together. Using tweezers, he pulls apart little bits of wetted paper to build up areas and fill in gaps, as well as knit the paper fibers together.
The entire process from the primer coat to gluing, sculpting, painting, and sealing require the proper drying time to ensure the stability of the finished product. Each piece typically takes several weeks. The piece is finished using muted color washes that are mixed from acrylic paints and acrylic varnish is used to seal the finished surface. James is guided and inspired by the process. He explains, “The connection between the pieces of paper show me where to paint, add texture, or emphasize existing texture. I love the flow of my creative process. My mind quiets and all I think of is the work. Paint here, glue there, sand that, wipe away that paint layer. It makes me feel good, calm, and worthy.”
Being a part of ArtLifting is important to James, as it is a way for him to share his art and his voice. He expresses, “I have a voice that needs to be heard, both creatively and socially. With ArtLifting I can combine my two passions, mental health and using recycled materials to reach the masses with my work. I hope that my work can start conversations about these important topics.” When he’s not creating, he enjoys hiking, picnicking, and meditating in nature.
His dreams are to have his own studio where he and a team can create recycled works of art in his signature style. He would also love to start a nonprofit that helps artists who are in recovery from severe mental illness to be mentored back into living a creative life. This is what James needed for himself, so he wants to create that for someone else who may be in his shoes.
“I feel that my most important accomplishments are reconciling who I am with the rest of the world and being proud to be me. I've struggled with mental illness all my life but I now live with mental illness. I no longer look at it as a struggle. As a person living with mental illness, having my work validated, appreciated, and complemented is always a boost to my self esteem. It makes me want to create more work.”
Prints by James Mark Jones
ArtLifting champions artists impacted by homelessness or disabilities through the celebration and sale of their artwork. Learn more here.