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Local gets big break in NYC

By Staff | Mar 9, 2012

Eric Ryan Jones stands beside one of his art pieces now in display in New York.

How does a former assistant coach for the South Carolina Gamecocks soccer team go from growing up in Shepherdstown to unveiling his own work at a prestigious New York City rising artists’ exhibit? This question is one that still bewilders Eric Ryan Jones. The now-freelance architectural artist just got his first big break in the New York art scene, and hopes this is the first of many.

Jones always knew he wanted to do something with art, and architecture particularly was in his blood. His grandfather was an architect in Huntington, where Jones was born, and his family “had creative genes in our DNA.” The creative genes followed him to college, along with his love for soccer. He played for the University of Mobile in Alabama while pursuing a fine arts degree, but transferred to Marshall University when his coach got relocated there. Graduating with a degree in graphic design and illustration, Jones was never really focused on drawing or painting initially. He entered the “real world” when Adobe and Macintosh were going mainstream, so graphic design was a semi-booming industry. In a seemingly odd change of events in his life, Jones scored an assistant coaching job at the University of South Carolina and coached there for two years.

Jones had a good job in South Carolina, and a potentially promising career there, however he did not feel complete. Jones decided it was time to pursue bigger and better things, and announced to his parents of his intent to move to New York City.

“My mother was a bit confused, and asked me what I wanted to do in New York.” Jones longed for the big city life, and hoped to eventually use his artistic skills there. However just like many new artists, the opportunities were not immediately there for him. Jones scored a job as a freelance consultant for Estee Lauder after connecting with Randy Auman, a friend of Jones’ father who was the vice president for creative design for the French fragrance house Guerlain. Jones spent nearly the next 10 years working in various parts of the cosmetic industry before quitting cold turkey last year to pursue art full-time.

“My friends thought I was crazy to quit, especially in this economy,” Jones said of his recent career move. “It was an a-ha moment.”

Jones now works as a freelance architectural artist, roaming the crowded blocks of New York City and recreating stunning images of some of the city’s most famous structures. While researching some of the various art exhibits and opportunities throughout the city, Jones came across a non-profit organization known as RAW. RAW finds “raw” talent to feature in their exhibits, and helps freelancers like Jones gain recognition for their work. Jones decided to submit some of his work to RAW, not expecting much to come of it. A few weeks later, Jones was excited to discover that RAW had chosen to include him in one of their exhibits in New York City.

Since showing his work in February with RAW, he has explored the opportunities of getting his work shown in other metropolitan cities across the country.

“It’s exiting to get a break like this,” Jones added, pointing out that RAW has had a lot of success with getting new artists’ exposure in the past.

He plans to continue trying to expand his audience with his artwork, and hopes to eventually open his own art gallery. “Growing up in Shepherdstown, its small town America, very humble. One day it would be nice to even open up a gallery on Main Street in town,” he said. Judging by the dedication that Jones has toward his work, RAW is only the beginning.