Feb. 14, 2013
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – Eric Ryan Jones isn’t exactly a starving artist. Then, he’s not rolling in green, either … unless you’re talking about his pursuit and his passion.
That would be kelly green, as Jones – a Huntington native and former Marshall men’s soccer center-midfielder – turns his passion for “drawing … what I really want to do,” into what he hopes is a burgeoning career in sports art with a distinct Thundering Herd emphasis.
Along the way, his work will aid MU’s $20 million Vision Campaign for new athletic facilities, including an indoor practice facility and soccer stadium.
“We’re long past overdue for that kind of indoor facility,” Jones said Wednesday from New York City. “It’s what we need, really need.”
Jones’s first piece in a series, “In Pursuit,” was of former Herd All-American defensive end Vinny Curry. The artist donated it to the Big Green Scholarship Foundation, which auctioned the piece – autographed by Curry – at last weekend’s MU Quarterback Club of Charleston Valentine’s Dance.
The winning bid was $1,400, by Brandon Huffman, a Marshall alumnus and State Farm Insurance agent in Cross Lanes. Jones had directed that the winning bid go directly to the Vision Campaign.
The Curry effort is to be followed by works by Jones on former Herd stars Ahmad Bradshaw, Randy Moss, Troy Brown, Chad Pennington, Byron Leftwich and other current and past Herd alumni in the NFL.
Jones’ plan is to draw “the 15 to 20 Marshall players who have played in the NFL in recent years, in their Marshall and their NFL uniforms,” said Jones, 38.
“I’d like to do two or three a year and donate some of them to the Vision Campaign,” Jones said. “I can envision having maybe 30 to 40 pictures in the series, with the NFL and Marshall versions.”
Jones lives in New York City. He moved there in 2000, “standing in line” for jobs. A soccer letterman for MU Coach Bob Gray from 1995 through ’97 – he played in 54 games, 27 starts, with two career goals and seven points -- he graduated from Marshall in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. His major was graphic design, with a minor in painting.
His emphasis back then was more “computer-driven, graphic artist,” he said. “All the rage was the Macintosh computer.”
But those MU classes in oil painting and drawing eventually led him to his current pursuit, after “10 years of corporate America in New York City, sitting behind the computer” doing advertising display designs in the cosmetics industry for Estee Lauder, Bobbi Brown and Victoria’s Secret.”
“One day, 2 1/2 years ago, I quit cold turkey,” Jones said. “People thought I was crazy. I did some consulting work 3-4 days a week and started painting.”
He decided to do something he loved about something he really knew and appreciated.
His one-page prospectus on the “In Pursuit” says Jones is combining “his passion for sports and art into a career capturing athletes in motion with dynamic and exaggerated perspectives using foreshortening and chiaroscuro techniques.” The concept uses 3D in a window on the piece to accentuate a certain attribute.
Jones could have chosen to draw any sports figures that might have brought him more acclaim and more bucks. After all, he’s in the Big Apple. He chose his Marshall “project,” if you will, because of his connections to the Herd.
Born in Huntington, Jones, who is single, moved with his family to Shepherdstown when he was 3. But his parents, grandparents and great-grandparents are Huntington natives, too.
He still has family living in Cabell County. One of his grandfathers, Jess Pack, was a fireman who sadly worked the crash site of the Marshall Football team plane in November 1970.
“He used to talk about that a lot,” Jones said. “I remember him talking about going to watch football practices at Fairfield (Stadium). He didn’t care what it was or whether the team won. If it were at Marshall, he followed it. He talked about Troy Brown, other players. All that stuff is ingrained in my memory.”
He arrived at Marshall himself “going full circle, kind of by default, really,” he said, “but Marshall has always been very, very close to me. We’d visit Huntington for vacation, holidays … I try to come back now once or twice a year.”
Jones had played for Gray as a teenager in the Olympic Development Program in West Virginia, but then Jones went to high school in Hagerstown, Md., and he and Gray lost touch for a time. Jones went to the University of Mobile and played soccer for Gray on the 1994 NAIA runner-up team, then transferred to Marshall when Gray got the Herd job in 1995.
Now, Jones not only is feeding his passion, but he’s helping a program for which he was once a student-athlete. He said having a new soccer stadium as a component of the Vision-funded facilities is meaningful to him, but the overall project “is what I’m really about and I appreciate (Athletic Director) Mike Hamrick making the push for it.”
After college and before heading to New York, Jones worked a couple of years on the soccer staff at the University of South Carolina, and said he saw what big-time facilities can mean.
He’s wrapping up his work on the Ahmad Bradshaw art and has been in contact with Bradshaw about the two meeting so the running back – released last week by the New York Giants – can sign the work. Then, he’ll move onto Moss, Brown, Pennington and even former Herd players who no longer are in the NFL, like John Wade and Mike Barber.
Another 2013 goal for Jones? This summer, he will submit select works from his series for consideration into the permanent collection at the National Art Museum of Sport (NAMOS) in Indianapolis. NAMOS is America’s premier sports art museum.
Jones said when he gets deeper into his “In Pursuit” work, he’d also like to have some of the Marshall works displayed at the Birke Art Gallery at Smith Hall on campus. His passion will also continue to mean something profitable for the Vision Campaign.
Perhaps might some of his artistry -- as a former Herd student-athlete -- find its way into the MU Athletics Hall of Fame that’s planned for the indoor facility, too?
“Marshall’s been very close to me,” Jones said. “I could have done other work, but drawing these … It’s what I’m really about and that meant a lot to me.”
Eric Ryan Jones’ website is www.erjdesign.com. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.