Word getting out about Plein Air Festival

  • On location: Jonah Jones painting at Cambridge Beaches, Sandys, during his “A Painting a Day” challenge this year (Photograph supplied)
  • Sea view: Jonah Jones’s finished product of the above scene

Some 23 artists visited the island last week for the Bermuda Plein Air Festival. Held biennially, the event stems from a humble offer 20 years ago.

It was then that Jonah Jones opened up his garden, inviting fellow artists to paint there.

Their meetings grew into Bermuda Plein Air, which today holds weekly painting sessions at locations across the island.

Member Rhona Emmerson came up with the idea of an international festival, the first of which was held in 2015.

“Word is getting out with artists expressing an interest,” said Mr Jones. “A lot of them have brought guests with them and some are staying longer, past the festival. The festival really shows Bermuda in its best light. It is a great time to paint, rather than in July or August.

“These artists will be taking their paintings home and talking about the island, so it has great potential. They are staying in hotels and vacation rentals which is good for Bermuda.”

He started Bermuda Plein Air after he moved here in 1990 with his partner, Jo Stanton.

“It grew out of a Sunday painting group which I kicked off when we were living in an old six-acre estate in Somerset.

“I started an on-location painting group under the auspices of the [Bermuda Arts Centre], where I had my studio at the time. We had a little book for people to sign in. They paid a fee and there was a mix of professional and amateur artists.

“We would donate the funds to the art centre and it ended up being a really popular group.”

The idea took hold, ultimately leading to this year’s festival which attracted more than 50 artists and offered cash prizes totalling $15,000.

Roughly 300 pieces of art were produced and displayed at a one-night exhibit at the Bermuda Arts Centre.

Heidi Cowen, the Dockyard gallery’s administrator, said: “The festival is good enough to attract quality artists from overseas and we are getting some amazing artists; the calibre of artists is improving each year.

“We also have the backing of Michael Harding, who makes his own oil paint in the US and was a judge this year, and Armadillo Arts and Crafts in the US as our two main sponsors. The festival is putting Bermuda on the map in the larger art world.”

Originally from Uxbridge, England, Mr Jones trained as a chef with the Royal Marines.

He worked as a chef here while studying art at Bermuda College with Charles Zuill and Diana Amos.

Courses in the US helped hone his skills and, in 1999, he left his job as a chef to paint full time.

He has since exhibited in numerous group and solo shows and has become known for his oil paintings.

Most recently, Mr Jones challenged himself to create a painting a day for an entire year.

“I post them on my Instagram page and write a little about the thought process and about how it went.

“I am most of the way through now. I did the same thing exactly ten years ago.

“It is a diary of where I have been and what I have done.”

Last year, he held a solo exhibit at the Bermuda Society of Arts featuring more abstract landscape depictions.

“We bought an old house on Cambridge Road a few years ago with a nice artistic history and I built some studio and gallery space in the house,” he said. “I offer a private lesson to any tourists who come to stay, or a one-hour guided cycle trip.”

Visit or follow #jonahjonesart on Instagram,