Rusty Jones had an early influence in his artistic development. A particularly strong one.

Lead Image: “Hill Country,” by Avis Jones, 1922, oil, 10 x 22 in.

His grandmother was an artist, and she gave Jones the best possible environment to develop as an artist himself. “My grandparents owned a 14-room hotel outside of San Antonio, the last stagecoach stop between Oklahoma City and the Mexican border,” says Jones. “My grandmother would invite artists to stay in the hotel and then go out and paint with her en plein air. I would carry her French easel, and I would sit out there with those ladies and watch them paint, at 6 years old.”

Yes, Avis Jones was an early plein air painter, but she was more than that. “She would paint nudes, still lifes, everything,” says Jones. “I could do whatever I wanted to do in her studio. She taught me, too. My grandmother made her own jellies and jams, and while she was cooking, she would put out a fork or a salt shaker and say, ‘Here, draw that.’ She would show me things, and make corrections, then move the jars or the fork and say, ‘Now do it again.’ I knew at age 7 that I could draw and paint better than anybody else in my school, up through the sixth grade. This painting is my prized possession.”

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