Even as a kid I was never able to fully relate to or appreciate most fantasy artwork, which is kind of strange because I was obsessed with fantasy literature as far back as early elementary school. Just a personal preference really, and I liked looking at the monsters and all, but seeing some barbarian sitting on a throne of skulls just didn’t quite do it for me visually. There were a couple of fantasy artist whose work was stood out from everything else and I had to take notice. The first being Jeffrey Catherine Jones, whose work I probably knew because of their association with the second fantasy artist my eyes sought out and devoured, Barry Windsor Smith. These two, along with illustrators Bernie Wrightson and Michael William Kaluta, shared a workspace in New York through the late 70s. They all even published a book together, called The Studio, which collected their work from that time.
I followed The Studio artist’s careers in the 80s. I eventually drifted away from fantasy and comics, but by the mid to late 90s I started reading them regularly once again. I’d head on down to Sam Weller’s book store, maybe pick up an old copy of something by Fritz Leiber or Robert E. Howard. It wasn’t long before I realized that many of my favorite covers on these old books were illustrated by Jeffrey Catherine Jones. Covers for reprints of books and stories that I love, including Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser, Solomon Kane, Conan, Tarzan, and many others. Jones also had a regular strip in Heavy Metal, and won the World Fantasy Award for Best Artist in 1986.
In 1997 Jones quit illustration in order to pursue gallery work and a more Expressionist style. Born Jeffrey Jones, but always feeling more like a woman in her body, she also began hormone replacement therapy at that time. I also remember reading around 2002-03 or so on conceptart.org that she’d suffered a nervous breakdown, was having severe financial problems, and had been homeless for a few years. By 2004, she had a studio and was working once again. This last week I learned that she died after suffering from emphysema and bronchitis as well as hardening of the arteries around the heart. This news makes me very sad and nostalgic.
Rest in peace. You seemed like a brave soul and added a lot of beauty to my world.