Its famous church may once have inspired a Turner masterpiece, but these days Wrexham might not seem a must-visit location for an aspiring artist.
But for one-home-grown painter, the largest town in North Wales is providing a seductive subject with his images even finding their way onto a best-selling series of Christmas cards.
“Wrexham and its surroundings is such a beautiful area,” says Mikey Jones.
“It’s where I discovered it was what I really wanted to do and it’s where I’m located so naturally I think you’re going to paint what is on your doorstep and personally, I could never get bored of painting the Wrexham area.
“Wrexham really is beautiful – I get fed up of hearing people go on about its downtrodden image with its barren empty shops and people on drugs.
“It has a lot more to offer and it’s nice to expose that through my painting.”
After a long process of traveling around Wales for inspiration – “getting lost, wet and meeting new people along the way” and painting both the best and worst Welsh landscapes on offer, Mikey, 30, who combines his work as an artist with a full-time job in a bank, is currently presenting his show Wales In Colour, which has made its way to Cardiff’s Off The Wall Gallery.
He explains: “Wales is a country renowned for its diverse natural beauty and proud historic culture.
“Each piece expresses elements of the above that together builds a vivid contemporary narrative of Wales as I see it today.
“It is a series which tries to go beyond the tourist brochure images of Wales and I try to work on pictures which document social changes, like the eroding seafront in Rhyl.
“Wales has had a rough time recently. I’m going down to Port Talbot to paint the steelworks soon and there are a lot of issues with the economy and job prospects and I think it is important to depict that as well as the pretty stuff.”
After studying architecture at Bristol UWE, Mikey began to document the built and natural environment, focusing on the architectural and social context of the areas he paints.
“Studying architecture in Bristol, I had a natural interest in painting landscapes and buildings rather than people,” explains Mikey.
“In terms of style, it’s always oil on canvas for me. I like oil because it takes a long time to dry and you can go back and change things when you feel like.
“Van Gogh is my massive inspiration – the way he distorted things and played with colour to create atmosphere means that from a young age he has always been the main go-to painter for me.”
With Christmas fast approaching, Mikey has turned a number of his paintings into Christmas cards which are selling well and future plans include a series of depictions of Wrexham’s butcher’s market and a return trip to Llangollen to paint his favourite subject, Dinas Bran
“In the last two years I’ve presented 24 exhibitions so I’m always busy,” he adds.
“I work full time in a bank but I like to consider myself as a professional artist. It’s always been a hobby and it always will be because I find having a job gives me a structure.
“I think if I just did art I’d become a bit depressed and unstructured – I don’t want to be a struggling artist because I like a bit of money in my pocket!”
l Mikey Jones’ Wrexham greetings cards are available in Wrexham Tourism Information Centre, Undegun and Emz Cakes priced £3 each.