Artist | Jonathan Small

Some people take longer than others to find their calling in life; in my case it took a half a century before I became a full time artist.  Even though I grew up in a family where the arts were enjoyed and encouraged, it took years for those early influences to bear fruit.  During the 1970s I studied art at various art schools, but grew frustrated with what was being taught at that time.  I seemed to me that students were praised for their clever concepts and discouraged for studying technique and representational art.  I took a break from school and found a job selling surfboards and windsurfers, which I ended up doing for twenty years.

Around 2005 I began looking into my family history.  My great great grandfather Stephen A. Schoff (1818-1904), about whom I previously knew very little, became very important to me.  Little known today, he was an engraver of some renown during his lifetime.  The names of fellow artists with whom he associated reads like a Who’s Who of nineteenth century American art; Washington Allston wrote a letter of recommendation for Schoff in 1839 when he set off for Paris where he shared an apartment with John F. Kensett; when Schoff was admitted to the National Academy of Design he had his portrait painted by Asher B. Durand; among Schoff’s artist friends and colleagues were: William Morris Hunt, Emil Carlsen, Emmanuel Leutze, Elihu Vedder, Abbott Thayer and Edmund Tarbell, to name but a few.  Once I started researching my great great grandfather it was as if he reached out of the past and switched my interest in the arts back on.

In 2006 I quit my job in the surf industry and added a studio onto my home.  I took a few refresher classes at RISD and the Newport Art Museum, started painting and printmaking, and haven’t looked back since.  Now I create art to please me, unabashedly showing the influence of traditional art.  I went through a period of painting still lifes with dark backgrounds in the style of the Spanish artists Cotán, Zurbarán and Meléndez.  Lately I’ve been painting landscapes and seascapes in the tonal and impressionist tradition.  My focus in these recent works is to capture light and atmosphere in paint on canvas.


  • Newport Annual Members’ Juried Exhibitions, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2016, Newport Art Museum, Newport, RI.
  • Pawtucket Foundation Prize Exhibition, 2016, Juried Exhibition, Jurors: Nancy Whipple Grinnell and Catherine Little Bert, Pawtucket Arts Collaborative, Pawtucket, RI.
  • Greenspace, 2016, Invitational Show, T.F. Green Airport, Warwick, RI.
  • A Sense of Light, 2015, Three Artists Members’ Show, Providence, RI.
  • Common Elements, 2015, Three Artists Show, DeBlois Gallery, Middletown, RI.
  • Juried Members’ Exhibition, 2015, Portsmouth Arts Guild, Portsmouth, RI. Second Place Award.
  • Nationwide All Media Open Juried Exhibition, 2014, Providence Art Club, Providence, RI.
  • Little Pictures Show, 2013, 2014, 2015, Providence Art Club, Providence, RI.
  • Artists for Save the Bay, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014, Invitational Shows, Save The Bay Center, Providence, RI.
  • Annual Juried Members Show, 2013, Portsmouth Arts Guild, Portsmouth, RI, 2nd Place Award.
  • Imagine Green, 2013, Juried Show, Portsmouth Arts Guild, Portsmouth, RI, Honorable Mention.
  • Town & Country, 2013, Juried Show, Portsmouth Arts Guild, Portsmouth, RI, 2nd Place Award.
  • Pure Fantasy, 2012, Juried Show, Portsmouth Arts Guild, Portsmouth, RI, 1st Place Award.
  • Annual Juried Members Show, 2011, Portsmouth Arts Guild, Portsmouth, RI, 2nd Place Award.
  • Six Artists Celebrating Rhode Island Independence, 2011, Invitational show, McGrath Judicial Complex, Wakefield, RI,
  • Freedom of Expression, 2011, Invitational Show, Bristol Art Gallery, Bristol, RI
  • Off the Wall, 2010, Danforth Museum, Framingham, MA. Two entries selected by co-jurors Jen Mergel, Senior Curator of Contemporary Art at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, and Helen Molesworth, Chief Curator at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art.
  • I Got Rhythm, 2010, Juried show, Portsmouth Arts Guild, Portsmouth, RI, Honorable Mention Award.
  • Beyond the Lens, 2010, Juried Show Exploring New Expressions in Photography, Portsmouth Arts Guild, Portsmouth, RI. 3rd Place Award.
  • Annual Members’ All Media Exhibition, 2010, Portsmouth Arts Guild, Portsmouth, RI, 1st Place People’s Choice Award.
  • Travel Work Exhibition, Invitational Show, 2010, Worcester Art Museum, Worcester, MA.
  • Best of Wet Canvas Competition, 2009, On line international competition, Finalist Award in the Still Life Category.
  • ALRI 3rd Annual Associate Members’ Exhibition, 2009, Gallery 297, Bristol, RI; juror, Nancy Whipple Grinnell; Top painting award, the Art League of Rhode Island Award of Excellence.
  • Portsmouth Veterinary Clinic, Portsmouth, RI, commissioned painting in 2007 and two more in 2013.


  • Decordova Museum School, Lincoln, MA, summer school, 1972.
  • University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, undergraduate painting with George Woodman, 1972-3.
  • Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, MA, undergraduate illustration, 1976.
  • School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, Continuing Education, 1977.
  • Rhode Island School of Art and Design, Providence, RI, Continuing Education, 2005-10, including courses and workshops with Robin Wiseman, Julie Gearan, Marc Torick, and Dean Dalfonzo.
  • Newport Art Association, Newport, RI, Coleman Center, 2005-2010, including courses and workshops with Dora Atwater Milliken, David Barnes, John Kilroy, Margo Rubin, Ilsa Buchart Nesbitt, Richard Grosvenor, and a workshop on Monhegan Island with Julie Shoen.
  • Worcester Art Museum, 2010, workshop on the Isles of Shoals with Susan Swinand.


  • Portsmouth Arts Guild, Portsmouth, RI, Exhibition Committee Chairman 2009 – 2013
  • Newport Art Association, Collections Committee Member, Newport, RI
  • Providence Art Club, Exhibiting Artist Member and Instructor, 2014 – present.


  • Portsmouth Arts Guild: “Still Life Painting”, 2011, “Painting Paradise”, 2012, (a course combining plein air painting and the history of painting in the Paradise area of Middletown, RI), “Paint a Tonalist Landscape”, 2012, “Plein Air Workshops”, 2013.
  • Newport Art Museum, “Painting an Impressionist’s Newport”, 2013, (a two day workshop combining plein air painting and the history of impressionist painting in Newport).
  • Providence Art Club: “Landscape Painting”, 2016.


  • Spring Bull Gallery, “It’s up to You”, 2012
  • Providence Art Club, “Members’ Exhibition”, 2013
  • Portsmouth Arts Guild, “Members’ Juried Show”, 2014