“I began to see how people’s lives are a culmination of scattered photographs, memories, and stories – which are repeated like a rhythm throughout life. They really create one’s personal mythology.”
John Howard is an unpretentious, local SF Bay Area artist and Eclectix has been lucky to have exhibited his works. He creates fantastical, vivid psychedelic silkscreens and limited edition books, some in 3D – so if you have some 3D glasses, quick, stick ‘em on! A veteran at illustrating, designing and printing rock and roll posters – John has a vast collection to choose from, here. The quality of his images and printings are first class, thick blackest blacks and velvet inks. We are happy to share these words with the ever-friendly John.
Can you tell us where you were born and a little history about your childhood? Is there an event or experience that really moved or impacted you?
I grew up in a small town in Central Kentucky, which was very beautiful, but before the internet it was a very isolated situation for a kid who wanted to draw pictures. This made me fairly self-sustaining as an artist. I think that this is why I just keep making art, I don’t fukin care what they think. I mean I do, I want to communicate, I want to touch someone in a meaningful way through my art. But if not, it’s not a problem.
What was first piece of art that you remember creating?
My first was a simple line drawing of a hammer floating in the middle of the page. I clearly remember scribbling without any intention and I noticing that it looked like a hammer. I remember doing a couple of things to it to it to make it look more like a hammer, and people thought it was great! I was impressed that it had come from nowhere, but there it was. I think that stuck with me and I still work basically the same way. My first complete drawing was called The Lazy Duck in Crayola. (below) It had an arced horizon that represented the curvature of the earth, and there was a duck walking up hill on this arc. In front of him was darkness and behind him was light, sunlight, daytime. So The Lazy Duck spent his life running around the world trying to stay in the darkness so he could sleep. Hehe. I know that I didn’t have that story in my head when I started that drawing, but it is exactly what that drawing is.
What generally inspires you to create a piece?
When I’m creating a piece I am trying to allow space for inspiration by forging ahead. For doing that, music is good. It allows me to stop thinking and focus on making the lines. In the worst of times I can plug into music and soon the pen will be skating the paper and unexpected stuff will be happening. If you have an agenda – you can decide what you are going to say, write it out, edit it and come up with a concise statement that does something in the world, that you want it to do. Right? If you want to express yourself, you start talking and YOU see what comes out the same as everybody else does. You correct as you go, and that’s maybe something more like the truth.
If there was an artist, dead or alive, that you could spend 24 hours with; who would it be and what would you do?
I’d want to spend some time working with the person, to see how they think- how they trick good stuff into happening. I recently watched the movie Visite à Picasso. He paints on glass and they film him from behind. It’s exciting how he hits the image head on with no compunction. You can watch the thoughts materialize. I’d love to spend a day doing that with him. Or maybe just borrow his organist for the dramatic background music
What materials, specific brand of paint/glue/pencil do you prefer to use? A favorite? And why?
I mostly use brush pens. My favorite was the Sakura Pigma Sumi Brush xsdk-ta. They had foam tips with a nice bounce, and they held a point. Long discontinued. Bring them back! The closest thing to that available now are the PITT pens.
Is there a technique, procedure or tip that you have discovered, you could pass onto other artists? A specific tidbit of craft, advice or mechanical expertise?
The way I work is pretty basic. I try to take simple procedures and overlay them in interesting ways. For example: I draw something / scan / reverse / print / rework by hand / rescan / overlay the 2 scans / select the difference / reverse that / print again / retouch by hand / scan once more, and use that as an element. In the final piece each element has had several go rounds to get a little scuff on it’s heels. I do make some very effective 3D pieces that I explain here.
What is your favorite word? Last song you chose to listen to?
The last song was a video clip from Johnny Cash’s old TV show, he was singing a Kris Kristofferson song, Sunday Morning Coming Down.
My favorite word is ”Love”. Maybe that sounds corny, but there are times when you only get one last word.
Do you have some learning experience, good or bad, you could share involving dealing with a gallery? Advice you could pass on to other artists that might be relevant?
I don’t. I have had very little experience with galleries. I’ve been in shows around the world really, but never had a direct relationship with a gallery, other than Eclectix. I’d like to. It would be great to have an outlet like that. I do like meeting with people at music festivals and poster/art events like Renegade Craft Fair and Flatstock Poster Shows where I show and sell my work myself. It’s fun to meet and talk to hundreds of people a day at these events. The feedback is great and it’s fun to hear people ‘oooh’ on seeing the 3D stuff.
If you could pick one piece of art to own, out of the world’s museums, personal collections and galleries, what would it be?
I’d love one of Picabia’s paintings in which he draws images over images. I took a snapshot of one in Europe last summer (below). One of those would be great. They make me feel like I have to refocus to see each image, yet it’s a flat plane. I like how the images seem automatic yet informed. And as you shift focus, between images, their parts merge.
Of all your works, what is your own personal favorite?
What was the thought or vision behind the work?
That is a tough one. I’m usually most interested in the thing that I am working on at the time, but I recently completed a print called “Memory”. (below) It is about my Mom and the Alzheimer’s that has come over her in the last year. As we were getting through this, I began to see how people’s lives are a culmination of scattered photographs, memories, and stories – which are repeated like a rhythm throughout life. They really create one’s personal mythology. This work is about those kinds of memories and how they mean everything and yet they dissipate into time.
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(This entry was originally posted on 5/20/10 )
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