“Empty Near Haiku” by Kelley White

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Empty near haiku

 

 

She opens the door.
Silence. No dog to greet her.
He’s been gone three years.

She holds a wallet
sized picture, bent, creased faded.
It’s no one she knows.

He squinches his mouth
around his leaving. Swallows
the last bits of love.

The cabinets still full
of his favorite foods.
His toothbrush unused.

She searches her purse
for reading glasses. Return
address-no one known.

Pediatrician Kelley White has worked in inner city Philadelphia and rural New Hampshire. Her poems have appeared in Exquisite Corpse, Rattle and JAMA. Her recent books are TOXIC ENVIRONMENT (Boston Poet Press) and TWO BIRDS IN FLAME (Beech River Books.) She received a 2008 Pennsylvania Council on the Arts grant.

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“Before the Beginning” by Megan Mealor

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Before the Beginning

God without Eve:
watercolor wanderlust
a blizzard stoked with stones

She smoothed in
vicious strokes of sea
lit reclusive hillsides
with bellflowers and begonias
etched herself at awestruck angles
tangled Adam’s warring bones
climbed and climbed forbidden skies
slept forgotten in the mosses

Serpents sweetened and riddled
deafening star-stunned sparrows
left unfeathered, undefined

Previously published in Liquid Imagination, November 2017

Megan Mealor is a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee, her work has been featured widely in numerous journals, most recently Really System, The Opiate, Fowl Feathered Review, The Lake, The Mystic Blue Review, and streetcake. Her debut poetry collection, Bipolar Lexicon, is forthcoming in October from Unsolicited Press. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder in her teens, her main mission is to inspire others stigmatized for their mental health.

An Interview with Del Shores & Emerson Collins

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As a writer/director/producer/actor/ stand-up comedian Del Shores has delighting audiences with his unforgettable characters since his 1987 play Daddy’s Dyin’ (Who’s Got the Will)? The film version released in 1990 featured Beau Bridges, Tess Harper, Judge Reinhold, Keith Carradine and Beverly D’Angelo. With his fourth play Sordid Lives Shores delivered sold out shows for 13 months. The film version which featured Beau Bridges, Delta Burke, Olivia Newton-John, Bonnie Bedelia, Leslie Jordan and Beth Grant along with most of the cast from the play went on to become the longest running film in the history of Palm Springs before later being turned into a television series. Following the success of those projects Del went on to bring the world the plays Yellow, Southern Baptist Sissies, and The Trials and Tribulations of a Trailer Trash Housewife (which was later adapted into the film Blues For Willadean with the entire original stage cast: Beth Grant ,Octavia Spencer, Dale Dickey, David Steen, and top 10 Billboard dance artist Debby Holiday). Most recently his film version of Southern Baptist Sissies (now on Amazon Prime) featuring Emerson Collins, Willam Belli, Matthew Scott Montgomery, Luke Stratte-McClure, Newell Alexander, Rosemary Alexander, Bobbie Eakes, Ann Walker, Dale Dickey and Leslie Jordan went on to win ten major awards on the festival circuit. With the final installment of the Sordid Lives tales, A Very Sordid Wedding (now available on Hulu), Sordid veterans including Bonnie Bedelia, Leslie Jordan, Caroline Rhea, Dale Dickey, and Ann Walker with cameos by Whoopi Goldberg, Alec Mapa and Carole Cook the story advances seventeen years into the future to show how the lives of some of Shores’ most iconically loveable characters have evolved. In his latest project directed by Emerson Collins Shores offers up the one man play Six Characters in Search of a Play as only he can.

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Texas native Emerson Collins is an actor/producer/director known best for his work on Del Shores: My Sordid Life, Southern Baptist Sissies, The People’s Couch, and A Very Sordid Wedding. He is currently directing Shores in Six Characters in Search of a Play.

Coming to a city near you…

Feb 8 Austin, TX

Feb 10 San Antonio, TX

Feb 11 Ft Worth, TX

Feb 17 Tulsa ,OK

Feb 18 Oklahoma City, OK

Feb 25 -March 27 Los Angeles, CA

March 31 Cathedral City

June 5 -June 10 San Francisco, CA

For more information or to purchase tickets please see https://www.delshores.com/

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What is the most challenging thing you face when bringing to life Six Characters in Search of a Play? How does it feel to portray six widely different characters in one evening?

Del Shores: Memorizing the script that I wrote! Twenty pages of non-stop dialogue — and I do not write easy-to-memorize dialogue. I feel like I was living my own karma because I’m so demanding of actors to memorize my lines as written. Emerson Collins, who directed me, reminded me of that often, since I had directed him a few times.

Once I got them down, with the specific voices, physical characteristics, the details (down to what hand they smoke with), it feels amazing. Again, I must thank Emerson who was very, very specific with me in how to achieve the separation of each.  Emerson was brilliant on stage in Buyer and Cellar so he had that experience which he brought into his direction!

What was it that first led you to pursue the career of an actor? How has your work as such helped shape you into who you are today? What do you enjoy most about the art of acting?

Emerson Collins: I started doing Christmas pageants at church as a kid and then theater through middle school and high school. When I first started college I decided to pursue something more “practical” but the summer before my sophomore year I decided I needed to give it a go and see what happened. The reason for acting at all is getting to be a part of telling entertaining, compelling or challenging stories! At its best, art both entertains and edifies – it can be escapism or pushing the audience to consider a point of view they have never encountered before – and both are important!

What was it about Emerson that led you to decide to let him direct you on the newest project?

Del: First and foremost, I trust him. He is truly one of the best actors I’ve ever worked with. His experience on stage, having won awards for Buyer and Cellar also played into the decision. But honestly, he was my only choice. We get along, work together daily, so there was an immediate short-cut in our communication. I’m a control freak and he is the only person alive I trust so implicitly that I could give up that control. We didn’t have one disagreement in this process.

What is it like to direct Del on his latest project? What do you find most challenging about that?

Emerson: It has been a truly fantastic adventure!  We have been working side by side for over a decade now, so I know his writing, his directing and his perspective on acting inside and out.  The opportunity to use all of that in guiding him to create this new show that is an excellent amalgamation of the greatest of his writing and the spontaneity of his stand up has been wonderful.  Honestly, the only challenge early on was getting Del “the actor” to trust Del “the writer” – and it was amusing for both of us as we worked through it.

What would you say is the most important thing you have learned from working with each other so far?

Del: Again trust.  Me being able to hand over my script to someone else to direct and allowing myself to just be an actor.  I’m not sure Emerson and I ever have even discussed this, but this is the first project since Sordid Lives (play) in 1996 of my own material that I have not directed the premiere.

Emerson: For me that is such a deep question because Del has been my director, collaborator, mentor, partner and friend as we’ve grown together through his work since he first asked me to move to Los Angeles to share a role in his play Southern Baptist Sissies years ago. I think my greatest lesson from all of it is that holding on to your own voice and creative power is so vital and then being willing to make certain compromises to ensure the work can actually be created.

What do you hope your audiences take away from your work?

Del: I always say — If I can make you laugh, think a little and maybe shed a tear or two, my job has been done.  We need some laughter in this world right now — and we need to be reminded that we are all connected as humans with hearts and souls.  I hope that my new play is that reminder for my audiences as it is to me nightly.

Emerson: I think the sweet joy of this particular show from Del is finding the humor and uniqueness in the people you encounter in the world.  He shares these six stories as examples of how he takes what he finds as he moves through life and spins it into larger stories and entertainment.  It’s a lovely idea to truly notice people as you meet them in life.  We may not all turn them into comedy gold, but taking the time to see people shapes how we continue our journey.  And ultimately, it’s an evening of humor with a few surprising insights – so the audience should have a great time!

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What was it like to have the chance to portray a serial killer with an interest in necrophilia in A Very Sordid Wedding? Did you enjoy having the chance to give such a character a more human persona than one would expect? What was it like working with Leslie Jordan on those scenes?

Emerson: I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to take on a character that is immediately distasteful and yet pushing to express his complicated humanity. I think its interesting to pull away the layers of what made him who is, and while it certainly doesn’t redeem his actions in any way, it provides a more complex picture. The most interesting characters to tackle are those that cannot be immediately categorized, and in a selfish way, he’s extremely different from the other characters I’ve played more recently and stretching as an actor is always a goal.

Of course it was as deliriously delightful as you could image to share scenes with Leslie Jordan. He has an incredible ability to be hysterically funny and then turn to the tragic on a dime. It also meant I had to be so fully realized in my own character to ensure I could meet him in the scenes. In the many times we’ve worked together now, I have the greatest admiration for Leslie in his work, but also in his defiant openness and success as an entertainer and actor who has been openly gay for so long.

Do you have a dream project you’d most like to bring into existence?

Del: Well, Emerson and I have a series in development right now that’s looking real good.  We can’t talk too much about it, but it celebrates small town life. We are really excited to bring the characters to life!.  I also have a new play that I should finish soon called This Side of Crazy that I’m excited about.

Emerson: What he said – we have a great new series we’re working to get out there.  And personally, I’m excited to figure out what my next acting opportunity will be.  I love creating my own work through our projects, but I’d also be thrilled to show up and craft a great character in someone else’s work as well!

What do you think is key to a life well lived?

Del: Okay, maybe this will sound trite, but to bring happiness to not only yourself, but to those around you.  Be kind, just be nice to those around us.  To look around and see someone in need, and to make a difference. And for me, always, to make people laugh.

Emerson: I think that’s different for everyone, and it should be.  The idea that there is one way to do to life is what leads so many to find frustration in where they are in their journey.  On the simplest level, is the world left better because you were in it?  Work through each day and experience to ensure that the answer is yes.

Anything you’d like to say in closing?

Del: Thanks for the interview. Loved your questions.  And a big thanks to my fans and friends who are supporting this new play!

 

” A Tiny Pure Spark of Light” by Leon van Waas

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A Tiny Pure Spark of Light

When I was born I was struck by life,
meant to stay.
Later on I realized it brought me my very own way to play.
Being on the run I became best friends with the devil and danger, all over the place.
And in this bad dream I got a message: It would be over in about a five thousand days

Only the nights were all cold and I almost froze to death.
But right on time God sent you to rescue me,
with the warmth of your breath.
I couldn’t hardly believe such an angel was standing in front of me.
And she took away all my questions, sweetly saying, “This is meant to be.”

This was the truth.
And I did no longer believe in my friends lies, because now I could see for the first time in my life,
with these new given eyes

The next day we made the longest walk along the shore, talking and laughing for hours,
until we couldn’t walk anymore.
And I said to her, “You are the finest one I have ever seen.”
Inspiring all along.
That’s why I wrote you this poem.
The next one will be a song …

 

An Interview with & the Art of David Bollt

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David Bollt has been creating works of art the remind one to appreciate the beauty in all things since the age of 7 and working professionally since his teens. Considered a master of the trade in the field of tattooing his works are vast and varied.

To learn more about David Bollt and to see more of his art and projects check out:

Do you think being a quiet child gave you more time to nourish your imagination? What are some of the benefits you found in silence?

As a child it seemed as if I was in the audience, while people around me were caught up in an elaborate drama. I kind of sat back and took in the show. Actions and reactions sometimes seemed exaggerated and didn’t make much sense. So it was hard to engage and keep up. Drawing was a quiet space where creativity and imagination could flow in a world that was all mine. There was no dissonance from others. It felt safe. But not only safe, it was also empowering and fun. My inner world was full of characters and places. In some ways they were symbolic of the drama around me in my real life, but in my imagination I had control and could make sense of things. Through fantasy I somehow came to better understand what was going on in the real world.

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Do think in a world as hectic paced as this that quiet places are needed more than ever?

That’s an interesting question … I think silence, stillness and quiet – in many ways – are a reflection of how we relate to noise and chaos. It can be really helpful to shut out the world sometimes and make some space to just be with ourselves. But often people find that the loudest place in the world is in our minds. Several years ago I did a 10 day Vipassana Meditation retreat that required I spend 12 hours a day on a meditation cushion. I thought this would be a serene vacation from a chaotic world, but I was wrong. Without any distractions, I was assaulted by my own thoughts. Inside my head I was arguing with people and struggling to find solutions to everything. I suffered for several days until I discovered that silence is a skill, one that requires practice. A few days later I found a stillness and quiet that I had not known since I was that quiet child. When my thoughts finally stopped, the world became beautiful and clear again. Since then I’ve come to relate to silence as something we have access to on the inside. We can fill our heads with painful noise even when we are alone. We can experience serenity and silence when we are surrounded by chaos and noise.

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You have mentioned you were attracted to the idea of monsters early on. Why do you think that is? Did you have any favorite monsters growing up?

Horror really scared me when I was a kid. My dad took me to see the Amityville Horror and I had nightmares for months. Drawing was a way for me to manage my fear. The monsters I came to love were the ones I created in my imagination. They were a part of me. I could relate with them and make peace with them. They came into the world through me. Even when they seemed real, I was no longer afraid of them. They could not exist without me.

Later in life I’ve realized how much all my fears are my own creation. Everything I’ve ever been scared of was the result of the pictures I painted with my thoughts. It was so obvious when I was drawing, but it’s taken some time for me to see how fear in my life is the same as the fear I had of horror when I was a child.

Why do you think things often considered weird seem to have had such a timeless appeal?

When something is unique or strange it just seems to stand out. It’s so easy to miss that every day – and every experience – is unique. Our days can be a routine that seems monotonous, so we don’t realize how much variety there really is. When something is exceptionally strange or weird, it almost shocks our sensibilities and gives us a little reminder that the world can feel fresh and new again.

Watching the snow fall it’s easy to just see a bunch of white flakes that all the look the same. And it can be a life changing revelation to realize that no two snowflakes – that have ever fallen – have been exactly the same. Things that are weird invite us to see the world in new ways.

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What is it about the human figure that makes it so appealing in your line of work?

The human body is the vehicle for human consciousness. We open our eyes and behold the world with our bodies as the engine for this miraculous gift of being. I like to think I’m intelligent, but I can’t fathom the intelligence that beats my heart, breathes for me and divides my cells. The body is an elegant organic machine that gives rise to the human experience.

The natural urge for us as living things to procreate and bring new life into the world ensures that there is nothing that we would find more fascinating and beautiful than other people. When we look at a body we’re seeing far more than an object, we’re looking at the creative intelligence of the universe … and it’s looking right back at us through someone else’s eyes.

It’s a cliche to say the body’s a temple. But it’s also one of the most profound and beautiful things that we can possibly consider. To regard this body that we all inhabit as a temple, is to realize ourselves as an expression of the divine. To realize myself – and everyone else – as an expression of universal creative intelligence, is to embrace myself as beautiful. I was born this way.

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Have you always considered people to be beautiful or is that something you developed along the way? How do the unseen characteristics of a person play into that?

Growing up, my own insecurities had me judge myself as well as other people. Like everyone I was exposed to messages that said “some people are beautiful and others are not”. I was exposed to messages that taught me to see myself and others as flawed.

A profound shift happened for me in art school when I was drawing the human figure from life. I would draw figure models of all shapes and sizes. I might regard a particular model as odd or unattractive. But no matter what a model looked like, drawing the figure was hard for me. I’d try to make a beautiful drawing and so I started to see the figure in all new ways. I was forced to look at the body without judgment and simply commit to truly seeing it. Every gesture and subtlety of a pose became something that I was chasing and trying to capture. To make a beautiful drawing I had to go deeper and deeper into my experience of the body before me. In the quest to create something beautiful I realized the beauty that was already there. In trying to accurately portray anatomy, personality and expression. I discovered the miracle of anatomy, personality and expression before me.

Soon there was no trace of judgment. Every model was a new opportunity to discover and explore. Every unique human body offered itself as an opportunity. After all … the muscles and structures that I was working so hard to render on paper, were already there in front of me perfectly formed and alive. No drawing has since ever come close to capturing the depth of that realization, but the quest is endlessly rewarding.

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Do you still work on the Model Society project?

Yes. Model Society is a great source of inspiration for me. In a world that often regards the nude human form to be obscene, it’s an honor to support a community of models, photographers and artists who put humanity on a pedestal as a true work of art. The fear of naked humanity that runs rampant in culture is a sickness. I see Model Society as part of the cure. We can’t hate, judge or be cruel to that we hold as beautiful. I created Model Society as an opportunity for the world to see humanity through the eyes of artists.

Do you think a respect for nature has helped you learn to find beauty in all places?

For sure. Nature (life itself) is the ultimate creative artist. Plants, insects, animals, and natural forms (like landscapes and clouds) are evolving and changing all around us. The variety and beauty of living things is truly staggering. Look closely at the most humble insect and you’ll see an incredible elegance and balance of design. Cloud forms shape shift all day long and interact with the setting sun to paint a spectrum of color across the sky.

All of life and all the world is an endless exploration of form and color. As an artist I always wanted to test the limits of what I’m capable of. In that same way life itself seems to be on a quest to explore and realize the depths of its own creative capacity.

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As someone who creates art in the traditional form as well as digitally and in tattoo form do you enjoy one form more than others? How do the various forms differ most? Which do you find the most challenging?

Some tools have certain advantages and are better suited to professional projects or certain goals. Sometimes the final product needs to have particular characteristics that will determine what tool is needed. But on a deeper level, for me it’s all one thing. A crayon on a paper table cloth at iHop is just as potent a creative tool as an iPad or a brush loaded with oil paint. The art is in the intention. The tool – no matter what it is – is simply the vehicle through which this intention is expressed. Vision can flow with equal potency through any tool.

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How do you think your work has evolved most over the years?

When I was a kid, making art was innocent. It was fun and I was simply fascinated by it. As I got older and graduated art school I had to enter the world as an adult. I needed to make a living. Somehow, in my mind, my art became a measure of my value. Without realizing it my career was like a referendum on my worth. Success and failure in my career meant success and failure as a person. My identity and self esteem got all tied up in it.

I was very successful and in some ways I thought that validated me. But the more successful I became, the more lost I felt. I was chasing a sense of value and meaning as a person through my work, but no matter how far that seemed to take me, it wasn’t real. Eventually I felt like all the success became a “good valuable person” costume that I was wearing.

At some point I quit and left my career as an artist behind and went on a kind of quest to realize who I really was and to – hopefully – come into contact with a deeper and more permanent sense of value. Thankfully, I found it. I found a sense of self that transcends success or failure. The most important evolution in my art is that I’ve come back home to where I started as a child. My art is once again innocent. It’s fun and I’m simply fascinated by it.

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What do you hope your fans take away from your work?

I’m always gratified when people are inspired. Although I may have all kinds of philosophical ideas and symbols woven into the art, the one thing I really want is for people to simply pause and have an experience of awe. Like “wow … that’s really cool”. All I really want is for people to have an experience of wonder.

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What advice would you give other artists in regards to creation?

The thing I want most for artists, is for them to enjoy the process of making art. So many artists suffer and judge themselves and their work. I want artists to emulate nature and express themselves without judgment.

Often the term “follow your bliss” is associated with our careers and life goals. But I’d say that you can follow your bliss in each and every moment. When there’s a pencil or paintbrush in your hand … follow your bliss. Tap into that subtle feeling of satisfaction and follow it without judgment wherever it may take you. Take pleasure in the process and let the final product be the result of an adventure into the unknown.

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Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Simply … thank you! I really appreciate the interest in my work. It’s a pleasure to take the conversation a little deeper and share some of my personal experience. You’ve asked some wonderful questions. I learned a little more about myself in the process.

 

An Interview with & the Art of Paul Lovering

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Independent artist and designer Paul Lovering creates vividly stunning works of art featuring some of the modern world’s most beloved faces.

 

What is it like living in Edinburgh? Did you grow up in Scotland? What are some of your most fond memories from those days?

Edinburgh is a beautiful city with lots of history. What I like most is being able to walk into town, which takes about 20 minutes and make a visit to one of the museums or art galleries, then have a quick drink and something to eat and a taxi home.

The down side of Edinburgh is the cold. I was brought up in Devon (and for a couple of years in Australia) and despite living here for over 30 years have never really got used to it.

We have not always lived in Edinburgh. I have fond memories of living near Pitlochry (small hamlet called Auld Clune). I used to run every day with my dog and we had two rescue cats (long gone now but much loved).

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Who were some of your earliest influences?

Earliest influences for me was the impact of music, listening to Dylan, Bowie, The Beatles and the Stones, their lyrics painted pictures.

I also had a ring of school friends who were superb artists, we all seemed to be drawing and painting album cover art inspired compositions, I guess what with no internet, creating was as near as we could get to maybe being discovered in those halcyon days. None of us, especially including myself, were able to even think about going to art college. Back then (early 1970s) money was tight and working class parents guided you towards a “proper” job.

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When did you first discover your love of art?

I had two really good art teachers at school. But, I was a bit of a rebel and really did not apply myself back then. I was more interested in sport, socialising and music. Instead of doing my homework I hung around with my friends and we played the albums we had all saved to buy. These were a big influence, as I loved the artwork on the album covers. So people like, Claus Voormann  (Revolver), Peter Blake (Sergeant Pepper), Philip Travers (Moody Blues) were great influences… I was really disappointed when CDs replaced albums and we lost all that great artwork.

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What are some of the most challenging things you face in working with watercolors?

The biggest challenge is controlling the paint having spent ages on my original sketch. But, I’m not too precious about it. If it doesn’t go the way I want, I go with it and if it doesn’t work it goes in my other gallery my bin. Another challenge is getting a commission. Normally I will paint away aiming to be as loose and flowing as I can. The minute I get a commission, especially a portrait, I get nervous which means the painting can get too tight. And, I never know when to finish it. I often want to do more but am afraid to spoil what I have already created.

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What do you enjoy most about the art of creation?

Producing new and original images of iconic people that stand out is what excites me. Friends are always making suggestions of more contemporary people who will be more commercial. But, I enjoy painting my heroes for other people that feel the same way as I do. It probably makes me sound like an old but I can’t get excited about painting the latest rap artist (usually spelt with a silent “c”).

Why do you like recreating the human figure and faces in particular?

The human face and the eyes are the most important to me, I’m not looking for my work to be controversial or serious. I just want people to be grabbed by it as a reminder of something in the past, like a song or a concert.  I want to keep it simple and positive.

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How do you decide which images you are going to recreate?

It can be something as day to day as hearing a song, reading a news article or watching a film as long as it is someone that I am interested in.

Do you think the world needs more creative outlets in these modern times?

Absolutely. I want to celebrate all the arts in a positive way. I try to avoid the negatives even though I know that less money is going to the arts due to government cuts.

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What do you think is key to a life well lived?

Health, Love and Happiness, and having your Dreams.

Is there a dream project you’d most like to bring into being?

Yes. I am planning to move from watercolor into large scale oil canvas portraits. If I can create something good that people like then I will hopefully make a few sales. I have several customers who have been asking me for years to produce big canvases.

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Is there anything you’d like to say before you go?

You are never too old. I took up painting when I was 50 years old, so my dream came true.

Enjoy your art be bold and expressive.

And thank you Tina for your great work and the opportunity to answer your questions.

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An Interview with Artist Howard David Johnson

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With a background in natural sciences contemporary American artist Howard David Johnson creates stunning works of art using a vast array of mediums. His work has appeared globally with such clients as Cambridge, Oxford, The University of Texas, Warner Brothers, The National Geographic Society, ABC/Disney, and The Australian Mint to name a few. For more information on his various works please see: http://www.howarddavidjohnson.com/

What were you like as a child? Did you discover your ability to see the beauty in all things at an early age or is that something you developed as you went?

My Mom and Dad said I “painted little murals” in my baby crib with “available materials” from my diaper. My Dad said: ”Looks like we got us a little artist”. I moved on to creating murals around the house with my big brother’s Crayola crayons. My mother tired quickly of cleaning the walls and began providing me with typing paper and my own deluxe set of color crayons. I drew happily and stayed out of trouble for years. By age six I was creating little picture books on subjects like the heroes of American History and informed my parents that I had decided to dedicate my life to art. Once I started school, I drew diligently every day with pencils. I always finished my assignments early and some teachers were outraged that I would quietly draw while waiting on the rest of the class and punished me but others approved whole heartedly.  In art classes in elementary school I got a hold of pastels and paints for the first time. All those years as a boy while I was developing my anatomy and composition in pencil people told me that it was not a valid medium for artistic expression. I could only afford watercolors and pastels so I worked with what I could get my hands on, but still everyone said I needed to be doing oil paintings and dismissed my work as invalid. Mixed media started because of lack of finance, but became a delight. My mother was among them but couldn’t buy me any oils of my own because of my father’s intense disapproval.

Do you think in the hectic pace of today’s world people often forget to appreciate the beauty that is around them?

All too often, that seems true. In ancient times people had hours to wind down, usually gazing at a fire instead of fighting traffic. Modern folks nerves and sensibilities are under constant barrage of negativism from the media. It takes a conscious effort to put it all down and take time to “smell the roses.”

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Do you enjoy having the chance to remind people that there is beauty in all things?

To tell the truth, I never think about that on a conscious level, it just comes out in my work.

What did you love most as a child?

God, family, nature and adventure. My parents tell me as a pre-schooler I would worry them sick disappearing nearly every morning before they got up piling barstools and boxes to unlock doors and go to the woods returning with stories of having been walking and talking with God.

I notice on your website one of the pages is dedicated to your parents. How did they influence you become who you are today?

I could write a book on that one. I devoted my life to art at the age of six in spite of stubborn opposition from my father. This dynamic conflict shaped my life and forged my driving motivation. I found buying art supplies for my kids and lavishing them with praise and encouragement did not work. Conflict was essential I later realized. My father feared I would end up like my great uncle Howard who fought in nearly every island combat against the Japanese in the Pacific War. Howard came home a war hero and his heart’s desire was to be an illustrator and when he found a tough job market instead, took his own life. My father never told me the real reason for his violent opposition to an art career until later in life, and upon hearing this, I began using my full name, Howard David Johnson. My Mother was a talented artist herself, always encouraged me and never missed an opportunity to take me along to a site or a museum to acquaint me with my Old World Traditional spiritual and cultural heritage along the way. While being evacuated from Libya during the Six Day War, my father pulled strings to get me sent back to my birthplace in Germany. The forests and charming villages with their winding cobblestone streets and picturesque mountains crowned with castles mingled with the Roman ruins I played on the African coast and set my imagination on fire with the romance of my heritage. It was there and then that the seeds my mother planted took root and I had an epiphany about my mission as an artist that has shaped my life to this day. One train trip to Paris stands out as I recall dozens of artists copying the Mona Lisa. I asked, is this Ok? The guide said, “As long as it is not the same size, it is just study”. He then showed me many masters completely and then partially copying other’s paintings to learn deeper secrets. This practice is frowned on today by uneducated internet trolls. I see these pieces as like into the three notches of Arne Sachnusem in Journey to the Center of the Earth, an 1864 science fiction novel by Jules Verne. He wanted those who came after him to be able to follow his path. I WANT people to know I studied the hell out of J. W. Waterhouse.

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What led you to pursue the Natural Sciences? How did those studies help you in regards to your career as an artist?

When I went to the University of Texas at Austin School of Fine Arts they gave me a squirt gun and told me to squirt the canvas with paint. I wanted to study the old masters but they wanted me to imitate monkeys. Threatened with failing the class for drawing in the back row, I brought a fish skeleton and slapped it into the huge canvas with its build up of thick oil paints. They declared me the next Jackson Pollack with my organic textures and I thought, …”Oh, Brother…” and went to my Science class where the professor did not mind my doodling. He was going off about a dinosaur dig and I started sketching his dinosaur site. He walked around and said; ” The head is too big and the horn is too short”. When he came back around I had modified it and he said, “OK! Now the Cycadeoides { fern like plants} are too close to the water. The next trip around the classroom he said: “Do you want a job? Our so called illustrator cries like a baby and throws a temper tantrum every time I point out his mistakes.” He took me under his wing and taught me things no art class ever could and the travel was wonderful. Later my art class mates who told me I was not a real artist because I eschewed abstract art had towels on their arms waiting tables and I was writing Artist on my IRS form. I have a gallery of Dinosaur art up now…

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What are some of the most daunting obstacles you faced when you were first learning your trade?

My hand was torn apart in a hydraulic lift and reconstructed in1964 and I taped my pencil to the brace but it was mostly the beatings from my father. He would drag me away from my drawings and when he saw me using a kitchen timer to time gesture drawings of a human figure he was sure I’d flipped my lid and took me to the Air Force base psychiatrist. I practiced 4-12 hours a day to be a comic book artist and they had to be fast as well as good. I was hired by DC comics in a nationwide talent search and he tore up the check, beat me with a yellow pine 2×4 and said, “You’re not goin’ to NEW YORK ~ you’re goin’ to VEET nam. Ah, good times…

What advice would you offer the artists of tomorrow?

Learn to dodge? Seriously? Practice, Practice, Practice, and learn to keep savings against lean times and or get a significant other with a steady job.

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Who are some of your favorite artists?

Some of the artists and writers that have influenced me the most; William Bouguereau, John William Waterhouse, Ivan Ivanovich Shishkin, Edmund Blair Leighton, Howard Pyle, Arthur Rackham, Arthur Hughes, Dante Gabriel Rosetti, Viktor Vasnetsov, Jean Auguste Ingres, Anthony Van Dyke, Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Wallace Wood, Jack Kirby, Frank Frazetta, Ray Harryhausen, H.G. Wells, Gustave Moreau, William Morris, Henry David Thoreau, Will Durant, The Pre- Raphaelites, The Symbolists, et al.

How does it feel to see your work so well received worldwide?

Deeply rewarding and fulfilling. My statistics show my website is visited by every country on Earth, every day. My Dad often used to say, “The world is not going to beat a path to your door”. Well, he did not foresee the internet. That being said, I do not consider myself famous by today’s standards, but then, most people outside the industry can’t name three living artists.

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How has your artist style evolved most over the years?

I started with all traditional mediums like pencil and oils and added digital media, I began as a comic book illustrator, strove toward photo-realism and when attaining it found it upset people so much I evolved into a more traditional looking style blending old masters and modern illustration.

Is there one subject you enjoy covering more than most?

Women.

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Are there any little known things about you that our readers might be surprised to know?

I have been the pastor of a small non-denominational Christian church without any form of pay for 30 years. I was a Boy Scout leader in the inner city in Austin, Texas for 12 years. I am called “Der ferret herder” in Deutschland and have eight ferrets. In Europe there is also a drinking game involving naming my references and sources that show in my illustrations.

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You also work in photography. What do you think is required to take a truly stunning photograph?

Good subject material. Good equipment. Nikon is the best.

What do you think is key to a life well lived?

I’ve heard it said you can be a success at everything and fail as a father and be a failure at everything and that you can succeed as a father and fail at everything else and be a complete success. That being said, the world crowns success, GOD honors faithfulness.

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Is there a certain satisfaction in knowing that when you leave this world with any luck you will leave behind so many pieces that were the work of your own hands?

My mission as an artist is to help preserve our Western heritage. I have done so. When I saw the works of great artists were being removed from schools and libraries because of mild nudity I realized we needed an Aesop of images to gather, edit and reinvent a body of work teaching about our cultural heritage for future generations.

What are you feelings on life and death and such?

The LORD still speaks to me often and I am visited by angels. I will be reunited with an army of ferrets in heaven who are currently waiting for me to join them. As Joshua said, I say today: “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

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How do you hope to be remembered when your time comes?

I hope to be on a list of illustrators like Arthur Rackham or Howard Pyle and also in a way like the Brothers Grimm and Aesop for gathering and reworking images as they re-worked stories for preservation for future generations.

Do you have a dream project you’d most like to bring into existence?

The Book of Revelation and The Book of Enoch… I am working on them now.

Is there anything you’d like to say before you go?

My illustrations take their inspiration from the realistic paintings of the old masters just as the film West Side Story came from Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet, who in turn copied it from Pyramus and Thisbe, from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Our shared cultural heritage, great works of art, literature, music and drama, cinema, folk tales and fairy tales are all drawn upon again and again by the creators of new works.

These works in the public domain are both a catalyst and a wellspring for creativity and innovation. Where would Walt Disney be without the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson, or Victor Hugo? Where would Aaron Copeland have been without American folk music? Or Thomas Nast’s Santa Claus without traditional images of Father Christmas? Pablo Picasso without aboriginal African art? Public domain appropriators, one and all. It was only in the Romantic era that total originality ceased to be considered vulgar and offensive. Today there are even some folk who consider traditional ideas about art to be immoral. I don’t think the medium is the message or that art MUST be offensive or vulgar. I disagree with the modernists. I love beauty. When America was formed, copyright law was created to promote the public creativity and had 14 year terms to reward the creators, but now with 100 plus year terms very little is currently allowed to enter into the public domain and its preservation is of the utmost urgency to our future cultural well-being.

In keeping with art tradition and etiquette following the exhibit , I mention some of the artists and writers that have influenced me the most; William Bouguereau, John William Waterhouse, Ivan Ivanovich Shishkin, Edmund Blair Leighton, Howard Pyle, Arthur Rackham, Arthur Hughes, Dante Gabriel Rosetti, Viktor Vasnetsov, Jean Auguste Ingres, Anthony Van Dyke, Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Wallace Wood, Jack Kirby, Frank Frazetta, Ray Harryhausen, H.G. Wells, Gustave Moreau, William Morris, Henry David Thoreau, Will Durant, The Pre- Raphaelites, The Symbolists, et al.

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