The King Arthur Gallery; paintings, drawings and pictures of the Celtic Myths & Legends of King Arthur and a brief introduction to Arthurian Myth and Legend. An exhibition of Mythic Art by Contemporary American Illustrator Howard David Johnson, whose illustrations of Mythology have been published all over the world by distinguished learning institutions and publishers including the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge.

Myths and Legends of the Medieval Britons

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Contemporary Interpretations of the Legends of Good King Arthur and his Noble Knights of the Table Round

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The King Arthur Legends' Celtic Origins:

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Did King Arthur Ever Really Live?

 

"King Arthur and Sir Lancelot"

   Did King Arthur ever really live? For more than a thousand years there has been debate over this question. Top authors and scholars from medieval times were furious about the fables that sprang up around the name of Arthur, the historical Romano-British king from the 5th Century. Did you know the real life Robin Hood ( before the legend was Christianized ) actually fought the ancient Romans during the reign of Emperor Claudius and was really a Celtic Warrior named Caracticus?

     Certainly a historical King Arthur lived but this stubborn oral folklore was not merely of a possible historic figure, but a survival of pre-historic myth, a hero of romance, and a fairy king. What began as an underground stream of oral tradition has emerged as a mighty river of literature, possibly the greatest fiction works of all time. In these prose romances he is a noble knight and a monarch of great splendor, riches and generosity who enjoyed the admiration of all. We are also told that all fairy haunted places, wherever they may be- belong to King Arthur. ( Brun de la Montage, Biblitheque Nationale )

       It is now generally regarded as fact that the Celtic legends of history surrounding the medieval King Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table  and Guinevere are really derived from the Religion of the Ancient Britons.

   It is believed by many scholars that the attributes and events of the life of King Artaius and Gwenhwyvar of the British gods have been applied to the actual historical King Arthur and Queen Guinevere in an attempt to preserve the oral traditions of their ancient Celtic spiritual and cultural heritage against the persecution of the Romans during the dark ages... Merlin was Myrddin, Mordred was Medrawt, Galahad was Gwalchaved and Sir Kay was Kai to name a few.

 

"The Magic Sword, Excalibur"

"The Sword of Lancelot"

Note the images of Heraldry on all the shields, flags and garments in the art in this gallery. Arthur has a kingly lion, while Lancelot has the Piscean opposing fish imagery since he came across the water and had the conflict of being both Arthur's most loyal knight, but also having betrayed him by having an affair with Guinevere, the queen he was appointed to protect. In real life, the heraldic crests were the symbols of family groups and had other definite meanings.

The Sword in the Stone

 

    "The Legendary King Arthur" MMX with the Sword drawn from the stone from the tale of King Pellinor and the Questing Beast.

    The Name of the sword is surrounded by controversy as well as are the different myths regarding its origins. The idea of one sword is recent, there were two before the advent of motion pictures. The two swords of King Arthur were the sword drawn from the rock which proved the kingship of the true heir and the true sword Excalibur; or "cut steel". In early English and French traditions the sword was Caliburn; a magical sword from Avalon. One story tells us Caliburn comes from Caledfwlch, the original Welsh name for the sword, from the Mabinogion. It is also considered to be an incarnation of Caladbolg, a sword wielded by several figures from Irish mythology. Yet another source tells us the name Excalibur comes from Greek origins, Ex-Kylie-Pyr or "out of a cup~fire". That the Holy Grail was one of the items the ancient gods used to draw down the Sun in order to make fire. Excalibur, to them, was a "brand of light" and associated with Aaron's Rod. Just as only Aaron or Moses could activate the powers in the rod, so only Arthur could pull Excalibur from the stone. We are also told Excalibur was originally derived from the Latin phrase Ex calce liberatus, "liberated from the stone". Are they related or just similar? The world's scholars have been debating since the Middle Ages..

     The tale of Arthur drawing the sword out of the stone first appeared in Robert de Boron's "Merlin". Sir Thomas Malory (and in the French Suite du Merlin (Prose Merlin, c. 1240), wrote that the sword that King Arthur had taken from the stone was not Excalibur; in fact, Arthur broke this original sword in his fight with King Pellinor.

The Lady of the Lake
    The Lady of the Lake was a title given to several different or related figures in the Arthurian Cycle.  This mysterious female gave Arthur the magic sword, Excalibur. Was she a Celtic lake divinity in origin, the same kind as the Gwagged Annwn? More likely she was originally a lake fairy from Welsh folklore. Of many similar water spirit legends with many names, Nimue is the best choice for this particular Lady of the Lake - the very one who also enchanted Merlin and imprisoned him forever.

   There is controversy over what King Arthur had to promise the Lady of the Lake in return for Excalibur. Legends record the lady told Arthur that the sword belonged to her. She would grant Excalibur to Arthur if and only if the young king grant her his service in return. In one account Arthur gave his pledge to the Lady of the Lake that he would, in another he refused citing murder was an unjust request. My favorite choice was that he promised to protect the beliefs and culture of the pagan people of which Nimue was the head of being the incarnation of the mother goddess on earth. This pledge King Arthur broke when Guinevere persuaded him to fight exclusively under the banner of Christianity. King Arthur then received a new sword from the Lady of the Lake, which was exclusively then called Excalibur.

"The Lady of the Lake" delivering the TRUE Sword Excalibur

    Sir Thomas Malory distinguished the sword in the stone from the sword he received from the Lady of the Lake, and it was only this second sword that was the true Excalibur in the 15th Century. His "Le Morte D'Arthur" is the work most modern authors use as their source and it differs greatly from earlier versions dating back to pre-historic tales of heathen gods and fairy kings which were modified and expanded upon in the 13th century Vulgate Cycle, also known as the Lancelot-Grail Cycle, and in the Post-Vulgate Cycle which surfaced in its wake. Primitive cultures often remodeled the older myths to adapt to changes wrought by religion, revolution, war or  technology, and usually glossed over the brutality and corrupt motives. Motion pictures have composited many of these events creating new versions of the ever evolving legends of King Arthur!

 

 

Merlin and Morgan Le Fay

 

"The Education of Morgan Le Fay" MMXII

   Little of the Merlin legend in Le Morte d'Arthur is completely new and the tales from his earlier life are omitted. The main events in the Arthurian Cycle include Merlin's king-making role, his influencing the Archbishop of Canterbury to summon all the lords who would be king to assemble in London at Christmas, and to come to mass and pray and afterward the great marble stone is seen with the sword in it with the famous inscription that whoever draws the sword is "rightwise king born of all England." His guidance was then crucial in persuading the barons to support the young king in his wars against the rebel kings, as was his guidance to Arthur in battle. Merlin got King Arthur his sword Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake, who was ultimately to be his undoing. He was smitten with her and went far away and taught her his craft until she tired of him,  betrayed him and left him imprisoned him in a cave.

     The original Merlin (Myrddin) legend is not associated with King Arthur. In Welsh poems he was a prophetic Wild Man living in the Caledonian forest in the 6th century. Other Scottish sources name this Wild Man as Lailoken, not Myrddin, but the story is similar. These and the Welsh monk Nennius, Myrddin and Ambrosius evolved into Merlin as the prophet and wizard popularly associated with the Arthurian legends.  He had mentored British kings for generations, led armies into war, made many prophecies, and worked great feats of magic, so great that Morgan Le Fey, King Arthur's sister would not let him rest until he agreed to train her.

       Morgan Le Fey; Beautiful sister of King Arthur and famed Arthurian sorceress, was said to be "the most frightful witch in all Christendom'. She was a shape-shifter, a healer, incarnation of a benevolent fairy, a heathen priestess, and sole personage of Avalon the Isle of Apples,  a sea goddess, the daughter of Goloris, (the Duke of Cornwall) and Igraine , mother of Mordred, (who was also King Arthur's incestuous son,) the lady-in-waiting to Queen Guinevere, the wife of Uriens, secret lover of Sir Accolon, an admirer of Sir Lancelot, and 'as fair a lady as any might be' among other things. She first appeared in Arthurian legend around AD 1150, but her true origin stems from Celtic mythology and like so many Arthurian characters, evolves with each re-telling. Due to the negative attitude toward supernatural women in the middle ages, she became more and more humanized. She was likely once the dreaded Morrigu (Morrigan) of Irish mythology and 'Le Fay' is an ancient word for a fairy and the Breton name for a water-nymph is a 'Morgan'. She was often associated with scheming and mischief but never turns entirely evil. Her attractive qualities remain; a healer, associated with art and culture, she was extremely aqttractive, and in the end is worthy of redemption. At the Arthurian Cycle's grand finale, she and her allies, the Queen of the Wastelands, the Queen of Northgalis, and  other fair damsels, including Nimue, the Lady of the Lake, took the slowly dying Arthur to Avalon in hopes of seeing him healed after his final battle.

 

Knights in Shining Armor

This magnificent King Arthur as we now know him... the King Arthur riding around on a mighty steed in shining plate armor rescuing beautiful maidens and performing noble deeds such as questing for the Holy Grail really did not appear until the 12th century A.D. This is the earliest appearance of the plate armour wearing King Arthur and  the knights of the Round Table that we know so well in our literature, motion pictures and  folklore.

"Sir Gawain" MMX

"The Angels of Forgiveness" MMX

A great deal of spirituality and mysticism has also been associated with the King Arthur legends as well. In fact, there have been many versions of King Arthur growing out of the popular oral traditions before the printed book appeared.  Since the legends of King Arthur are an ongoing and developing mythology it is reasonable to say all these various incarnations - A Pre-Historic Totemic deity, A Fairy King, A Celtic god, A Romano-British King, A King in Chain Mail and a King in shining plate armour are each correct  - from a certain point of view!
The Code of Chivalry

"The Age of Chivalry" MMV [The damsel in distress]

 

     No collection of Art work devoted to the Legends of King Arthur would be complete without a damsel in distress or a villainous scoundrel like Mordred performing an abduction, making treacherous alliances and doing foul deeds.

     The Code of Chivalry demanded a knight be always ready with his armor on, except when taking his rest at night. That he defend ALL women, as well as the poor and the weak without reward, to be honest at all times no matter what the cost and of course to defend his faith, his home and his country with his life.  

        In "De Casibus Virorum Illustrium" Giovanni Boccaccio states these basic rules of the Knights of the Round Table: *To never lay down arms* To seek after wonders* When called upon, to defend the rights of the weak with all one's strength*To injure no one*Not to attack one another*To fight for the safety of one's country*To give one's life for one's country*To seek nothing before honor*Never to break faith for any reason*To practice religion most diligently*To grant hospitality to anyone, each according to his ability*Whether in honor or disgrace, to make a report with the greatest fidelity to truth to those who keep annals*

 

 

The Fair Ladies of Camelot

 

     

Down to towered Camelot; And by the moon the reaper weary,
Piling sheaves in uplands airy, Listening, whispers " 'Tis the fairy Lady of Shalott."

"The Lady of Shalott" (2010) Above was inspired by Tennyson and paintings of the same name by J. W. Waterhouse and borrows from the Hon. John Collier.

 

     Of course the most notable and desperately beautiful of the Arthurian Fair Maidens is King Arthur's wife Queen Guinevere, whose name means "Gwen the Great" She was "the loveliest woman in all the island". She evolved from the Celtic queen and mother goddess Gwenhwyvar. She was the daughter of Leodegrance, previous owner of the Round Table, which she brought together with a hundred knights for her dowry when she wed Arthur.  When the barons suggested it was time the young king took a wife, he told Merlin that he loved Guinevere, but Merlin warned him that she wasn't wholesome enough to be his wife.  A Celtic queen was equal in status to a King and conducted their affairs unhindered. Queen Guinevere's involvement with other men, willingly or unwillingly, was an ongoing theme throughout the Arthurian Cycle. Guinevere's abductions are the epitome of the damsel in distress, though she was never in danger of death, but the object of desire. Guinevere, Arthur, and Lancelot, formed the most celebrated love-triangle in European literature.

      Tragically, the ideal woman, Guinevere remained childless, morally dubious, an unfaithful woman who loved a man to whom she could never give children. Lancelot did  rescue her from being burnt at the stake for adultery. In the end, Guinevere's undying affection for her equally devoted Lancelot, and her betrayal of King Arthur to Mordred ended the fellowship of the Round Table and brought about the fall of Camelot. But as Sir Thomas Malory said, "She was a true lover and therefore she had a good end."

"The Queen's Champion" (MMX) Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere.

      The Knights of the Round Table were virtuous but not perfect; King Arthur loved many women like Biblical Kings David and Solomon and suffered similar negative familial consequences. He had two sons, both born out of wedlock, Sir Loholt by Lisanor, a knight of the Round Table and, Mordred, (Medrawt) son of Morgan Le Fay sought only to kill him and take his power and Kingly position. It was Mordred's betrayal that led to the great battle that saw King Arthur's final undoing.

 

The Holy Grail

 

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     In the King Arthur legends the quest for the Holy Grail was the highest spiritual undertaking for a knight. The Holy Grail is the cup from which Christ drank at the Last Supper and Joseph of Arimathea used it to catch Christ's blood and sweat during the crucifixion. The Round Table of Camelot recreated the table of the Grail built by Joseph of Arimathea as an archetype of the table from the Lord's Supper. Through many adventures over many years, Knights of the Round Table searched Britain high and low for it. Sir Galahad was the chief Grail knight, though other knights, Perceval and Bors also achieved the quest, achieving fulfillment- seeing grail and man lifted up to heaven as Moses, Elijah and Enoch were in the Bible. The quest for a divine vessel was a popular theme in more ancient British mythologies. Celtic Cauldrons were of great religious importance, as evidenced in the Arthurian Cycle and much older Celtic mythological legends. It appears in the Mabinogion tale of Culhwch and Olwen, and in the "Spoils of the Otherworld" in which the Celtic Arthur and his warriors voyage to the Celtic Otherworld to obtain the pearl-rimmed Cauldron of Annwfn and like the grail it was both a bringer of prophecy and prosperity.

 

 

British Kings and Dragons

 

"King Uther and the Dragon's Breath" MMI

        Dragons make both physical and symbolic appearances in Arthurian legend, Arthur, like his father Uther, was called "Pendragon," (Head Dragon). As a warrior-king it associates him with its fearsome qualities. Merlin's prophecy to King Vortigern reveals that Vortigern's tower cannot stand because its foundation rests over the den of two struggling dragons. Once the dragons are released from the ground, the white dragon kills the red one and then dies itself. Although Merlin said that the dragons symbolize Vortigern and those who will defeat him, this prophecy suggests a more foreboding interpretation to an audience aware of Camelot's immenent fall. Merlin's prophetic relationship with the Kings of Britian had been  profound for generations, and accounts as far back as AD 574 describe them in various forms.

    It is in "The History of the Kings of Britain" (Historia Regum Britanniae) written by Geoffrey of Monmouth in the 12th century, that the Arthurian legend with Merlin begins to take shape. King Vortigern had mystical adventures before he had two sons, Pendragon and Uther see combat under the banners of the white and red dragons and then died a fiery death. Pendragon becomes king and with Uther and Merlin repel the invading Saxons. Pendragon is slain in battle at Salisbury, and Uther then takes the throne and, as Merlin advises, calls himself Uther Pendragon and created the Round Table as a replica of the table of the Grail built by Joseph of Arimathea which was a type of the table of the Last Supper and in memorial to the slain Britons grants his blessing to  Merlin to bring the stones from Ireland and build Stonehenge.

    King Uther Pendragon, father of Arthur had a vision of a dragon that was considered a mighty omen. Uther took one of Merlin's potions which rendered him an exact likeness of Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall and husband of Igraine. He was then able to gain entrance the castle and to Igraine. Thinking he was her husband, she allowed Uther into her bed, and King Arthur was conceived.  Uther began a tradition of using the Dragons war like and terrible effigies as standards, carrying them into battle to "strike fear into the hearts of the heathen." Dragons were a very real terror even as late as 1564 appearing as part of the fauna known to medieval naturalists in the classic "Historia animalium" of Conrad Gesner.

     Dragons were at times also conceived as beneficent powers - wiley and sharp eyed dwellers of the innermost portions of the Earth, wise to discover it's secrets and utter them in oracles, or powerful to invoke as guardian Genii ( Djinn ). In the sacred Hebrew texts ( The Holy Bible ) the Serpent or Dragon was the source of sin and death, a conception which was adopted by the New Testament and so passed into Knightly Christendom. Dragons and other mythic creatures were painted on shields and the Vikings carved Dragons heads onto the prows of their ships.

     The Dragon myths of the east took new forms in the west in the legends of the victories of St. Michael and St. George. The Dragon is a guardian of hoards, a greedy withholder of good things from men; keen witted rulers of cavernous underworlds. Dragons were usually a power of evil, and the slaying of a dragon the crowning achievement of heroes. Sigfried, Siegmund, Beowulf, Arthur, Tristram, and even Lancelot the "beau Ideal" of Medieval chivalry were all dragon slayers...The King Arthur legends are still continuously a part of our modern culture in motion pictures, art, music, & literature and are constantly evolving to the delight of ordinary people and defying historians everywhere.

"Defenders of the Faith" MMX

 

 

The belief in dragons seems to have risen all over the world without even the slightest knowledge of dinosaurs...

 

   

 

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The Boy King

Bibliography/Acknowledgements

Howard Pyle: "The Story of King Arthur and his Knights" T. H. White: "The Sword in the Stone" Mr. E. W. B. Nicholson, M.A.  "Keltic Researches" John Rhys: "Studies in the Arthurian Legend" and " Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion as Illustrated by Celtic Heathendom" Alfred Nutt: "Popular studies in Mythology, Romance, and Folklore" Nennius: Historia Britonum and  "Le Mort D' Arthur" Sir Thomas Mallory

Music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky ( 1840- 1893) - "Swan Lake"

 

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Howard Pyle's "The Story of King Arthur" was one of my boyhood favorites along with T .H. White's "The Sword in the Stone" and "The Boy's King Arthur" by Thomas Mallory illustrated by N.C. Wyeth.

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Bonus Section:

Personal Opinion Essays on Realistic Art yesterday and today by the artist and more Art.

ABOUT THE ARTIST

"Those who are enamoured of practice without science are like a pilot who goes into a ship without rudder or compass and never has any certainty where he is going. Practice should always be based upon a sound knowledge of theory, of which perspective is the guide and gateway, and without it nothing can be done well in any kind of painting."

Howard David Johnson is a contemporary visual artist and photographer with a background in
the natural sciences and history. He works in a wide variety of media ranging from traditional
oils,  pastels and others to cutting edge digital media. He loves mixing media. This site features
examples of his Realistic Art, including illustration, photography, experimentalism, and fine art.

     The various galleries linked to by the icons above show many examples of His Realistic Art, and are grouped by theme rather than media. There are also sample illustrations from his  upcoming books on Celtic Myth and Legend and World Myth & Legend. Since boyhood he has passionately copied the old masters. To create his work, he usually starts with a thematic concept  followed by a rough realistic pencil sketch, then followed by his photography, often traveling to find suitable scenes and locations and then working in his Photography studio with live models from his sketches. He then assembles a variety of elements which are realistic and original. As a boy he dedicated his life to art in 1960. From 1965- 1999 he used Xeroxes and tracings to make his preliminary photo montages. This is patterned after  the manner used by Maxfield Parrish and other 19th century notables. Beginning with a tracing, he then draws or paints from these complex original Computer Photo Montages. Many of these are on display on this web and slated for future completion in a variety of realistic traditional art media. As this happens, the finished work is substituted in the exhibit. Recently he shot hundreds of aerial photos of clouds at marvelous angles and perspectives and also looking down on the mighty mountains, rivers, and deserts of the American west while flying from Texas to Oregon and back for dynamic source material for realistic flying scenes in upcoming paintings , drawings, and pictures. 

His favourite medium for realistic art is colored pencil because of the high speed and low expense, and people began expressing difficulty in telling his colored pencil drawing from photographs in the early 1980's.  In the last 35 plus years he has also mastered Oils, Pastels, Acrylics, Watercolors, Inks, Scratchboard, Gouache, Photography, and the highly controversial digital media ( Art Numérica ) . As a commercial illustrator Johnson has not only used the computer to create art but has been involved in the development of computer imaging software. Working in a realistic style inspired by classic illustrators David is deeply rooted and grounded in the Greco-Roman artistic tradition, Feeling that with realistic art, the human form is the ultimate arena for artistic expression. His lifelong dream came true when his Traditional Realistic Art was exhibited in the British Museum in London England in 1996. His mixed media has also been displayed in numerous other ones since such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Having achieved international acclaim as a traditional visual artist he discovered digital media ( Art Numérica ) in 1999. Because of his passion for realistic art and photography he elected to embrace it and joyfully be a part of this historic era in the visual arts as a 21st century realistic visual artist.

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( Unblended Spectracolor pencils on # 400 Strathmore Bristol board )

Since 1972 when he began his career as a scientific illustrator for the University of Texas he has earned his living illustrating all kinds of books, magazines, CD covers, and all sorts of games, greeting cards, calendars, portraits, murals and the like with his contemporary realistic art... H. D. J. 's Realistic Art has appeared in every major bookstore chain and fantasy gaming shop in The United States and has been used in educational texts and magazines all over the world. This site features realistic paintings & pictures for the twenty-first Century including some oil paintings, as well as lots of other exciting media such as colored pencil drawings, pastel paintings, acrylic paintings, gouache paintings, watercolor paintings, and pencil drawings, and also featuring studio,  field, & aerial photography,  digital painting and photo-montage and all these media mixed in an assortment of experimental combinations...Working in a wide variety of media to create his realistic art he offers his customers a host of payment and product options. He delivers the rights to these custom made copyright free illustrations and old fashioned customer service when he does work-for-hire.

 

    HDJ's Mythic Art creations take their inspiration from the realistic paintings of the old masters just as West Side Story came from Romeo and Juliet. 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? Thomas Nast's Santa Claus without traditional images of Father Christmas? Pablo Picasso without African art? Public domain appropriators, one and all. H.D.J. accepts select commissions to paint custom oil paintings with down payments starting at only one thousand dollars. He grants permission for most educational purposes simply for the asking. To use his existing realistic art works outside the classroom he offers low cost license offers starting around $100.00.

Use the  e-mail links above or below to contact him...

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In addition to his mastery of traditional media, Howard David Johnson now combines drawing, painting, photography, and digital media with more than thirty years of experience in these fields to create his Realistic Art Numérica in 21st century paintings and pictures. Did you know the Greek word "Photography" means "Painting with Light"? Today with the advent of computers it truly lives up to it's name. Due to developments in Art and Technology, a broader definition of painting is needed than that which is found in common usage. Announcing Art Numérica -an exciting merger of traditional visual art and cutting edge technology... a new art form for the twenty- first century... Art Numérica is not limited to realistic art but also offers limitless horizons for everything from cartoons to abstractions. It is the most dramatic development in the visual arts since the Renaissance. In the words of Al Jolson in the movie world's first talking picture" You ain't seen nothin' yet!"

Essay One: "THE MORE THINGS CHANGE, THE MORE THEY STAY THE SAME..."

(A Brief essay dealing with attitudes toward Traditional Realistic Paintings, Pastels, Colored Pencils and Art Numérica )

"Painting, in art, the action of laying colour on a surface, or the representation of objects by this means. Considered one of the fine arts"

~Encyclopaedia Britannica. 

"Painting. noun. 1.) The act or employment of laying on colors or paints. 2.) The art of forming figures or objects in colors on canvas or any other surface, or the art of representing to the eye by means of figures and colors any object; the work of an illustrator or painter. 3.) A picture; a likeness or resemblance in shape or colors. 4.) Colors laid on. 5.) Delineation that raises a vivid image in the mind; as in word painting.

~ Webster's Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language

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Pastel, Acrylics, and Colored Pencils combined

Snobbism in the arts is nothing new. Some people will tell you that oils are the only valid medium for realistic paintings. That Colored Pencil, Digital, and other Realistic Painting and Drawing Media are not valid  for "real" art. Young artists, Don't let them bother you. Their forerunners used to condemn Pastels before they gained acceptance and called them "crayons" when Johann Alexander Thiele (1685-1752) invented them.  Mercilessly disrespectful  art critics of the time could not stop the Experimentalists no matter how viciously they attacked and derided them. "Crayon-painting" as it was called in England was practiced early on by persecuted pioneers in Switzerland and many other nations. What a debt we owe to these master artists who refused to knuckle under to the pressure of those short-sighted critics during those historic and experimental times. It took until 1870 with the founding of the "Societe` Des Pastellistes" in France that respect came  at last to these heroic & immortal visual artists.

In England the liberation of the Pastellists from slight regard and undeserved disrespect came with the first exhibition of "The Pastel Society" at the Grosvenor Gallery in 1880. Pastel Painters like Mary Cassat and others from America and other nations forever silenced  the snobs with their masterworks and gained recognition at long last for Thiele's invention as a valid art medium. I am persuaded that history will repeat itself.  Like Pastels, I believe these wonderful new colored pencils and even Digital Realistic Art Media will one day receive the recognition they deserve as powerful mediums of artistic expression just as pastel paintings did. What is your definition of art? Have you thought about it?

Mine is: "anything that makes you feel or think."

     Consider dancing... it can be a little skip in the step or rise to the level of the incomparable Russian Ballet. Did you know that just the materials alone for a single oil painting cost up to a thousand dollars these days? Even paying the artist less than minimum wage no one but the super rich can afford them anymore. Something's got to give. Realistic paintings in oil have been highly prized for centuries and the appeal and following of realistic art is undiminished to this day. Oil paintings featuring Abstract Art and Realistic Art are generally the most treasured form of all the visual art media and with good reason. But snobbish art critics  favoring abstract art have declared  that realistic paintings, or illustrations are not art for a century. With so many representationalist  paintings by so many immortal master artists hanging in the Louvre, the Hermitage, and the British Museum and others I think the disrespect for realistic illustrators that dominated the 20th century is academically ridiculous as well as vain and intolerant, insisting theirs is the only valid opinion. What is your definition of Art? I believe almost any form of human expression can be raised to the level of "high art" especially  visual art and Realistic illustration...

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The detail reveals Realistic art and abstract art combined

        By my own definition of art, which is: "anything that makes you feel or think" most abstract paintings are not "real art" to me personally, because abstract paintings usually neither make me feel or think,  usually focusing obsessively on technique and avoiding any coherent content. I usually draw a complete blank mentally and emotionally when I look at them. In 1979 the Houston Metropolitan Museum of Art displayed a triptych of 3 giant   paintings they paid fifty thousand dollars for-  three blank white canvasses entitled "untitled". Then there was "The incredible new artistic Genius" with an I.Q. of 62 ...Congo the chimpanzee with his gala New York art exhibition...an elaborate prank played on the Snobbish American Art critics about a generation ago by research scientists in the field of primatology. Imagine how upset they were when he created one of his "ingenious masterpieces" right before their eyes.

( My Source for this is the Time Life Science Library volume entitled "The Primates". )

      Art education has been almost completely removed from American Schools as a result of generations of this kind of  fabulous nonsense contributing to America's cultural illiteracy crisis. Now, the works of Leonardo Da Vinci, Michaelangelo, and other notables are being removed from school libraries.  After generations of this, most American college graduates today cannot name even one living visual artist, abstract or realistic.

There is no way that mandating more math, requiring more reading, or scheduling more science will replace what we have lost as a culture.    

What is your definition of Art?

~Howard David Johnson

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Note: Abstract Paintings by Congo the Chimpanzee outsold Warhol and Renoir by over 25,000 dollars in June 2005 at a London art auction. Born in 1954, Congo created more than 400 drawings and paintings between the ages of two and four. He died in 1964 of tuberculosis.

 

Essay Two : The Rebirth of Realism

More thoughts on realistic art yesterday and today by the artist

Art History has entered a new era with the birth of Art Numérica, or digital art media in the 21st century. Artists never stop exploring with mediums. Artists have been developing techniques, experimenting with different tools since at least twenty- five thousand years ago, when the first artist picked up a charred stick and scratched a picture out on the wall of his cave. You'd think everything would have been tried by now, but it hasn't. Exploring new mediums this very day is just as exciting, just as full of freshness and newness as it ever was.

    

 Photography, Drawing, Painting and Art Numérica combined

The creation of Realistic art has been the goal of most artists since the dawn of  civilization. Realistic art was the pride of ancient Greece. The world's greatest museums are full of realistic art. Realistic art WAS art until the advent of the abstract expressionist movement in the twentieth century. The coming of the camera in the nineteenth century changed realistic art forever. Suddenly, realistic art was not the only way to create realism in portraits and historical records. The work of the realistic artist was suddenly made into an expensive luxury. The political power of the realistic artist was broken and they were no longer an indispensable member of society. Hostility to the creators of realistic art goes back to ancient times and the jealousy of advisers to the Pharaohs and others who were not able to spend as much time with their rulers as their portraitists.    Although with the aid of photographs, realistic art achieved levels of excellence undreamed of, the realistic art movement of the late nineteenth century was short.
     None of these people earning their living creating realistic art could compete with the speed and low cost of photographic portraiture.  Determined to survive, great realistic artists like Pablo Picasso ingeniously turned inward and began to explore things that could not be photographed in a new school of art, abstract expressionism. The day of the fine art superstars had arrived. It was now largely just a hobby to abstract and realistic artists alike. Illustration, because of advances in printing technology enabled an elite few to earn a living with their realistic art. These illustrators working in realistic art media  were condemned and ridiculed in much the same way Europe's great symphonic composers were condemned for working in motion pictures after fleeing the nazis during World War Two. The rift between realistic and abstract art grew wider and wider. The universities and key media usually sided with the abstract camp and derided anyone working in any realistic art media declaring boldly that realistic art was not "real" art. Immortal giants of realistic art such as Maxfield Parrish were mistreated their entire lives. They were accused of selling out for creating beautiful pieces of realistic fine art to earn a living. The attitude that the true artist must suffer and starve and die in poverty became a rule. There were the Abstract art superstars, the professional realistic illustrators, and the hobbyists who, although cut off from gainful employment and social influence still recognized their artistic gifts as a calling rather than a profession.

          Early abstract art  masters proved themselves as realistic artists before delving into realms of the intangible. They had to do this at that time to prove themselves because of the challenges they faced from the establishment  for going against the status quo. In the latter part of the 20th century, realistic artists like HDJ were challenged to do abstract art to prove themselves as shown in the example above (Deirdre of the sorrows). Later realistic art training was abandoned in most schools and things like splattering paint in fits of rage  were deemed more than enough. By the end of the 20th century something as destructive and ridiculous as nailing a pack of cigarettes to a shoe was considered fine art but not realistic paintings. Fashions in art have often been as silly as fashions in ladies hats.  As the century drew to a close, many people had had enough. The realistic revolt was at hand. The rebirth of realism was fueled by the advent of the digital era. Now, for the first time in almost two centuries, an artist or illustrator could earn a decent living again with his realistic art. This is historic. Realistic art is not going to go away, especially now that photography has truly merged with traditional realistic visual art. Photography comes from the Greek words meaning "painting with light". Now with the advent of digital media the capability of realistic art has become almost limitless, truly, "painting with light". The merger of all the world's art forms to realize the potential of motion pictures has come now to still realistic art media. This website for example, combines music, prose, poetry, photography and traditional realistic art media to create an experience beyond merely looking at realistic paintings.

        The twenty- first century is already seeing a new renaissance in the arts because of the world wide web. There has never been anything like it. Abstract art, computer art, photographic art, and realistic art are continuing to be separate schools of art but are also blending to create exciting new horizons. Although Digital art does offer completely new horizons to the artist in the 21st century it does not mean the end of our time honored art traditions. Instead, it offers additional ways to keep these traditions and schools of thought  fresh and alive. ~ HDJ

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HOW DO WE SORT OUT HISTORY AND MYTHOLOGY?

A brief essay by the artist

         

          As a professional Illustrator I am called upon to illustrate Legends of History and Mythology, Fact and Fantasy, the Sacred and the Profane. In as much as I have endeavored to sort them out accordingly, it has become one of the more fascinating challenges I have ever faced. As I am ever mentioning, the advances of science are constantly giving us a clearer view of the past even causing Mythology to become History as in the case of the Trojan Wars, the legendary Helen of Troy, and the Trojan Horse. The archaeological excavations of Troy may prove the existence of the city of Troy and the Trojan War. They in no way make The Iliad a history book however, because of the unprovable spiritual and religious occurrences in the narrative. This sorting out of myth and legend from history is no less difficult today because of their intertwining influences on one another.

         Consider as a more recent example of this problem, 20th century American President Theodore Roosevelt. He lives in history because of his heroic charge up San Juan hill with his legendary roughriders. When this story was printed in William Randolph Hearst's newspapers it catapulted him to fame and ushered him into the White House as a glorious American War Hero. Everyone has seen the paintings and statues of Teddy Roosevelt and his roughriders dressed in khaki, mounted on horseback and charging fearlessly forward waving their swords. In reality, it was a group of Heroic African American Buffalo Soldiers who took San Juan Hill in spite of their heavy casualties. They did not wear khaki. They were not mounted on horseback, but were foot soldiers in the same dark blue uniforms of the U.S. cavalry as worn during the Indian Wars. Roosevelt's group actually took a nearby Hill against light resistance but Hearst said that would not sell newspapers so he created an American Myth. So as we see, here is something taught to children in schools as history is just not true at all, but yet, this myth shaped the true history of the world in  the 20th century and beyond.

            If Teddy Roosevelt had not been elected president, neither would his nephew, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who provided very real and crucial leadership during the Great Depression and the Second World War. Neither would Theodore Roosevelt have built the Panama Canal or established the conservation of our natural resources. So here we see Modern Myth not only influencing, but creating History. In reality, I perceive Theodore Roosevelt was a much greater president than history gives him credit for. Although it is true his kindness created the "Teddy Bear", He really was also fit and trim, vigorous and active, and a very tough president in his foreign policies. He was instrumental in America's emergence as a world power. It is also true that he came from the upper upper class - old money in New York with a background of great wealth and limitless luxury and chose to be an outdoorsman, a cowboy, and soldier. When he was given office, he embraced the concept of being a good Shepherd , of seeking justice for all Americans - for this he was called a "traitor to his class".

         Actually, he is the savior of his class. In my estimation, it is President Theodore Roosevelt who is most responsible for the end of the then imminent threat of communist revolution or takeover in America. Throughout the early 20th century Socialist Revolutions were sweeping across the globe. Conditions for the workers in America were appalling. Child Labor, dangerous working conditions, ungodly long hours, degradation, and shockingly low pay. When Karl Marx wrote his "Communist Manifesto" he never dreamed of an affluent MIDDLE class. A middle class that is comfortable and savoring, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is not going to rise up in murderous anger and "Storm the Bastile". What Global Communism could not contend with was America's happy and prosperous middle class. Theodore Roosevelt practically invented America's affluent middle class and eliminated the threat of Communist revolution in America.  Although he was well loved, he was also hated and caught tremendous heat from the wealthy elite for sharing a small portion of their wealth with the common man. He saved them from a Second American Revolution by customizing capitalism to a kinder, gentler form than the horrors of the late 19th century. Like General Winfield Scott, who won The American Civil War before it started, he defeated his foes with an idea. If the Robber Barons had had their way, their greed could well have caused America to fall to communism. Today, we have a new generation of robber barons but no Teddy to stand up for the little guys. I feel the true history about American President Theodore Roosevelt is more amazing than the myth, but they are interwoven and inseparable, without the one, we would not have the other. He was both a glorious and a tragic figure. As a leader and as a man I believe he is badly underestimated. It was only when his beloved son, nicknamed "Quinnykins" died fighting in World War One that he finally saw through all the myths and glamour to see the awful truth about war face on. He never got over his guilt for glorifying war to his son. We could all learn a lot from his experiences.

         War costs money...trillions of dollars. War takes human lives...millions of them! War makes children old, breaks parent's hearts, kills morale. War destroys cities, art treasures, civilization! The first world war alone cost thirty million lives and 4 trillion dollars when adjusted to the buying power of modern U.S. dollars. With the money at the time we could have built a three bedroom two bath house furnished with fine hardwood furniture on five acres of quality land for every family in The United States, Canada, Australia, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France, Belgium, Germany and Russia. There would have been enough left to build and stock a first class library and a proper university in every town of 20,000 people or more. Out of the balance we could pay the salaries for life of 125,000 teachers and 125,000 nurses. The remaining balance could have bought 1919 Belgium and France and everything in them.

           I see History as an endless waltz. Three beats over and over. War, Peace, and Revolution. Three beats over and over in an endless cycle of death, destruction, and regeneration. An Endless Waltz... and those who do not learn the lessons of history are doomed to dance this deadly waltz and pay this Frightful price for War. As modern technology such as jet aircraft and thermonuclear missles make the world smaller & more dangerous everyday, tolerating each other's racial, social, & religious differences & living together in peace has now become key to the continued survival of mankind through the 21st century...

~H. D. Johnson

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