RESOURCES FOR STUDENTS WRITING REPORTS
This is Erich, Professor Johnson’s educational consultant and youngest son. He wishes he had time to answer all your letters about reports personally but there are just too many. I am a certified teacher formerly employed by the state of Texas in Austin and prepared this response letter for students writing reports with links to topics themes and essays and an unpublished interview below.
Bio data and interviews are here:
In depth personal interview:
An unpublished interview is at the bottom of this page.
Mediums and Techniques: They are often but not always listed on purpose, the inability of some people to tell his oil paintings from digital mixed media has gained new respect for the far faster and less expensive digital mediums. If the medium he used is not specifically listed it is likely mixed media.
Dates of creation: They are often but not always listed, usually in Roman numerals. If the date is not shown list it as (ca. 2006-10)
Styles: He works in many like photo-realism and fantastic realism and has articles on them here:
Genres: he works in many and has dozens of pages devoted to them like:
I } Realistic Art Media and Attitudes: The more things change, the more they stay the same
II } Realistic Art Tradition and Technology: The Rebirth of Realistic art in the 21st century
III } History and Myth: How do we sort out History and Mythology?
IV } Science and Religion: Has Science become a Religion?
V } Sensuality, Violence, Morality, and their relationships with the Arts in 21st century American Society
VI } Copyright Law and the Visual Arts in the Computer Age
VII } On Art and Technology; When seeing is NOT believing
Art and Technology: From the Camera to the Computer
A brief overview of the shifting cultural attitudes toward Realistic Art in the last 150 years
~Essay #8 by Howard David Johnson
The first decade of the 21st Century has seen a grass-roots counter-revolution in the art world which has overthrown the stranglehold elitist proponents of Abstract expressionism gained on academia, the media and the art world at large in the early 20th Century.
Realistic Art was declared obsolete and irrelevant at the beginning of the 20th Century due to the easy chronicling of persons, places, and events by the Camera - in spite of this new technology empowering the greatest era in Realistic Art history. The “Modern Day Artist” refused to die and began to explore realms of the heart and mind the camera could not record. The proponents of Abstract Expressionism gained control of elite art collector’s markets followed by academic institutions and the media leading to the abandonment of centuries of classical teaching methods and traditions in our universities. Even the best realistic art was later denounced and ridiculed as the dismissive and often even hostile Art establishment created elitist scorn for Realistic Art in general. This created a disconnect with the general population who could not relate to the tenets of Abstract Expressionism. The advent of the internet broke the absolute domination of the opinions of the Abstract School on media and academia and opened the floodgates of artistic expression and free opinions. Free at last from institutionalized condemnation, more and more artists began to choose realistic treatments and a tidal wave of fabulous new realistic art has been created in every conceivable visual art media for museums, galleries, books, movies, and video games.
As the camera became commercially available in the early 19th Century it became clear that the visual artist was no longer an indispensable member of society. Just about anyone could point and shoot this device at persons, places, and things and get very fast and very realistic results. Resentment from thousands of years of artists’ social and political influence fueled the notion that visual artists should be declared obsolete. The adoption of the camera as an artist’s tool and the advent of an era of glorious and unprecedented realism in painting did not stop the movement to crush the political and social influence of the artist.
Great realistic artists like Pablo Picasso and others like Vincent Van Gogh courageously answered this challenge by exploring concepts that could not be photographed with brilliant and visionary works. It was from these honest and ingenious notions that the schools and sub-schools of Abstract Art developed. The freshness and innovation of this movement took the art world and academia by storm. The excitement of defining the tenets and the delight of bewildering the masses gave rise to an elite class of critics who could control the lucrative art collector’s market with obfuscation and intellectual snobbery.
This wealthy art collector’s market gave credence to Abstract Expressionism’s “high art” status and the advice of well placed critics became extremely valuable and they formed an alliance with like-minded academics. As time passed, this trendy movement whose concepts were so hard to argue with gained control of the establishment and elitism took root. It was not long before traditional painting methods were not taught in universities any more as realistic art was no longer considered “Real Art” and tenets like; “Art must be ugly”, Art must be new” Art must be obscure”, and “The best Art is offensive” took hold in schools and printed media.
Not satisfied with control over the most lucrative galleries, collector’s markets and academia, these elitists moved from dismissive to openly hostile attitudes toward those who still loved and created realistic art. The merciless and unprovoked rebukes of great realistic artists like Norman Rockwell, N.C. Wyeth and so many others are well documented in 20th century histories. That’s not “Real Art” and why do you waste your talent on “Mere Illustration” were some of the nicer comments. Illustrators in the 20th century wore these rebukes like badges of honor, like black eyes gained from standing up to schoolyard bullies, knowing in their hearts what they were doing was worthwhile and the narrow minded views of their critics were not the only valid opinions. By the end of the 20th century, the long apprenticeship tradition was broken and classical realistic art methods were lost forever. The Shock Art movement in the 1990’s carried the tenets to new extremes as “ART” became a dirty word. U.S. Government Endowments for the Arts were discontinued. Abstract Art had become the norm with its obfuscated themes and was then itself considered irrelevant and academically worthless. Art programs were then removed from countless public school curriculums to make time for standardized test preparation. There is no way that mandating more math, requiring more reading, or scheduling more science will replace what we have lost as a culture.
At the turn of the 21st Century the Abstract Expressionists had been in control for generations with a thought control blockade in books, newspapers, radio, television and schools. Anyone who disagreed with them was told they were too stupid to understand “Real Art” and theirs was the only voice to be heard. What had begun so beautifully and sincerely was hijacked and violated until it became a byword for vulgarity. Then came the internet and the realistic artists, long silenced began to express their views. It was like the boy who cried: “The Emperor has no clothes!” This revelation spread like wildfire through the cultural consciousness. Suddenly, it was no longer a disgrace to hold something other than those narrow views. Galleries on the internet showcased generations of repressed artists realistic works in a tidal wave art history calls: “the Realistic Revolt”. Of course, Abstract Art still flourishes today especially on college campuses, but the narrow views of its most fanatical proponents are no longer cruelly dominant.
The Realistic Revolt has brought the return of respectability to illustration and realistic landscape and portraiture. When I see the works of today’s vast multitude of realistic artists coming from a thousand different directions at once, tears come to my eyes, for I have worn the title “illustrator” as a badge of honor for decades and am deeply moved to have lived to see new developments in art and technology drive the visual arts to levels of quality beyond my wildest dreams. I predict 3D and digital media will grow more and more realistic until photos seem noticeably inferior. The internet has not only opened the floodgates for artistic expression, but employment and untold artists are earning a living shattering the “Starving Artist” stereotype so engrained in our cultural consciousness. The beginning of the 20th century saw technology threatening the survival of the professional artist and the end of it saw the unbridled tenets of Abstract Expressionism like “Art must be offensive” threatening the very existence of art as a part of our culture, the modern day artist has once again refused to die and has embraced technology to create a rebirth of realism that Art critics, collectors, academics and everyday folk can all embrace and celebrate in ways I once feared had been lost to us forever.
~ Howard David Johnson (2012)
MORE BIOGRAPHICAL QUESTIONS
Q: Could you tell me a bit about the early days of your Early Art Career - circa 1973-83?
A: I was one of three hired by DC comics in a nationwide talent hunt in 1973 and was set to reap the rewards of all my years of discipline, hard work and self-training as a boy but my father opposed it and I couldn't get to New York in time. My first actual art job was with Sosart, a commercial art agency in San Antonio Texas. I left to design and build Fantasy Land for Joske's of Texas a Christmas indoor theme park, after that I was transferred to the Ad dept. and quit. I got a job building a wooden armadillo and plastering over it and painting it so people could have their picture taken. I then took on a job as a scientific research consultant for the University of Texas at San Antonio going on digs to Mexico and Canada for Dinosaur bones and anthropological artifacts. They were not allowed to photograph the artifacts by law so I drew them and did reconstructions of the sites with fighting dinosaurs on land and illustrated and reconstructed the big Mososaur, the proudest find of University of Texas hunting at sea in a wild action pose leaping up and tearing a pterodactyl out of the air. The head scientist found out I was a Christian and explained to me mathematically how something does not need an origin point and therefore the universe did not have to have a beginning point. He concluded this was mathematical proof there was no God. Well, I understood his math just fine and agreed with it, but said his conclusion was unsupportable because I could just as easily apply the same formula to the thought that God has always existed and needs no origin point. After a long term employment he was delighted to replace me with the new technology, the camcorder and eliminate my position. I learned winning an argument with the boss is actually a loss.
I then attended the University of Texas at Austin Art School. My professors HATED any form of realistic art and forced me to use a squirt gun to shoot paint at a big canvas. I produced a fish skeleton and slapped the paint around and my Prof hailed me as “The next Jackson Pollack”. I’d rather die, I thought, but disagreeing with your professor usually gets you a bad grade, so I mentioned nothing about the similarities of his beloved “Action Painting” with available materials done by monkeys in the zoo slinging their droppings. I was forced to work on realistic art at home in secret.
After college I went to work for the center for Judaic-Christian Studies under the guidance of the world's foremost Biblical Scholars for the Center for Judeo-Christian Studies. The two dramatically different and opposed groups had amazing similarities. These experiences caused me to wonder… Has Science become a religion? I later wrote an essay on that subject. While employed by the center I did television work for TEN the Teaching and Evangelism network like building and painting sets, giant murals and book covers and educational aids. The guidance and formulas of the scientists regarding reconstruction was the perfect foundation for an aspiring historical illustrator. These kind of jobs pay the bills but don't lead to much credit or published material. I often had to take odd jobs to make ends meet, but the things I learned as a sub-contractor and a contractor have been invaluable in starting and running my own illustration business. In short, it was a struggle until the internet came along ten years ago and I could market to the whole world instead of just the local Austin Texas metropolitan area. After college I went to work for the center for Judaic-Christian Studies under the guidance of the world's foremost Biblical Scholars for the Center for Judeo-Christian Studies. The two dramatically different and opposed groups had amazing similarities. These experiences caused me to wonder… Has Science become a religion? I later wrote an essay on that subject. While employed by the center I did television work for TEN the Teaching and Evangelism network like building and painting sets, giant murals and book covers and educational aids. The guidance and formulas of the scientists regarding reconstruction was the perfect foundation for an aspiring historical illustrator. These kind of jobs pay the bills but don't lead to much credit or published material. I often had to take odd jobs to make ends meet, but the things I learned as a sub-contractor and a contractor have been invaluable in starting and running my own illustration business. In short, it was a struggle until the internet came along ten years ago and I could market to the whole world instead of just the local Austin Texas metropolitan area.
Q: Women feature importantly in all your art, could you elaborate on this?
A: Women are the brightest and loveliest of all of GOD's creations, without them, life would be unbearable. My mother would take me on outings when I was young and set up her easel outdoors to paint breathtaking landscapes and seascapes in oil because that was where she saw the most beauty. I fell in love with the outdoors too, but with me, it is womankind that inspires me the most- not just because of outward beauty, but because of the totality of what they are. Womankind are my moon and my stars, but my wife is the sun that brings warmth and life. I have been very displeased with the portrayals of helpless and degraded women in the media and choose to lift them up and celebrate their strength and virtue along with their beauty.
Q: You married an artist too, tell us more about how you met her and whether you also work together?
A: We met at a religious gathering. It was love at first sight. We had a Whirlwind romance and were married in less than three weeks and are still tenderly in love to this day- we're celebrating our twenty- ninth wedding anniversary this Valentine's Day! Aside from life's occasional tragedies have lived happily ever after. I have assisted her on countless of her arts and crafts projects and she in turn has helped me in countless ways with mine.
Q: Your art dwells a lot on mythology, fairy tales, legends, history….is this a particular fascination?
A: Absolutely! Living in America, "the great melting pot" many of us are cut off from our roots. Black Americans were the first to address this crisis by embracing their heritage. I was particularly inspired by African American author Alex Haley and his book "Roots". With the mobile society and the breakdown of the family unit, other groups of Americans are now suffering an identity crisis. Very few Americans are so fortunate as to have a genealogist in the family like my mother and most don't even know the names of their great-grandparents. I feel these legends as well as our history tell us much about who we are, where we came from, and can keep us rooted and grounded as we go forward into a new age and a new millennium. I feel if you are comfortable with who you are it is much easier to be comfortable with who others are. I love mythology, fairy tales, legends, and history. Studying and painting them is still great fun for me. I am trying to preserve our heritage and draw young people's attention to it by appealing to modern tastes while staying true to the source.
Q: The women in your art are exceptionally ethereal looking, serenity is written all over their faces, can you explain?
A: I have always held a vision of the ideal woman from my earliest childhood. When I saw the works of the Pre-Raphaelites such as John William Waterhouse and Dante Gabriel Rossetti I was captivated by the feeling in their paintings. Their critics called them "shameless woman worshipers" but their work enchanted me and countless others. I was nineteen when I first saw them and have sought to unravel the mystery of their magic. Of course the magic is true love. It would take much more than working harder on my sketches- a quest was in order. My wife was perfect but so modest that she did not want me to show her to the world and wanted me to use other models. I searched high and low for women with similar qualities. Hundreds and hundreds of interviews and years of searching for my models has paid off, but my muses ( my most dear and inspiring models) were just sent to me, as if from God. With most of these I have formed life- long friendships. For example: My little pet albino ferret got out and got lost. We were heartbroken when we couldn't find her. A knock came at the door and there was our little lost ferret in the arms of Carmen, soon to be one of my most inspiring, beautiful and versatile models. I fell to my knees and declared the greatness of her beauty. I asked her in and showed her my artwork and asked her to model for me. That was nearly ten years ago and this summer I'm proud to do her bridal portraits. When I choose a model, there's always a feeling of Cinderella in the air. Girls love that. I discovered that as an artist and admirer I could offer this elite sorority of ladies a sense of fulfillment that their lovers and family members could never offer them. ( Not to mention GREAT portraits free of charge for the families and loved ones.) Everyone who encounters these women tells them they are beautiful, but to be told by someone who is NOT trying to seduce them is so rare and always touching. My solid relationship with my wife and family makes them feel comfortable and secure working with me. My showers of praise and passion to create a record of their beauty combine with other like elements to make them sigh. The moment of truth! Then, amid all the lights and glamour of my photography studio, I take the pictures I Draw and Paint from. Coming from the technical angle I show them sketches or paintings or photos of statues along with my existing artwork to coach them and demonstrate exactly what I want. So, it is achieved by having clear objectives, communication, passion, and a very high comfort level among everyone involved. Now why I would want to portray women in art like this is another story...