Q: I have purchased the Foundations for Art and went to a large art supplies shop to purchase the items that I will
need. They weren't quite sure what a couple of the items where. Perhaps in Australia they are called something else.
The items in question are #2 Pencils Ebony Pencils or facsimile. Are these 2B or 2H pencils? Are these what we might call
Graphite? Magic rub erasers Do these come under any other name? Variety of sponges-Is this a mix of synthetic and
natural sponges? Forgive my ignorance please. I haven't dabbled in art since I was a child when any old pencil or paint
A: If you search for “Design Ebony Pencils” in Google several Sources to purchase them come up. The Planet is a big place. I know not all companies deliver mail to Australia so you’ll have to check with whomever you decide to do business with. Educating your local art store manager might be worth your time. They can be had on Amazon, Brand X colored pencils and erasers absolutely will not get the results you see in my art. The Sanford, Design and prismacolor products I recommend stand alone as real art media, other brands are toys or garbage in comparison in my opinion after decades of trial and error. These products are very inexpensive ranging from 55 cents to a dollar or so, but MUCH more expensive products will not work. All products made by these companies are not as good as these I recommend, for example Prismacolor Verithins are terrible for portraits. A Plain old #2 school pencil is best, sadly they are not all created equal. 2B is MUCH softer, 2H is MUCH harder. I never use either. My wife found some number 2 pencils from a company called atlas with pandas and ferrets on them that I ordered boxes of I loved them so much. I started using raw umber prismacolor for portrait outlines a few years ago because of its nice blending with flesh tones. I use sea sponges for watercolor effects I get in a bag from Hobby Lobby. A variety is best. Ebony will mark over ANYTHING and finish a portrait FAST! There is only one Magic rub! It will remove even the heaviest layers without tearing your paper. The Grey kneaded erasers are my most beloved and versatile removal and blending tools. Before you use your kneaded eraser you should knead it and shape it with your fingers or hands. It doesn't matter how you do this but I like to knead mine into a ball and make it slightly pointed at one end to erase in tight spots. Use a kneaded eraser to lighten pencil lines instead of erasing them completely. Just tap it very lightly and gently on the line you want lightened. If you want to completely erase a line just rub harder. Kneaded erasers are good because they won't tear your paper if you rub them too hard since they are very soft.When your eraser gets dirty, just knead and stretch it to find a clean spot. What's good about these erasers is that they don't leave any residue like regular erasers. Also, they don't wear away so they last longer than the regular ones. I’ve had some for years.
Tools and Supplies:
THESE ARE THE TRIED AND TRUE PRODUCTS I RECOMMEND:
I make no money from the sale of Art Supplies. In my opinion, there are no substitutes for these products.
Click here: http://www.prismacolor.com/where-to-buy
INTERVIEW WITH DR.
CBJ Hello David, thanks for agreeing to do this interview.
CBJ I guess you’ve always painted, ‘as a bird sings’(Monet).
DAVID: You got that right. My Mom and Dad say 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 ahold 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 violent dissaproval. He wanted me to die fighting in Viet Nam, not serve with honor but die with honor.For some strange reason, this did not appeal to me. She quit painting altogether at his insistence. Later I could afford acrylics but I got the same disrespect. At the age of nineteen I realized my favorite masters used photographs as reference, then I learned Da Vinci and Michaelangelo traced. Well, if you can't beat 'em- join 'em. Naturally everyone I knew condemned me for this and said I was a thief and not an artist. To overcome this, I bought a camera and began taking my own photos, later acquiring a complete studio of my own by reason of hard work. My sons and their love of video games is what led me to get into computers. My oldest son, Christian, wanted to be a computer artist for video games and in the process of giving him complete support I acquired all the computers and software he needed. I realized this was a whole new ball game and combined with the internet was the biggest thing to happen in the visual arts since the Renaissance and I wanted to be a part of it.
CBJ I’m fascinated by the diversity of media that you use, but your style is so utterly seamless that I can’t always tell what was done with what, especially from photos. Could you take us through a couple of pictures on your website and tell us which medium or combination you used?
DAVID: I am an experimentalist. There is no set formula and that’s why its still fun after all these years. Finding and training the right models, Photography, Mathematical Design and assembling the various elements into a composition all come before the image is transferred to paper or canvas and rendered in combinations of prismacolor pencils, acrylics, oils, or other traditional art media. I go into great detail with plentiful examples and illustrations on my website www.howarddavidjohnson.com on the’ about the artist’ and ‘digital techniques’ pages and also have several pages of free art lessons. Like Houdini and other illusionists before me I am not eager to share all my secrets with the general public, but I do offer private instruction through my correspondence school for serious artists.
CBJ Could you show us an image which was solely created with photoshop and an image which was solely created with paint? That’d be fascinating.
DAVID: There is no such thing. Although my oil paintings are all oil, they are based on my digital montages and my digital montages contain nearly every medium known to man. Photoshop is just another tool in my studio. In the early days of photography artists used various transfer methods like enlargement grids and the like. Later artists like Maxfield Parrish would cut out and assemble photographic collages to trace on boards or canvas and then paint. Even later projection equipment lended more speed and control, but mechanical aids could also create a dependence, stifling artist's creativity and imposing limits. This has always been one the greatest pitfalls of working from photographs. For decades I made differently sized xeroxes and tracings and and cut them out and slid them around replacing them with larger and smaller copies to get the perspectives perfect and the design of the composition to have the mathematical precision I wanted.
What a mess! Bits of paper trash and glue everywhere! Irritating trips to a copy store that did not want to wait on customers who wanted less than a hundred copies. Then came computers..! No more mess..! much lower expenses! The old collages were a mess and were almost always destroyed because of their raggedness, but these new Digital Photo Montages are Surprisingly presentable compared to their forerunners in earlier technologies. The old masters had several apprentices to grind their pigment to make oil paints, then came oils in a tube, the impressionists and the Plein air tradition followed. They were told they were not ‘real” artists because they did not grind their own pigments, now few people realize paint didn’t always come pre-mixed in tubes. These wonderful developments in technology will have no less impact on art history!
CBJ Your attention to detail is something I find unusual amongst today’s artists. How do you fit into the ‘art world’?
DAVID: I’m a non-conformist and a recluse. I’d rather die than fit in to the “modern art scene”. I have been acclaimed and honoured by critics, curators, and scholars but also condemned by jealous third rate artists who hate me for striving for such a high standard of quality. Since the times of the ancient Greeks, Art History records a relentless quest for Realism and artistic excellence in realistic paintings and sculpture. The masters of each generation strove to perfect their craft, then passed on the torch of their accumulated knowledge and skill to the next generation. The accomplishments and technological breakthroughs of one generation have often set new standards of excellence for the next. Digital media has done that in spades!
CBJ David, you get an incredible number of visitors to your website (www.howarddavidjohnson.com) Tell us about some of the reaction you’ve had.
DAVID: I’m getting between a million and a half to two million hits a week from more than a hundred countries. My most gratifying feelings come from the academic and educational communities expressions of joy to discover new art works of this kind. I’m so busy I’ve turned away more than sixty thousand dollars in commissions so far this year. I get tidal waves of mail offering me so many business opportunities that it’s overwhelming. I have to have a screener to sort through the various kinds of mail. I used get a thousand love letters for each piece of “computers are evil!”or “illustration is not art” hate mail, but I haven’t gotten a mean letter in more than two years, I guess, like tube paints, people are starting to get used to them. I never get tired of the kind words and encouragement.
CBJ How important is it to you to teach others?
DAVID: Very important. I wish I could, but I cannot pay back the great artists who came before me and paved the way for me by setting such fine examples for me to copy, I can only pay forward. Even though I have turned away so much work, I will always put down what I am doing to answer my students the same day.
CBJ Do you believe in fairies?
DAVID: No. However, the folklore is an important part of my American Scots-Irish family's roots and cultural heritage after all and I feel what we do have left is to be preserved and never to be treated lightly even if I don't believe any of the supernatural elements in it. The myths have so much to offer us today. We must preserve them or we will be cut off from our roots and we all know what happens when you cut off a plant’s roots. The same thing is happening to our culture, this is why I’ve rolled up my sleeves and gotten to work hoping to help do for images what Aesop, the Brothers Grimm and Walt Disney did for the old stories, reworking them to appeal to future generations. 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.
CBJ Tell us what you’re working on at the moment.
DAVID: I’m currently getting paid handsomely to render “Pandora’s Box” into a 16 x20 oil painting on canvas and when that is done, I have an unpublished montage of the goddess Diana based on photos I shot of a nude dancing Russian ballerina with a bow based on an exquisite art deco statue that I will render for the same collector. I’m really enjoying myself.
CBJ Where does your work end up?
DAVID: There are originals in various media all over the world in the hands of private collectors. I have an enormous collection myself of every kind of media I use but oils, which I have oversold. They come together slow and are sold before I can get them finished. This is why I am in seclusion now, to build that exhibition back up. My Traditional Realistic Art was exhibited in the British Museum in London in 1996, ( 3 years before I got my first computer ) as well as numerous American ones since, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art. My realistic illustrations have made appearances in every major bookstore and game shop chain in America as well as magazines and educational texts around the world. Some of my more prestigious clients have included the University of Texas, the University of Cambridge in England, Paramount Studios, PBS TV, Enslow Educational Publishers, Adobe Photoshop, Auto FX, Tree-Free Greeting Cards, Sound Choice, Verizon wireless, IPOD, Doubleday, the Book of the Month Club, (Bookspan), and J Walter Thompson Advertising, just to name a few. I have contacts with many museums and when I have built my exhibition of oils up, will have a travelling show and finally donate several to key museums who have asked me. Hopefully, when I fulfill their requests they will still want them and that is where the best of them will ultimately wind up.
CBJ What’s a typical day like?
DAVID: I love my life. I live in Hyde Park in downtown Austin (in the proverbial ivory tower) and am able to ignore how my beloved little college town has turned into a big city around me with all the usual big city problems. My studio is in my home so I get up when ever I please, usually around one in the afternoon and have a cup of coffee. If I don't have a commercial project going I check my mail that my screening service has cleared for me. While I'm puttering about I burn CDs for license deals fill print orders and check in on my students. My wife goes by the Post office for me on her errands. Then I choose one of my many irons in the fire and get to work, usually going late into the night. It is so peaceful at night, I much prefer working then. I always take a couple hours off in the evening to spend with my family on workdays. Sunday is always reserved exclusively for GOD and family. Because of the blessings of GOD I have seen my dreams come true in my lifetime and am truly thankful everyday. I always put down what I'm doing when my friends call because they have such rigid schedules and I have so much freedom. Austin, Texas is a very peaceful place to live and a cultural center- a great place for an artist to call home. I love my work, I have many fun hobbies and have wonderful and fulfilling relationships with my GOD, my family and my friends.
CBJ For the record, which painters have influenced you?
DAVID: Although I love Rossetti and all the other Pre- Raphaelite artists dearly, none of the Pre- Raphaelite Brotherhood has influenced me more visibly than John William Waterhouse. Helen of Troy is my loving tribute to him, his vision, and his magnificent and deeply inspirational works. ( My life and artistic vision are patterned after and inspired by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, but the actual appearance of my works are more patterned after those of J W Waterhouse.) One of the greatest things that ever happened to me was to hear from the Rossetti family telling me they considered me a true successor to the Pre-Raphaelites. 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 worshippers" 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 the perfect model 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 ten years ago and last summer I was 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... 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.
CBJ Which living artists work do you admire?
DAVID: I wish I could rattle off a list, but truthfully, Frank Frazetta is the only living painter I admire, he is rooted in the classical tradition and was instrumental to starting me on my path. I like the Pre-raphaelites and the Old masters.Comic Book artists like Wallace Wood,with his Valor and Frontline Combat really got me into story telling with art.
CBJ Much of your work is absolutely perfect in every way. But are there any works which stand out as masterpieces to you?
DAVID: Thank you, but I don’t agree. I have my favorites, but I think I have a lot of room left for improvement.
CBJ Anything you’d like us to learn?
DAVID: Yes, but I’ve gone on and on today, you can read my essays on my website if you’re interested in any serious thoughts about art and society I have.
CBJ David, it’s been an absolute honour and a privilege. May your brush stay forever supple.
DAVID: Thanks for your kind attention.
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