Story by Sara Paul
In these modern times where traditional art and creative simplicity meets graphic design and computer-based demands, artist John Thompson embraces both his high-tech day job as well as his hands on, computer-free creations at home.
For 10 years, Mondays through Fridays have found John working as a digital illustrator at High Five Games in World Trade Center One in Manhattan. However, quiet Warwick evenings and weekends are devoted to sculpture, pen and ink, and recently, needle felting (using raw wool fibers and a barbed needle to make small dolls).
“I create art during the day for a living, but there are different subject matters and styles I don’t do at work, so I fill that need at home. It is calming, and I like to jump around and try different things,” stated John, adding that, “… with the computer it’s easy to go back and fix mistakes, and its also more convenient to share and edit art, but with painting it can sometimes take an elaborate fix. I also like the tactile that I can hold in my hand.”
John is digitally fluent in applications such as Adobe PhotoShop and Illustrator as well as Z-Brush, a 3-D sculpting program. He is also a person of national interest, as his work appears on not one, but two, United States Postal Service (USPS) stamps: the United States President James Madison and James Polk stamps.
When invited to a prestigious ceremony to honor his work, the Iowa native was a bit intimidated to attend New York City’s Midtown exposé event at the Javits Center event not even one month after 9-11.
“Where I’m from people were cautious about NYC. Everyone at home was nervous about me traveling to New York, but when we got there everyone was so nice, and we had a great trip,” commented John, whose influences include Gary Kelley, an illustrator and former co-worker who has achieved nationwide fame; Franklin Booth, a pen and ink illustrator; and Norman Rockwell.
One of his favorite pieces is an acrylic paint on illustration board of a velociraptor with a sculpted claw made of resin casting from a clay sculpture. He also does several pieces on scratch board which is a thin paper with clay coating in which he brushes on ink and uses a blade to scratch the ink off. The result is white carvings that appear like engravings.
Born in 1965 and an artist at a young age, John said, “I feel like it was the only thing I was really good at, so I stuck with it.”
He later attended the University of Northern Iowa and Hawkeye Community College, also in Iowa, and received an Associate Degree in Graphic Design.
“These days coming out of school, you have to be able to work digitally, and the colleges do a really good job of preparing students for that. I’ve had interns at my job who know way more tricks in Photoshop than I’ve ever learned,” said John, recalling that while graphic artists were hesitant to embrace technology in the early 1990s, people in the industry have since become comfortable using technology as a tool.
After college, John secured a job with an advertising agency in Waterloo, Iowa for 17 years. In 2010, he began working in NYC and subsequently moved to Warwick with his wife Dawn. It is worthy of note that John and Dawn were perhaps meant to be. Rewind to a time when John produced a gorgeous piece entitled “Opera Singer.” Unbeknownst to the artist, he had actually painted folds in the singer’s dress, which when examined closely, spell out the name Dawn.
In 1995, years after he had produced the painting, John met Dawn at a friend’s house. He learned her name and looked back at that painting; it seemed his muse had come to life. The couple now have two children: Clayton, 22, and Seth, 18. Both young men are students pursuing the arts at SUNY Purchase. Dawn is also an artist specializing in fused and stained glass as well as sculpture.
Their art-filled home also includes family members Lucy, a Husky mix, and Ruthie, a frisky Puggle, both rescues from Iowa.
Gazing pensively and fondly at his artist’s desk piled with projects in all different stages of completion and of all different mediums, John simply stated, “People are making great art no matter what they use. I like the process of creation, being able to make things with whatever I can.”
To view John’s work, visit his website at indeestudios.com and follow him on Instagram at @john_thompson_art.
The Warwick Valley Dispatch would like to feature local artists who are passionate in their creative pursuits. These individuals can be established artists or those who are getting started in their trade. We ask that if you know of any artists who would be appropriate for these human interest pieces that you contact Sara Paul at email@example.com or 718-702-3091.