I would like your opinions on this man. He's an illustrator who's done works on quite a few projects, most notably for LOTR-type stuff, including the movies. He knows a lot about swords and armour, too.
As I have never really attempted to type someone "famous," or at least someone I've never met, before, I'm not really sure how to do this. So I'll post some pics and a couple of quotes. For what it's worth, I very much like how he thinks and sees the world, his style of writing and painting. I feel a kinship and stimulation in how he expresses himself. That's pretty much the main reason why I'd like a guess at his type.
Some head shots:
At book-signings and conventions:
Holding a prop (I think):
I got these quotes from his website:
WHAT HAPPENS IN MY HEAD WHEN I DRAW
by John (an essay in my own words such as they may be)
Nothing happens in my head when I draw.
Certainly not a meshing of cogs and a whirling of wheels or any kind of sizzling fuses. Nor anything remotely mathematical, analytical or critical. (Actually, the great thing about illustrating is that you can listen to music or the radio all day long.) Nothing conscious is going on, no plotting or calculating (all that is reserved for subjects that have little to do with the picture at hand) no measure or method.
Illustrators should be like windows. Sometimes with fog or raindrops or even frost, but never with blinds drawn or shutters closed. Not stained glass either, where the very definition of being is to change the light, to show you the window and not what is beyond it.
The whole idea is to draw from life. On life. For life.
Drawing from life is about as close as you can get to communion with your subject. Drawing a tree is losing yourself in everything that defines a tree, defines life when it wears bark and bears branches. It matters very little what you actually end up with in your sketchbook, it's what you end up with IN your head that counts.
The time you spend is a suspension of time. Time and movement are inscribed in every line and contour of every living thing (under the generous heading of "living" can be placed all those things which are changed by time, or for which time is not a negation of their essence). The branches of a tree may move in the wind, but years of movement are contained in every trunk, branch and root. To have all this, just for yourself, because you are following it with your eyes and pencil, is far far too important to be distilled into formulae or reduced to method. (This must explain my allergic reaction to and heartfelt loathing for all "How to..." books.) Depicting the exteriors of things is an exercise at which anyone can excell; it's just a question of technique. It's something you can teach your hands to do and your eyes to approve. Too easily it may become the end rather than the means.
But, it's what's IN your head that defines the interior of the exterior you depict and do I sound confused or what? (The price you pay for transgressing the two immutable laws of the universe: going all the way around on a swing and trying to explain yourself... both turn you inside out.)
Where was I? (See what all this thinking does to me?)
Perhaps that explains why I can't line up two fragments of coherent reasoning: all my working life is spent with my brain switched off.
But, as this is a subject I long to treat coherently, like a wayward comet on a elliptical orbit, I'll certainly circle back and approach it again, as it is assuredly a curious thing, to surround oneself with all these rectangular worlds...
Back to the drawing board. Click.I love these next two...The hippopotamus? The other day on the TV there was a feature on Toronto, and voiced over the image of the observation deck of the CN Tower, was the fact that the glass floors of the deck "can support the weight of fourteen hippos". Other than the totally enchanting image that immediately conjured up - a merry pachydermal assembly of equus fluvialii jostling for a view, and the totally ludicrous nature of the comparison, it occured to me that as a general rule in life, you never want to be that 15th hippopotamus...
LOST FOR WORDS
Or Walking in the Word Forest...
As often as I'm lost for words, I'm even more often lost IN words. Words, while they are often imperfect vehicles to convey our thoughts, are the best we can do. While they may be unwieldy tools to carve our finer thoughts, they are all we have.
I think illustrators use images the way most people use words, but as we are not taught how to read pictures in school, it is often like using a tongue not many people speak.
But there's so much IN a word, they grow like trees, flourish and fade away, or lose the life they once had, shedding meanings like so many autumn leaves, all the while gaining the richness of narrative.
Take a simple word like curfew. A few weeks ago, at the Companie of Saynt George event in Bern, the potter saw me staring bemusedly at a series of pots with handles and tiny holes on the bottom and said "Curfews." I could have slapped my forehead in consternation. Of course, Howe-you-idiot-you, from the French "couvre-feu", a lid you place over the evening's embers, in order to keep them from going out before morning. A word I have used for ages and never thought about, and here it is before me in the flesh, or to be more exact, in unglazed ceramic.
Okay, so I have gaping holes in my general culture, but EVERY word is like that, a tip of a vast iceberg below the waves, the tree that you must go around to peer into the forest behind, or the first step on a path you have to go down, to see what's beyond the bend.
That's why I love words, it's so easy to wander off into them.
John HowePORTRAITS AND POTTED PLANTS
Or What You See is What You Get....
Last weekend, while my son and I were waiting to go up to the top of Notre-Dame de Paris (like good tourists, absolutely, I've always been drawn despite myself to France's great remodeller of the Middle Ages, Viollet-le-Duc, and besides, Notre-Dame is where Gothic architecture first got off the ground) we were also happily indulging in one of our cruellest and most cowardly pastimes - listening in on other tourists' conversations.
In front of us were three students from L.A. and Vancouver (of all places), who were chatting about what to see in Paris, ("There's a great shop that sells 4 t-shirts for 15 Euros, it's the cheapest I've found" or "I wanna get some key chains, the tackiest ones I can find!") when one chirped up: "My teacher said to forget the Louvre; y'know like you can only look at so many portraits and vases of flowers."
Now there's a nutshell of solid advice thought I, and it certainly leaves more precious time for the t-shirts and keychains, but...
It is incredibly difficult to differentiate what we see from what we recognize. Recognition is what gets us through life. All those shiny bulky fast-moving things on wheels I recognize as cars, which keeps me from getting run over by them and allows me to find my own in the parking lot.
Or when the crosswalk light is green, which enhances my chances of NOT getting squashed by those other things. I recognize a thousand little signs that allow me to find my way, whether it's in the street or in a conversation.
But do I really see any of them?
Admittedly, it is not advisable to constantly psychoanalyse the people around you, nor to be caught in mid-boulevard contemplating a particularly fetching bit of texture in the asphalt when that little green light has gone a different colour and a phalanx of those bulky shiny things with wheels are bearing down on you, but...
The world provides us with a wealth of locations where you can forget your physicality and simply SEE. (Take the Louvre for example. You know, that place with the portraits and potted plants.)
The entire Howe family spent most of the day in the Louvre, ecstatic over aquamaniles, seduced by ceramics, rapt over reliquaries and just generally SEEING. We emerged footsore but enchanted, vowing to go back next time with a trio of sketchbooks.
There is just so much LIFE in all these dead things a museum contains. Things made by hands and minds so similar but so far removed from our own.
So, take that glass case of dull ceramics. What I recognize is that it is full of old pottery. What I SEE is something else. I see the hands that made each piece, the minds and the culture that shaped the clay, glazed it and fired it. I see the passing of time that has dulled it, broken it, removed it from our world; I see time like a wave ebbing, leaving a few bits of flotsam in the wake that is today.
I envy the shapes and forms, their simplicity or their complexity but in all cases their honesty and integrity. I see commonplace objects that may have possessed a singular grace in the hands and homes of their makers. They are filled to overflowing with the humanity that shaped them.
My hands itch, I want to sketch them and understand them inside and out, absorb them so that one day, in a drawing I may never do, I can recall that depth of reality and pass on somehow what I've received. Some small shred of that reality that binds us to life and to the commonplace and extraordinary trappings thereof.
The same goes for everything made by the long-dead men and women whose creations, dulled by time and culled by serendipity, grace the dusty shelves of our cultural inheritance.
All this to say that if I stop at what I recognize, I stop learning. I stop at what I know, which is precious little. Boring portraits and potted plants in sum...
- John Howe