A Talk with Howard David Johnson,
C.R.E.S.: Hi David. Thanks for this chance to talk with you. What’s new?
David: Oh goodness! Lots of things! I just moved to Idaho and bought my dream house with space for all my different studios and an oversized print shop.
CRES: Congratulations. Space is the final frontier. So you make prints too. Etchings?
David: No, I do print-on-demand archival reproductions of my work on a state-of-the-art Epson Stylus Pro 7980 printer.
CRES: It’s great to be able to control the whole process. But I didn’t realize you were so high tech.
David: On the other hand I also now have a studio for traditional oil painting. It’s nice to be able to leave an oil painting out and close the door and come back to it with everything still set out. I have 36″ oil paintings on linen canvas, several finished and eighteen nearing completion, among them an exhibit of Norse Mythology I plan to send on tour.
CRES: What cities will the exhibit include?
David: The tentative list includes Berlin, Vienna, Moscow, Rome, Oslo, Helsinki, Copenhagen, Kiev, Amsterdam, Sofia, Vienna, Prague, Stockholm, Bucharest, Madrid, Paris and London.
CRES: Okay, so I was wondering if it might be nationwide and instead it’s international. Would you let our readers have an advance viewing of a few works that may be on the world tour?
David: Certainly. Here are a few:
CRES:Traditional to high tech, oils to colored pencils, fairies to Norse gods — you cover a lot of generas in a lot of mediums.
David: Oh, yes! I’m an experimentalist. My parents tell me when I was small I did little murals with (ahem) available materials. My Dad said: “Looks like we got us a little artist” In the 60 years since then I’ve tried just about every 2D art medium… my favorites are Prismascolor pencils, pastels, oils, and digital montage.
CRES: But before mixing media, it’s good to first learn each individually isn’t it?
David: Of course! Practicing art without science is like piloting a ship without a rudder or compass and no certainty where one is going. Practice should always be based upon a sound knowledge of theory, with perspective as the guide and gateway.
CRES: So recently you’ve added 3D to your toolbox.
David: Yes! Since the birth of video games I’ve enjoyed the graphics and watched with amazement as 3D art developed and took over movie special effects. One day I was watching a movie with my sons and realized- “I don’t know how they do special effects anymore!” I wanted to learn. My son Erich got me set up with a state-of-the-art gaming computer. It was mind boggling at first, but he sat down with me for days helping me get over the learning curve, or more like ride it enough to start producing new art…
CRES: Which programs have you found useful?
David: I have just about all of them and jump back and forth depending on each one’s strengths and weaknesses. I’ve never done a picture solely in a 3D render, reality is unfriendly so I import elements into Adobe Photoshop where I can re-size and move them around.
CRES: And knowing your work, you’re mixing 3D with other media?
David: Of course! So far with oils, pastels, colored pencils, and photography. I create or modify a model, save a render with the lighting and camera angles, and import it into Photoshop. 3D has opened doors, no, more like vistas of limitless possibility… things that were just too much are now doable. 3D still has some serious limitations though…
CRES: What kind?
David: For me, with clothing and hair, things I’m known for doing well. I’ve seen big improvements but there’s still a ways to go.
CRES: So are you using 3D in your projects?
David: Yes! I finished a Fairy Tarot Deck for Hay House; it came out in bookstores last fall. And after decades of illustrating other writers’ work I’m now working on a project as both writer and artist.
CRES: It’s great to be able to control your own project. Can you tell us about it?
David: Yes! It’s a picture book, a coffee table edition in the format of James Gurney’s Dinotopia. I always loved those books and have them in my personal library. I always wanted to do something with the legends of Lost Atlantis…
CRES: So the Alantis project is completely your own?
David: It’s as much completely mine as a pastiche can be and 100% independent from outside control. It’s an old school “Space Opera” if you will, like the Lensmen series or Flash Gordon. Retro-futuristic Nostalgia.
CRES: I loved the Lensmen series! Do you think you might ever illustrate it?
David: I already have but the covers are unpublished. Just about everything is copied from it.
CRES: Well I hope to see it someday. Meanwhile, what is the Atlantean space opera called?
David: “The Undersea Kingdom: Portals of Atlantis”
CRES: By portals I guess you don’t mean like the doors 3D has opened for you. More like ancient inter-dimensional doors that spill demonic horror beasties into the world?
David: Those are EXACTLY what I’m talking about — hideous creatures with tentacles and eyes all over wreaking havoc on time and space.
CRES: Will there be any portals we might want to walk through?
David: No, these are the portals from the Book of Enoch the watchers passed through to our dimension. God had the archangels seal them and forbade us to enter. In H.P. Lovecraft’s writings these portals are breached and make for mind-destroying horror. In my story, time travelers from a galactic research and law enforcement team are sent back to Atlantis to stop a chain of events at the source, with hopes of diplomatic co-operation.
CRES: A retro-futurisric galactic time-traveling research team. Nice! And what kind of Atlantis have you envisioned?
David: After a great war that ancient texts say destroyed a planet and created our solar system’s asteroid belt, Atlanteans used genetic manipulation to become merpeople and set up a domed city in the depths of the Atlantic.
CRES: So, you are dealing with time traveling paradox by still destroying the island but saving the Atlanteans in the form of deep-dwelling merpeople?
David: The authorities that sent these time travelers have no interest in saving the Atlanteans: they would just as soon have them all killed if it would stop a certain series of events from unfolding. Events so horrible they are willing to take their chances with paradoxes.
CRES: They sound like authorities everywhere else in the galaxy. Can you let us put up a sneak preview of some images from the book?
David: Yes, here are some samples I can share.
CRES: Thanks David!
And here is the sneak preview from David Johnson’s forthcoming picture book
“The Undersea Kingdom: Portals of Atlantis”
CRES: Thanks David! Some of the Atlantis paintings have Egyptian design elements in them. Does your story connect Egypt and Atlantis?
David: And Mayans too. The story’s premise is that the Atlanteans are the descendents of the Annunaki, children of the Watchers and the Nephilim who built amazing structures millennia ago.
CRES: So you’ve mixed legends as well as media, and incorporated a variety of sources into your story.
David: Yes. There’s a whole range of information, from scholarly analysis of ancient writings to wild speculation to science fiction posing as research. Plato tells us the founders of Atlantis were half god and half human, created a utopian civilization, and became a great naval power. They lived on a series of concentric islands separated by moats and linked by a canal that led to a great capital city on the central island. The islands contained precious metals and supported rare, exotic wildlife. Plato also tells of seeing ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs about Atlantean wars with Egyptians and Athenians as they spread beyond the Pillars of Hercules. In some legends, Atlantis was destroyed in a catastrophic event circa 10,000 B.C. when oceans were at least 300 feet below their current levels. And expeditions still go in search of Atlantis, hoping that, like ancient Troy, archaeology will prove the legends true.
CRES: Now I want to read up on Atlantis. And I hope if they do find it, there won’t be any portals — you know someone always activates them and Something comes out! Thank you for joining us David. And before we sign off… for some future talks, would you offer some advice for beginners on where to start, what painters to study, how to carve out and defend time for art creation?
David: I’d be delighted.