Art is recognized by many, but understood by few. A field where talent is your ticket in and creativity is your lifelong teacher. I have always been amazed by artists and their craft, deep down as a kid I longed to be one. When I came to the realization it just wasn’t in my cards, I made it my mission to educate myself on the field.
John W, the person behind the amazing series Children of the Black Rainbow, tells us a captivating story of his work, his passion, and his mission to be considered A Boston Artist. Open your eyes and mind, to this creative genius and his Disney meets Horror inspired series.
HH: Tell us briefly about yourself and your journey as an artist.
JW: My name is John W. and I am a 28-year-old Boston Artist. I am actually Ecuadorian but moved to Boston as a kid and made it my home. I drew all the time as a kid and into high school but always considered it only a hobby. It wasn’t until a substitute art teacher in high school explained to me that I shouldn’t waste something that came naturally to me that others struggled to learn. I never had considered myself as an artist until then. I went to school at Montserrat College of Art in MA and graduated with a Bachelor in Illustration. Since then I have been working on different series and styles until I finally landed on Children of the Black Rainbow.
HH: Children of the Black Rainbow, what a great name! What is the story behind it?
JW: In all my series or art pieces I have always tried to use kids as the character focus. I am a huge fan of Disney’s classic children’s fairy tales but also horror and Halloween. CBR is just the culmination of all my styles I have used in the past ten years and focusing on one theme. The name formed together from this blending of work. I used upside down rainbows a lot in my early work and they always had one large black stripe with drips in it, they were always in the background and it was a staple icon that I became known for. So in creating the series name I wanted to state what the focus of the series was, which were children, and then tip a hat to my old work, so threw in the Black Rainbow. Together they just formed a great series title for my new eerie styled work.
HH: What do you want people to take away from your artwork?
JW: Hopefully questions, ha-ha. Honestly, I would like people to have more questions about a piece then to look at it, just go ‘yup’, and then move on. I am using symbolism a lot heavier now along with using animals and pop icons. I'm also adding more subtle details for a character that has an entire back story which most viewers will never know. I want viewers to look at, let's say my painting "Stephan" and wonder, why is this kid playing with matches? Why is he standing in oil? Why is he wearing a joker mask, and wearing a Mickey Mouse tee shirt? And, what is with the giant snake? These are questions I have answers for but do not make obvious to viewers. I enjoy hearing the ideas they come up with and the conversations my pieces create.
HH: Does the beautiful city of Boston have any influence in your work?
JW: Honestly it does not have as much influence on me but more of challenges me. Boston is very influential for the arts but I have found that it has to be the kind of arts that it (Boston) likes. It is very hard to find a gallery that will show work besides just 'traditional art', and then the galleries that do try to help "Urban, Modern or Street Art' keep on closing down. You have to hustle to make art shows like these happen here whereas in NY and LA they are a dime a dozen. I like that challenge, I want to be known as a Boston Artist. I want to make Boston get on the map for Urban and Street Art. There are plenty of us here; we just have to stop moving to NY and band together to make ourselves known.
HH: How did Disney animation and things that go bump in the night inspire your past series? What other inspirations have you used in previous series?
JW: It is always amusing to try and explain my style of art to new people who have yet to actually see it, but in all honesty classic Disney animation is what inspired the style. While in school I was heavily influenced by Mike Mignola, creator of Hellboy, and his heavy use of blacks along with his use of genre but found that I always wanted to make my work more detailed. I was then heavily influenced by Chris Sanders, creator of Lilo and Stitch, and my work became very light and fun but lost the morbid edge that I enjoyed. So I mixed all that I had been experimenting with and now use that style to portray a whole new world that I have been creating for the past two years.
HH: About how long does a piece take you to create? Do you have a personal creative process?
JW: It varies; I have paintings that are 4 x 6 and then ones that are 22 x 24. Smaller ones usually take me only a couple days to physically create while larger ones take a week or so. All the paintings are done on solid wood panels that are backed with 1.5' wood which I normally leave as the background ‘color' so you can see the grain. I found that it creates a nice neutral color against the usually desaturated color palette of my work. Whether large or small my creative process is usually the same: I brainstorm ideas for a few weeks, use a notebook to sketch very small ideas of paintings or characters, write a lot of notes on each one, carry a small note book with me to work just on case I come up with anything during the day, sketch out the final idea on the wood panel, leave it alone for a few days to decide if I'm happy with it, then I paint the panel out, let it fully dry, add all the line work, seal it, add any last details, seal it again, then frame it.
HH:The bold black frames are a signature component to your pieces, what made you choose this?
JW: One of my professors in college made a remark that I should use solid black frames to complement that thick black outlines that I have always used in my work. At the time I was using gold gilded frames because I liked the combination of the classic vintage looking frames against my modern work. Once I started CBR I decided to stick with the gilded frames but custom paint them to fit with my work. The result became a surprising forbidden combination that blended perfectly with the same theme my series embodied.
HH: What is the next step for Children of the Black Rainbow?
JW: As of right now I am working on another series for CBR which revolves around Catholic Demonology. I'm taking my time with this series because my newest pieces are all large and I have to balance enough time on them while juggling a full time job. I am though, doing another clothing collaboration similar to the one I did with Creep Street, this time with the company Hold Steady Clothing Co. There are some album covers and band tee shirts being discussed and I also have a couple of collaboration paintings in the works with a few artists from other states.
HH: Where can we follow your work?
JW: My website childrenoftheblackrainbow.com along with facebook.com/childrenoftheblackrainbow and 'childrenblackrainbow' on Instagram for the most current pictures of work and sketches!