Portrait of an Artist

About John William Brown

I have been creating images ever since I was old enough to hold a pencil. Right from the very beginning, I was always experimenting with mixed media that included pastels, watercolors, oils, graphic printing, photography, writing, music, etc. If there was an avenue for expression, I wanted to use it. One of my earliest frustrations as a fine artist was the inability for me to produce what my imagination could conjure up in a timely and economic manner. I wanted to create. I wanted to do it good. I wanted to do it quickly without sacrificing quality. Then I wanted to reproduce it. I never found solace in the belief that artist have to starve or find another way of making a living. To me, there had to be a way that an artist could produce himself effectively, be cost efficient, and do it successfully.

In order to do this I needed to find a way in which I could reproduce my prints without having to invest the hundreds of dollars it would cost to create master four color offset plates for each and every design. In 1976 I had already invested into a complete color darkroom with the help of a high school friend, and began experimenting with photography and hand painted photos. I then began using a process called  ‘xerography’ (color xerox copying the photos) and hand painting the surfaces with watercolor paints. Because of the powdered pigments used in this process, the watercolor paints would blend nicely on the surface of the paper.  I would then re-photograph the image onto a slide and reproduce the images in my darkroom using the ‘cibachrome’ process.

In 1978, after back-packing across America, I decided to apply to Massachusetts College of Art. Since I skipped my ‘portfolio’ high school preparation classes, I had no idea how to effectively submit a portfolio for college acceptance. Since I was into everything from film making to fine art printing, and had already developed a non-conformist style using innovative, yet non-traditional techniques, my portfolio was more like a suitcase, rather than your traditional one page, 12 slides of ‘still-life drawings’. Oh how drab. Needless to say I received my portfolio back unopened and rejected. I then set forth to develop and market my work on my own through any and every avenue available to me and have never stopped since. This image entitled ‘Harbor” (above left), was first created in 1978. A few years ago I re-scanned it and now reproduce it digitally, some thirty years after it was first created.

And yes. It was an image in the portfolio.

Due to an extensive early career as a photographic technician in Boston, Massachusetts during the 1980’s and 90’s, I witnessed the digital revolution transform the photographic industry. Then the field of fine art. As an artist by nature I saw the potential for incorporating the subtle ‘impressionistic’ quality of a watercolor painting with that of the detailed photographic image.  By using digital imaging programs, like that of photoshop, I was able to effectively achieve this vision. Contributing to this artistic approach with the new technology during this time was the development of the Iris  printer by Iris Graphics in 1987 in Bedford, Massachusetts. An early developer of the technology in the fine art field wasGraham Nash, of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young . The sale of his collection in 1990 by Sotheby’s became an important milestone in establishing the market for fine-art photography. Proceeds of the sale funded charitable causes and provide the means for Nash to co-found Nash Editions, a digital fine-arts printmaking firm that used some of the most advanced scanning and printing equipment in early days. The company continues to operate today. This fine art process is also known as the Giclee print.

In 1996 I purchased my first computer and began to learn everything I could about digital imaging and writing computer language. A year later I published my first virtual gallery web site, SunSpirit Gallery.Com and created several collections while perfecting the photo/digital/art technique utilizing the latest materials and printing applications. In 2002 I began to apply these techniques to the Newburyport Cityscape collection.

At the risk of redundancy, however vital, here is a paragraph from my latest manuscript;

“I remember my last artistic venture in Boston during the summer of 1996. I had spent months developing a specific printing interaction of the brand new digital applications first introduced to me by my brother. It was similar to that being developed by Graham Nash of Nash Editions, and his Boston apprentice, Singer Editions, on ‘D’ Street, incorporating the first usages of the ‘giclee or iris’ printing method for fine art. I had done some watercolor painting and this was the effect I was looking for. A method that was to eventually go on and revolutionize the fine art printing field.

I created one of the first complete lines of greeting cards done without 4 color offset plates, introduced via my first web site at the Bayside Expo Gift Show in 1996. People who were familiar with conventional printing methods marveled at the revolutionary process, not only because of the product itself, but the financial implications as well.

For the first time in history, an artist had the opportunity to create quality fine art reproductions from electronic files and produce limited edition prints at a fraction of conventional cost, as well as obtaining many other valuable attributes, ………including infinite creativity. I believe all of these elements have still yet to be fully embraced.

Now, some thirty years after the first experimentation’s, the technique of combining creative digital imaging, painting, and detailed photography, used in conjunction with this printing process that produces subtle variations due to the interaction of specially developed ink and fine art watercolor paper, is now what I refer to as ‘Digital Impressionism’. What is most important to me is not the media, techniques, or methods used,..but the VISION. Its the same vision that exists for me today with using a computer, as it did thirty years ago without it. But now its different. The digital revolution has changed the rules. The ability now exists for an artist to produce their own designs AND quality reproductions at a fraction of the cost used in conventional methods no matter what media is used. For me, technology is used for creative purposes. The computer is as unlimited as the imagination itself. Combined with the internet and web site development, an artist, for the first time in history, whether or not they are a painter, a writer, a musician or whatever, has the capability to produce themselves in all phases of production, including MARKETING. This is a very significant step towards dismissing the ‘starving artist’ mentality adopted by traditional society, and paving the way for any creative individual to empower themselves at making a living at what they do best. Create.

About the Studio

The Spirit of Newburyport collection  features the exclusive limited edition Newburyport print series and gift products . It seeks to capture the essence and spirit of this quaint historic seaport. The synthesis of New England cityscape charm and contemporary fine art digital applications makes this extensive unique collection one of the first of its kind. It is an integration of the old with cutting edge digital design and printing technologies.

Located on the North Shore, Newburyport was first settled in 1635 as part of “Newberry Plantation,” now Newbury. It would be set off and incorporated as a town in 1764, and then as a city in 1851. Situated near the mouth of theMerrimack River, it was once a whaling,shipbuilding and shipping center, with an industry in silverware manufacture. The seaport declined after President Thomas Jefferson’s Embargo of 1807 and the War of 1812 (although a port forprivateering during it), which helped preserve Newburyport’s charming early appearance.

Originally from the northshore of Massachuetts, John spent the best part of fifteen years developing a certain technique that fused digital photography with painting, digital imaging, and printmaking. His motto is, ‘I’m an artist by nature and a photographer print-maker by trade”. He produced and worked on several projects incorporating this technique before moving to Newburyport in April of 2002. He then spent three years applying the technique to his first extensive cityscape editions which became the ‘Spirit of Newburyport’ print collection in which he debuted at local art shows during the summer of 2005. He then had his first gallery showing at ‘Off The Wall‘ in October followed by an appearance at the Newburyport Harvest Festival. He did several more shows during the holidays including a local city tour in the winter of 2006, and a presentation at the Newburyport Library entitled ‘Newburyport; An American Perspective” on creative sustainable communities featuring ‘Market Square Transformation’, a co-creative project with local teacher historian Theodore Kyrios.

The Spirit of Newburyport opened its first signature gallery on April 29, 2006 at 49 water Street during Newburyport’s first ArtWalk of the season. In August, Mayor John Moak purchased one of Jon’s designs, ‘Market Square Summer’, to present to Senator Ted Kennedy at the Yankee Homecoming presentation as a ‘gift’ from the city. In June of 2007, Jon was commissioned by the Essex Street Inn for the decor of its new ten room inn and business conference room addition. The Inn also uses Jon’s depiction of the Essex Street Inn on its own web site. In September, Jon was commissioned by the director of the Malden YMCA for a rendition of its brand new multi-million dollar facility. On April 23rd, 2016, John will be celebrating ten years in business as the Spirit of Newburyport during the first Newburyport Artwalk of the 2016 season, as he did ten years ago in 2006.

In his early days in Newburyport, John was a volunteer coordinator with the Newburyport Artwalk and helped to create and  produce its first web site at www.newburyportartwalk.com. He continues to work within community organization projects and was a core founding member of Transition Newburyport in 2009. He continues to lobby his visions for the ‘Cushing Wharf Village Marina‘ as part of on going preservation efforts of Newburyport waterfront developments, as well as his Inn Street Artisan Market proposal. A collaborative piece with retired Newburyport history teacher Ted Kyrios ‘Market Square Transformation’, was recently donated (2007) to the ‘Newburyport Preservation Trust’ and used for raising funds for its organized preservation efforts.

John continues to try and find ways in which his work can support not only himself and his family, but other sustainable community projects. One such project is the latest event to Yankee Homecoming, The Inn Street Artisans Revival 2016.

This event is now celebrating its 3rd annual event at the time of this writing. John feels the most satisfaction out of his latest collaborative project, The Artisans Revival. http://www.artisansrevival.org

The capturing, time spent with his son, and return to Boston during the Boston Winter Show to Market his ‘Tall Ship 2017’ line was a highlight of his career.

Please stay tuned for further postings regarding this event and developing business plan, or please contact Jon-William @ 978-417-1987, or write jon@spiritofnewburyport.com

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