After working for LEGO for 17 years, John brings a unique perspective to his cartoon-inspired original paintings. Fascinated by the patterns found in everyday life, his art features recognisable characters and shapes which nevertheless challenge viewers’ perspectives.
As a child, John built LEGO characters inspired by TV shows like The Amazing Spider-Man and Looney Tunes. Little did he know that he would one day work as a designer and developer for the global phenomenon!
Learning to draw by posing and sketching his toys or copying from popular comic strips like Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts, John also became fascinated by the special effects of blockbuster films and the stop-motion clay animation of Aardman Animations, famed for their Wallace and Gromit series. When LEGO released their famous Minifigures in 1978 he was bewitched by their bold colours and blank stares, and these themes later influenced his work.
Following his studies at the Rhode Island School of Design and the Art Institute of Chicago, the American artist joined LEGO as a designer before developing their LEGO Club Magazine. He worked on their Star Wars project in 2003 and led the development of their Harry Potter, Toy Story and Pirates of the Caribbean series from 2008. In total, he made over 70 TV commercials and helped to create LEGO's first-ever CGI cartoon. He now works in the aerospace industry.
Inspired by Abstract Impressionism and his young daughter’s artistic self-expression, John’s paintings allow the original pencil sketches to live in the layers of paint. Recognisable characters are presented as both entire beings and a unique combination of shapes, patterns and colour.
John spent his childhood drawing toys and recreating comic strips, and these memories inspire his art today. He says: "Seeing them come to life through animation got me hooked on the medium. Anything was possible, and the vibrant colours and relatable stories made me want to be a storyteller."
His lifelong fascination with patterns made LEGO the perfect muse for his colourful acrylic paintings. In particular, he enjoys how the simple brick shapes can create something magical when combined. The artists he admires are those who challenge perceptions – including Jeremy Mann, Alex Kanevsky and Jessica Brilli – and he tries to do this within his own work.
To add energy, he allows the pencil lines to show through the layers of paint. This was inspired by his young daughter, who once took it upon herself to embellish one of his paintings. He explains: "She found some oil pastels that I had in my studio and drew all over it. At first, I was angry. But then I realised that she had brought an energy to my painting, so I left her marks. It was kind of a revelatory moment for me in terms of freeing myself up to be more emotional with mark-making."
Behind each of his artworks is a desire to bring the joy of childhood to his audience. John adds: "Memories are so vivid that they sometimes become colours and patterns. To see the way it makes people happy – these simple little bricks – is something that just brings joy in trying to capture it."
© Copyright Washington Green Retail Limited trading as Castle Fine Art. First published 2012, last updated 2020. Washington Green Retail Limited acts as a credit broker and offers credit products from Secure Trust Bank PLC trading as V12 Retail Finance.
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