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  Howie Green Interviews

Interview with The Venue Newspaper 11/08
By Julie Bernier

How old were you when you began to paint?

I was 12 when I got a pad of multi-colored newsprint paper for a generic Christmas from one of those relatives you rarely see but they still feel like they have to give the kids presents so they buy crafts stuff. So anyway something clicked in my adolescent brain and I started to draw that day and have never stopped. I can't explain it at all because prior to this event I had not shown any particular artistic talent or interest. I was planning on being a cowboy or baseball player but this whole art thing steered me off in a new direction and quickly became a lifelong obsession. I mostly started copying the comics that I liked including Dick Tracy and Smitty and Henry some of those long gone newspaper strips. When I saw the feedback I got from my family and friends I was elated. I had found my calling and the thing that would elevate me above the nameless flotsom and jetsom of the world of kids. Plus realizing I sucked at sports and that I would probably get seriously hurt help kill the dream of baseball stardom. I took a bit longer to let go of the cowboy idea because I love horses and was tending to a neighbor farmers horses after school so I got to ride any time I wanted. I forgot to mention that we lived way out in the country between two farms on the prairies of Western New York State in a tiny little town called Clarence Center whose only claim to fame was that Joan Baez's family had lived there for some odd reason when she was young.

When was for 1st big break?

I'm still waiting for it. No all kidding aside Pop Art Superstar Peter Max gave me my first break and I am eternally grateful to him for it. I was working as Art Director for a magazine called New Age Journal in the late 80s and I had done a drawing for one of the articles of the Reagan's looking up at the stars in Peter's style (I can mimick almost anyone which is both a blessing and a curse). So anyway the magazine came out and I got a call from Peter who I thought was just a friend of mine joking around. Peter was beginning to make waves again in the art world at that time on his way back to a major comeback after having been semi-retired for a decade. I got to work with Peter and his crew for several years on a string of projects that included 4 New Age Journal covers and a bunch of paintings he did for me that we used inside the magazine. I also worked with Peter on the cover of the Celtics Media Yearbook which was the first sports-themed painting he ever did. He also did another group of paintings for me that I used on the covers of the course catalogs for the University of New Hampshire and I ended up currating a show of my collection of over 100 of Peter's posters in the University's art gallery.

Being around Peter and in his studio was a major life changing experience. I got to see how he operated and worked and I thought that I could do the same thing but on my own much smaller scale. So I went away down to Cape Cod for a week long creative retreat at a semi-abandoned beachfront motel in Falmouth in the middle of winter to let my brain wander and see where my creative juice would carry me. I took along a sketch book and some pencils and spent every day drawing, going for freezing cold walks on the beach and more drawing. When I came back home I had the basis for what I developed into my book "Jazz Fish Zen: Adventures in Mamboland" which got published by Charles Tuttle Publishing (now out of print but still available on Amazon). I also dove into a prolonged painting bing and produced a couple hundred paintings of Mamboland which got me a series of gallery shows which culminated in a show in Los Angeles where one of my paintings was hanging on a wall between an large Warhol painting and a Keith Haring print - and I knew I was going in the right direction.

Did you ever think that you would receive national recognition?

In all honesty, yes I did. I worked very hard and very methodically to do good work that was unique and then I worked hard to promote my work and myself. I had been doing the same tasks for many clients for the 20 years I had my graphic design and multimedia studio in Boston so I just applied the same process to myself. I knew it was going to take time and work but that if I did the process properly it would eventually work out. And I am happy and relieved to say that it has.

What is the highest price you have recieved for any one piece of your artwork?

So far I think the highest price for a single piece is $8500

What was it?

It was for one of the cows I painted in the 2006 Boston Cow Parade. There were over 100 cows painted by New England area artist in the parade and my Flower Cow was the lead cow in the auction which made me very proud. The woman who bought it was beyond ectatic about the cow. She was practically kissing my feet. Its good to be King!

What is to date your most favorite masterpiece you have created?

Well my all time favorite painting is an amazing John Singer Sargent painting called "The Daughter of Edward Boit" which hangs in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. I go visit it a couple times a year to get a big creative jolt of inspiration. It's give me shiver every time I see it. The Museum is building a new wing and the painting is so important to them that they are building a special room where it will once and for all be displayed and lit properly in a permanent setting.

As for my favorite painting of my own, it's always the last one I just did. I'm not sure I have a favorite. Maybe a portrait I did of a friend of mine a long long time ago. I did the painting when I was in school in the late 60s and I totally nailed it. She's been asking me to give it to her for decades but I can't bear to part with it.

What is your choice of mediums for creating?

I use anything except oil paints because I'm alergic to turpentine and even the synthetic stuff gives me major headaches. Mostly I use acrylic paints and anything else I have handy.

What or whom inspires you?

Mostly having to pay the bills every month. Creating art is what I do and always have to laugh when people ask me if I ever see myself retiring. From what? I do what I love and I can't imagine not being an artist. I would be painting every day even if I didn't get paid to do it. But luckily I do get paid.

I get inspired by seeing work I love by other artists and knowing that there are always new things to discover. It always inspires me to work harder and see if I can accomplish more. I love a lot of artists and all kinds of art so I never know what's going to inspire me from day to day. I could be seeing a Monet painting or a Clarice Cliff teapot or a newly discoverd Warhol or just singing along to a great Mamas and Papas song.

What is the one thing you want to accomplish through art in your life?

I would love to establish my name and work as a brand name that could be expanded beyond just art into books, collectibles, fashion, movies, space shuttles, whatever. Gene Simmons has done it on a mega scale with KISS and Thomas Kinkade has done an admirable job of doing it too. I have always been an entrepreneur and I see it all being a lot of fun and hopefully lucrative as well.

What do you want our Venue readers to know?

Despite what critics say, KISS has made some amazingly good albums. You have to kick down every door that ever opens for you. Fruitcake is actually really tasty. Florida is not all just strip malls and 8 lane highways. Bono may be a pompous ass but you have to see U2 live in concert at least once in your life, they are an amazing live act. The French aren't really any more rude than the average Bostonian. Mama Cass did not die from choking on a ham sandwich. Alison Arngrim (a close personal friend of mine) who played the evil Nellie Oleson on "Little House On The Prairie" is really a lovely, funny lady. The Sex Pistols may have been a bunch of no talent jerks but their first album is one of the greatest albums of all time. You owe it to yourself to get a copy of the album "Delany and Bonnie and Friends Live" - it's also one of the greatest albums of all time. Devon Werkheiser is the funniest kid on television. And finally, hard work and big stick will get you a lot further than just hard work.

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