Blog » Robots and Dogs and Cats, Oh My — the Wonderful Artwork of John W. Golden
Artist John W. Golden runs an online shop from his Wilmington studio. His shop specializes in reproducing traditional art styles and methods digitally into prints, art blocks, and signs, none of which you knew you needed…until now.
Who can resist a poster of two robots in love? Read on for our interview with Golden:
Start by telling us a little bit about your profession:
I make my living by selling my artwork all over the world via the Internet.
Did you go to school for art and design or are you self-taught?
I had your basic public school art instruction. My mother is a watercolorist, and she taught me all I was willing to learn. I majored in Graphic Design at Appalachian State.
When and how did you first become interested in illustration?
I have drawn my whole life, and have been selling my work since I was 11. I had an art teacher at New Hanover High School in Wilmington, and she offered a class in what was basically advertising illustration. That class was my first experience looking at art as illustration. In an exit interview (at Appalachian) with a professor (with whom I never had a class) I was told, “You don’t see many designers come through here that you want to say this to, but you should really consider going into illustration.” I was thinking, “You couldn’t have told me this 4 years ago?”
Can you describe your creative process?
I am constantly taking in references: Style, color, pop culture, history, etc. I think all that combines to prime me for ideas. I really believe the minute you turn your focus to things outside of being creative, the ideas find a way in. Because I develop my ideas that way, without forcing inspiration, it can be years before I actually get to the execution of an idea.
What inspires you?
My wife and kids; seeing someone with talent taking the risks and opportunities to develop it and be rewarded, being able to make art everyday even though I don’t always have the time.
Is there a story behind the robots or animals you create?
All of the art comes from my affection for something. Everything that has done well for me commercially usually started as a request from my wife for art for one of the kids’ rooms. There are pretty long stories behind each series I create.
What is your favorite subject to illustrate?
Right now, it is probably dogs and fish. The variety of looks you get from each of those across the species, and all from a small set of common features (eyes, nose, ears or fins, eyes, gills) is amazing. That keeps it interesting.
What is your most difficult subject to create?
Really hairy dogs.
On average, how long does it take to create one of your pieces?
I have done it so many times now — and usually I have thought about it for months in advance so I have gotten pretty fast at executing ideas once I start — but it can range from two hours to two days.
You say on your website that your work is created digitally on the computer. Do you ever create any work such as paintings or hand-drawings?
I am really itching to paint again. Haven’t done that in years, but that is on the horizon. My wife keeps asking me to paint, so there you go. I had instruction in traditional methods from a very early age, and studied drawing, painting, serigraphy, and sculpture (stone, wood, and metal) at the college level. My digital work came about because I could work without a studio. It has always been about trying to create work that evokes traditional methods and minimizes the digital-ness of it.
What is the price range for your pieces?
I want people to be able to own my work, so I try to keep my prices affordable. I offer a variety of sizes and formats so that one can own an art block for as little as $5, or a 20” x 30” giclee for about $180.
What is your favorite time of day to create?
It’s limited to when I can actually get time these days, but I prefer morning, when I have a little more energy.
Can you describe what a typical day is for you?
To start the day, my wife gets our three kids ready and I take them to school. Then it’s back home to print giclees, cut wood for blocks, pack up orders, and ship them. Usually after the kids go to bed, I can work on producing my art blocks for orders. In the free moments in between I’m marketing and communicating with customers and potential customers.
What is your biggest accomplishment to date?
Supporting my family with my art, and doing it on my terms. Recently, Target retail stores have begun to carry two art pieces created from my work, so that’s pretty big. That’s all part of what I do to support my family though.
Do you do all of the side work (framing, packaging, shipping, marketing) or do you have assistants helping you with the process?
I did it all for many years with occasional help at the holidays. More recently, I handle all of the creative aspects of my business as well as the marketing. My wife keeps me organized, helps with order fulfillment and prepping my art blocks.
You absolutely cannot go without __________.
This sounds cheesy, but the love, support, and encouragement of my family. If you took away any tool I have, I would find a workaround to still create and sell my art. If my wife and kids were not so supportive of me doing this though, it would end.
What projects do you have coming up?
More dogs and fish definitely. Long to-do list there. I don’t really do any freelance anymore, so I concentrate on getting my artwork in front of people.
Could you tell us some of your clients you’ve created illustrations for?
I freelanced for several design companies before becoming a working visual artist, and through those associations, my work appeared on Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and other networks. I also did some illustrations for Target’s toy department, but they went in another direction.
Do you have any art shows coming up?
A lot of my work can be seen in my family’s gallery, The Golden Gallery, here in downtown Wilmington. Gallery shows pop up from time to time, but that is not an outlet I have pursued yet. I plan to do more art fairs this year in N.C. as I have time. I will be at Art for the Masses in Wilmington in November (if it happens this year).
Do you have any advice for artists or illustrators that are just starting out in the industry and want to be discovered?
Get started now. Use the Internet to get your work out there in front of people.
What is your favorite type of cake or cupcake?
I would say coconut cake at the end of a really great Thai meal, but only under that circumstance.
To see more of Golden’s work, please visit his website or studio (The Golden Gallery, 311 North Front Street, Wilmington, NC 28412).
All photos courtesy of the artist.
Brandi Moody is an artist and designer living in Raleigh. By day she’s a graphic designer and illustrator for her own design studio. Read more about her life, work and inspiration on her blog, Ever So Lovely.