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John U. Abrahamson. Art of Illustration. No. 2

Before entering the interview with John U. Abrahamson, please preview his works in the following slides.

John U. Abrahamson’s hometown was Chicago, Illinois. Despite enduring a rough past, with a mother who abandoned the family when he was seven years old, he had a good childhood. He grew up a religious person, “seeking answers in church in a world that made no sense,” and “swung incense until [he] was twenty when [he] left home and headed to Ocean Beach, San Diego.” His religious views have changed over time, after a “massive fallout.” In many of his works today there is a recurrence of the crucifix and flesh, as in Puddle and As a Lamb to Slaughter. He is an experienced freelance artist who has worked in films in the past. He often works with oils, and he owns a production company called Lost Plasma Production. You can reach him at Jua@johnua.com, or through Les Barany at Baranyartists.com

Interviewer

Are you a freelance artist?

John U. Abrahamson

Well, I should explain. I do projects occasionally with other creative artists whose work I respect. The director Drew Daywalt is one. But I only do that occasionally. If you are referring to my LinkedIn page, I picked Freelance Artist simply because I thought it sounded professional and I was still figuring out what my next steps were in my creative life. 

Interviewer

Did you study art?

Abrahamson

I did. I started in high school though I was never actually taught anything. I submitted a bunch of drawings to the Art department head, and he put me immediately into Independent Study. I didn’t even know what a color wheel was. So I had to learn on my on. I took out every book on the masters that I could and tried to figure out how they achieved the effects they did. I read endlessly on glazing techniques, composition and the like. After much frustration, I eventually started to get it.

After HS I attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. That was a disastrous time in my creative life. I was frustrated at being told I was doing illustrations and not Fine Art. I learned nothing. Every time I asked a rudimentary question I was greeted with the response “You should already know this by now.” You can comfortably say that I am entirely self taught.

I eventually left the Art Institute when I moved to San Diego. That was 1982.   

Interviewer

Do you have an alias?

Abrahamson

Not so much an alias but a symbol. 

I did before price

By the way I did that YEARS before Prince. I was doing a series that were politically themed, and was researching the conflict in Northern Ireland for a piece titled A War Without Heroes.

Kissinger tattoo

The piece was huge, and was purchased by Steve Pieczenik, deputy assistant secretary of state under Henry KissingerCyrus Vance and James Baker. His expertise includes foreign policy, international crisis management and psychological warfare. He served the presidential administrations of Gerald FordJimmy CarterRonald Reagan and George H.W. Bush in the capacity of Deputy Assistant Secretary. 

During the research phase I came across some graffiti that symbolized the separation between North and South. I adapted it to illustrate the isolation I felt as an artist from the rest of society. It remains as my one and only tattoo.

Interviewer

I know you did the movie poster for Red Clover. What was your process? 

Abrahamson

First, let me set the record straight. I did not do the poster. My contributions to the show were some graphic illustrations for the Legend of the Leprechaun in the film. The process was painting in Photoshop so it would look like old wood block prints.

Interviewer

I understand that you are developing a production company called Lost Plasma Productions. Can you tell me a little about that? Where did the inspiration to venture into film come from, and where did the company name derive from?

Abrahamson

Lost Plasma Production was born out of pure frustration and passion. I have always loved film. I have looked upon film as a canvas with a pulse. It has the potential to be one of the most layered mediums available to an artist. I have done a little work in film primarily to work with people I admire and whose work I like. Drew Daywalt and Jeff Farley are two artists I really enjoyed working with recently. I was also incredibly frustrated by the way artists were treated in Hollywood, let alone the end results from the influence of money over content. I saw so many fabulously talented people and so little opportunity for them to create properly their visions that I wanted to become an advocate for them. So, being just dumb enough to not know that I couldn’t do it, I decided to create a production house that addressed these challenges.

I also wanted to bring films to the world that were completely character-driven, thoughtful but dwell deep in the darkest parts of the human condition. I wanted to be the business end and protect my artists’ visions as best as I can while still getting them funded and out to the world. I also planned on working as much as possible with new ideas as to how best to get that done. I am results-driven to make it work and stay true to one’s self. That is the foundation of the company.

The name comes from the first film I ever worked on. It was the film adaptation to the novel Vampire Vow by Michael Schiefelbein. Getting that project up and running was another facilitator to LPP. You should read the description. Juicy story, and I hope to have that as my first well funded venture. It will probably tweak a lot of people though.

Interviewer

How can people reach you?

Abrahamson

I am an open book. I answer as many emails as I can and I read them all. You can email me directly at jua@johnua.com. All business inquiries should go through my agent Les Barany, Baranyartists.com.  Les is not only my agent but a trusted friend as well.

Interviewer

And do you have advice for aspiring artist?

Abrahamson

I do. Follow your gut, follow your vision, listen to no one. Advice is cheap and is usually highly uninformed. But, above all else learn to be a business person as well. An artist cannot just be an artist unless you have a killer agent, but that is extremely rare. You have to do things yourself. Promotion, marketing, branding, sales development; if you wait for someone else to do it, it will never be done right, if at all. 

Lastly, for the love of god, understand the business of art and BE PROFESSIONAL! Learn how the decision makers, in whatever industry you are in, want to be approached and what type of a presentation they need from you. I got my first gallery representation WAY before the work was ready for it simply because I approached the gallery in a professional and knowledgeable way. I knew who they were, who their artists were, and that I would fit into the direction of their gallery. Do your homework!

Interviewer

You have a piece called Death of a Salesman. Is there a connection to Arthur Miller’s play?

death_of_a_salesman_resized

Abrahamson

There was a rough period in my life where I was producing work that was so controversial that sales dropped off precipitously. Rather than changing the direction of my work I bit the bullet and took a straight job in sales for a large corporation to fill in the gaps money wise. It killed me, and much like the character in the play I had severe conflicts within myself as to my identity. 

Interviewer

What medium do you use?

Abrahamson

For the good majority of my creative life I have used a fairly traditional approach to painting in oils. However, I have also used blood, water, steel, glass, skin, concrete, animal bones, journals and digital painting as well.

Interviewer

I noticed crucifixes recur in your work, usually subtle the way it is integrated in the piece. What does the crucifix mean in your work?

Abrahamson

It has changed over time. I was deeply religious in my youth and had a massive fall out with the Church after I left home almost to a point of hatred. Depending upon the piece in which it is used it can mean anything from salvation to lost faith.

Interview

Lastly, flesh occurs so often it like the canvas itself. How do you feel about flesh and the human body?

Abrahamson

That is a complex question. I may be able to simplify a bit but it will not accurately describe my relationship to the flesh nor the relationship it has within my art. However, I create as a priest says a service. To me it is a holy act that is as close as I have ever come to touching the divine. To that end I feel it deserves all my labor, my mind, my spirit and my flesh and blood.

Interviewer

If it’s not too strange, what do you think about the spirit, if you believe it exists?

Abrahamson

I believe my last answer addressed this as well.

JT. 8/8/2013. Edited by editor-in-chief Arian Cato.

What inspired you to do these pieces?

Abrahamson

Desecrated Angel — I wanted to destroy the work that had come before so that I could start anew. The Fallen Angels was the last series I had done before starting the Flesh and Blood series, and I literally butchered the angels of the past work in an act of cleansing my mind of that theme.

Totentanz — The Flesh and Blood series dealt with themes of mortality in many ways, an introspective look on my life, its directions, failings, successes and ultimate ending. The Dance of Death was to me an image of cancer dancing throughout my body. 

Theatre of Teeth — This was a difficult piece. It was speaking to the theatre that is the interactions between individuals in a committed relationship.

Dead FleshThe Dead Flesh Landscapes where the only pieces I painted during my divorce to my first wife who was a morphine addict and simply spoke of the deadness I felt inside at the time.

 

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John Tang

John Tang writes essays and fiction, and creates RPGs. He’s also the production manager for Brev Spread. You can reach him at Queries@brevspread.com


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