Art Work by John MacConnell
Willpower is a combination of the desire for something and perseverance to make it happen.
I became interested in drawing at a very young age. I have sketchbooks from as far back as elementary school. I started by drawing Disney characters, and that evolved into comic book characters as I got older.
While I took many art classes growing up, I always considered it a hobby. As a senior in high school, my teachers made me realize that it could be more than that. They suggested I apply to art schools and make it a career. I’m so grateful for them.
I went to Maryland Institute College of Art for my undergrad and the School of Visual Arts for my grad. I studied illustration, graphic design, painting, and art history. As an artist, you are always developing your skills and techniques. It is a constant process of experimentation to make sure your work grows.
I was very lucky to be introduced to the artist Mark Beard a few years ago. He’s become a mentor and an invaluable resource for me. There is so much that you don’t learn in school about the business side of art. He’s always there to give me advice.
I’m always looking for inspiration, and I have found it in many places over the years. My core inspirations are Renaissance and Baroque artists such as Michelangelo, Rubens, Van Dyke, Caravaggio, etc. Other sources of inspiration are comic books from the 1990s and 2000s, Bauhaus design (specifically Josef Albers), and fashion photography. Of course, many Modern and Contemporary artists inspire me today such as Paul Cadmus, Robert Longo, Lucian Freud, Barbara Kruger, James Rosenquist, Kehinde Wiley, David Hockney, Mark Beard, Doron Langberg, Jonathan Kent Adams, Adam Chuck, Jen Mann, and so many others.
I’m a portrait artist. My work focuses on people’s interaction with contemporary life, culture, and community. My work is best when I allow it to be loose. I’m generally a very structured person, so allowing my work to have loose/rough/unfinished elements came as a struggle. I’ve adapted by using materials that force a looseness. I sketch in pen, I start my detailed drawings with a rag and graphite powder, and I begin my paintings with a large brush. All of these methods make me release control and add the energy and vitality that I want in my work.
Something important to remember too is to not let Instagram “likes" determine what you make. Make what you want to make. You should be dictating the content of your work. The number of likes does not determine your interests, what is quality, or even what people want to buy.
An art career is a marathon, not a sprint. Successes can be very spread apart, especially as you are just starting out. The willpower to not give up is essential.
I recently published my third book. Sketch Book Boys came out in 2017, Draw You / Draw Me in 2018, and Sketch Book Boys Vol. 2 in 2019. It is absolutely wild to me to think that my work is in so many hands across the globe.
I am fortunate to be able to pursue my career as an artist.
Stay up to date with John's work by following him on instagram @JohnMacConnell