We have been very excited to get this interview up for many months. I can tell you that from our phone conversations, John has one of the most gentle hearts imaginable. He has one of those voices that reminds you that things are going to be OK. When he goes for a walk, I know he is the type of person who intrinsically stops to smell the flowers whenever possible. It was a joy working with him on the interview, and we look forward to many more interactions with John.
We hope you enjoy his interview!
(Interview questions by Patti Daniel, a Customer Service Supervisor at Calendars.com)
An Interview with John Sloane
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Although I grew up in the suburbs during the 1950′s and 60′s, I have always been a country person at heart. My idea of perfect happiness is just taking time out on a nice day to sit with my wife on the old-fashioned swing on the porch of our farmhouse. There, I can leave my cares a million miles away, relax and enjoy the passing sights, sounds, and scents of the country.
Which historical art figure do you most identify with?
My favorite artist has always been Norman Rockwell. I love his superb technique and the warm humanity that he was able to impart into his human interest subjects. Aspiring to be an artist, I taught myself how to paint by studying his life and art, taking the opportunity to see his original paintings whenever they were on display.
My favorite landscape painter is Ivan Shishkin, a nineteenth-century Russian artist. He’s not so well-known in this country, but I came across a book of his artwork when I was a boy and became deeply influenced by his mastery of trees, foliage and moods of the countryside. I think his work deserves to be re-discovered and appreciated for the wonderful art that it is.
What do you consider to be your greatest artistic achievement thus far? What pieces of your own art do you display in your home? Collect any other art?
I would have to say that my greatest achievement, thus far, lies in the total body of work that I have steadily produced for my calendars over the years. During the past twenty-five years, I have painted 300-400 paintings in an attempt to preserve images of traditional American country ideals, folkways, and our vanishing heritage of old barns and farmhouses.
I don’t display my own art at home, other than to have my calendar in our kitchen. I find it very difficult to resist the urge to keep analyzing my own artwork when it’s always hanging in my view. I’m always thinking about how I could have improved it.
I don’t really collect other original artwork, although I do enjoy collecting antique books illustrated by the nineteenth-century English illustrator Hugh Thomson. Thomson’s delightful pen-and-ink drawings illustrate many of the classics, and I admire his ability to draw beautifully without the use of models or photgraphic references.
What is your favorite journey?
My favorite journey was the trip my wife and I made around the backroads of New England when we were on our honeymoon many years ago. My wife, who is an avid photographer, took hundreds of photos of the old farms and countryside that we visited along the way. These inspired me to begin painting the landscape subjects that I love. For me, it was the beginning of a journey that continues to this day.
Do you keep a schedule?
As a self-employed person, I have found that self-discipline is essential to working successfully. I do keep a regular personal schedule which enables me to be as productive as possible. I think people who work for themselves are likely to work longer hours than most other people. With me, my work is my pleasure, so the two are hard to separate. My artwork is such a part of me that I don’t think of it as work. It is simply what I do.
What is your favorite, most inspiring season? Month? Day of the week?
Living in the country as I do, I am happy to find inspiration in every season or time of the month, week, or day. There is always something new to stimulate my imagination. One of the challenges I enjoy in painting the seasons is attempting to capture the subtleties in the quality of light at different times of the day or year. One soon observes that morning light has a very different quality than evening light, and the air itself filters distant views in fascinating ways at different times of the day and year. I enjoy taking long walks with my dog to observe the changing colors and moods of the landscape. This morning, for example, I was marveling at the many colors that can be seen reflected in the snow – pale warm blues from the sky, ultramarine, yellows and golds from the sunshine, and even russets and pinks in the shadows! The trick is to blend these colors in paint that way that nature does in life. I still have so much to learn.
What is your motto?
Life has a way of throwing unwelcome surprises at us, things that are beyond our control. Often, it is difficult for us to know whether these occurrences are truly negative without knowing what life’s “Big Picture” is. Nevertheless, these events can be disorienting, causing us to lose a sense of direction in our life.
Above my drawing board I have written the words “Let Providence Be Your Compass”. It is my way of reminding myself to go with the flow, to remain flexible in my goals in life, and to look at apparent setbacks as opportunities for advancement.
Listening to any musical artists in particular lately? Read any good books? Who?
It’s funny how music can stimulate my work process. When I am trying to conceive a new composition, I find that listening to classical music can be helpful. My favorite composer is Mozart. But when I actually begin to paint, I frequently enjoy listening to something more lively, like 1950s doo-wop, or perhaps I concentrate on listening to a good audiobook. They help the time to pass quickly, and the work flows. Before I know it, the painting is finished!
I enjoy reading the classics of world literature, but often take time out for a good mystery novel. Right now, I am reading the delightful books in the Moosepath League series by Van Reid, which are set in 19th-century Maine. Highly recommended!
Are you a Night Owl or Early Bird?
I think I’m inclined to be more of a night owl than an early bird. My work schedule takes me through all hours of the day, and I am used to painting until 10:00 p.m. every evening. The trouble is, my dog is an early bird, so he usually wakes me before dawn to go for a long walk in the early hours. I don’t really mind this, as those quiet morning hours give me plenty of time to contemplate new thoughts and ideas, though I usually have to make up for it with a short afternoon nap. I get some of my best ideas while walking the dog!