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Via Dr. Matthew King
on Jul 30, 2017

  352 Shares

How to Ride your Spirit Animal to your Dreams: Aspen Art Festival 2017.

When Johnnie Grinder sold everything he owned, threw a saddle on his own spirit animal, the chameleon, loaded up his suitcases, and then jumped on his spirit animal to ride into his future, he couldn’t foresee the magic that would soon unfold.

After nearly two decades, he’s travelled the world and arrived at the 2017 Aspen Art Festival in Colorado to show his unique range of works.

Welcome to Johnnie’s world; a self-styled “fantasy, historical, and surreal environment artist” who creates works that bring magical surrealism into people’s lives.

He has been called the Dr. Seuss for the soul; a Willy Wonka meets Primus, and Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey” on canvas.

~He sees himself as “an explorer of the Tunnels of the Mind on a journey through the magical labyrinth with his sketchbook in hand and his paints in tow.

Johnnie was one of several artists with whom I spoke at the 15th Annual Downtown Aspen Art Festival, which took place the weekend of July 22nd and 23rd.

Like each of the artists participating in the festival, he competed for one of a few slots by presenting his work to a blind jury. The jury’s choices for the festival resulted in an eclectic range of creations shown over the weekend, from life-size sculptures, photography, glass, paintings, ceramics, jewelry, and mixed media pieces.

As I stumbled across Johnnie’s booth at the festival, I was immediately intrigued with his approach to art, which is surreal, fantastical, and utterly fascinating. The vibrant colors of his works and the imaginative stories leapt out and aroused my spirit, inviting the curious child within to visit his intriguing world, and, ultimately, to share it with you.

When Johnnie left America he had no clue that he would eventually meet his wife, fellow artist Orange Li, live in Asia for 13 years, or open their first gallery, Steam 33 in Taipei, Taiwan. It was in a busy little neighborhood that led him to produce commissioned works for collectors in China, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and Japan. Since, he’s published a book, “Tunnels of the Mind,” and settled in Brooklyn, NY with Orange Li.

~

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After speaking with Johnnie it was clear to me that his method and approach to art likely resonates with people because he taps into something most of us aspire to in life; to acknowledge the past, as well as the limits and expectations of mainstream culture and society to pursue a crazy-ass dream.

In Johnnie’s case, it was to leave the corporate world where he was producing for others, and to produce original art for himself, while connecting with the subject of inquiry in an intimate and magical way. Johnnie did it; but it required that he sell everything he owned, while letting go of any expectations he had about his future and then traveling on his chameleon, adapting and shape-shifting, as he rode into the unknown.

Johnnie now works directly with his clients by listening to their stories, histories, hopes, dreams, fears, and desires. Then he creates unique pieces of art that reflect their lives back to them. Trained in English literature and anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, and then in Animation at the University of California, Los Angeles’ M.F.A. program, Johnnie’s works rely on the confluence of cultural symbolism, the power of story-telling, personal histories, and illustrations.

The results of his work are unique pieces of art that open the door to the realm of magic and dreams where the narrative landscapes of his clients’ lives can be fully discovered and seen. He reminds us that each of us have a unique story to tell, while encouraging each of us to pay attention to the voice that incessantly gnaws at our soul until we take action to accept and pursue our truth.

By showing his clients where they have been, he makes it possible for them to imagine where they might go.

Each of Johnnie’s works inspires viewers to pursue their dreams and reflect on their lives, while allowing it all to happen with mind-bending imagination and creativity. In the piece depicted below, three things stood out that seemed to be at the heart of Johnnie’s message; the two words, “transcend” and“ameliorate,” and then the words, “the key,” which appeared in more than one of his pieces.

When I asked Johnnie about these words and the key, he made clear that each of us can improve when we learn to let go, follow our dreams, and transcend the past’s ideas and expectations as to whom we think we ought to be.

“Each of us holds the key,” he said. The question is: are we going to use it?

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Johnnie’s life is an example of what can happen for anyone who has been teetering on the edge of their dreams, then chooses to saddle up their spirit animal and ride into the unknown dreamscape of their lives.

Will you saddle up? I think I will.

 

Author: Dr. Matthew Wilburn King
Images: Artist, Johnnie Grinder and Author’s Own
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren
Copy Editor: Danielle Beutell

Social Editor: Nicole Cameron
Social Editor:

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About Dr. Matthew King

 

Dr. Matthew Wilburn King is an American author, international consultant, and creative residing in Boulder, Colorado. Matthew’s ultimate purpose in life is to live, love and learn. He has two decades of experience conducting research and development, leading projects, and delivering strategies in the fields of environmental governance, sustainable development, and social entrepreneurship. He’s worked for government, universities, non-profits and the private sector. He consults and advises leaders worldwide.

Matthew has been to every Continent on Earth with the exception of Antarctica, completed expeditions to over 30 countries, lived in five and studied and conducted research in four—completing his PhD at the University of Cambridge.

He has published academic and popular literature for the Journal of Biological Conservation, Marine Policy Journal, World Watch Institute, U.N. Environment Program, U.N. Peacebuilding Commission, One Earth Future Foundation, U.S. Department of State, NOAA Research, among others, as well as given talks around the world. He was 1/365 Authors selected to contribute to Global Chorus: 365 Voices on the Future of the Planet alongside Dr. Jane Goodall, Nelson Mandela, The 14th Dalai Lama, Stephen Hawking, Maya Angelou, Justin Trudeau, and others.

He is a former US Presidential Management Fellow, a post-graduate Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, a Kinship Conservation Fellow, and a Fellow of the Cambridge Philosophical Society. He serves as President and Chairman of the Futurity Foundation, serving people, planet, and peace. His biggest journey, thus far, has been his current one, from head to heart. You can find him here: King’s Creations,FacebookTwitterInstagramLinkedIn, and Amazon Author Profile.

 

 

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Elephant Mountain and the Mysterious Collector from Taiwan Part 1

     In 2013 Orange Li and I opened our first art gallery called Steam 33 in Taipei, Taiwan. It was in a busy tourist neighborhood that brought people from all over Asia to collect my work. While in Taiwan I did commissions and sold originals to collectors in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and Japan.
    I always rode to work on my bicycle with my little doggy Xiao Hong Doh (Little Red Bean) in the front basket. I would paint the days and nights away in the back of our studio/gallery with our little dog by my side.

Our first gallery in Taipei, Taiwan.

Our first gallery in Taipei, Taiwan.

Elephant Mountain

     One of our first and biggest collectors in Taipei was a confident man named Leo. He worked as a manager in a restaurant at the time. He had never bought a painting before, but after commissioning his first one, the "Cambodian Buddha", he went on to become a passionate art collector.
     Strangely enough at the time of his first purchase he had roommates and not much wall space in his small apartment, but he knew that one day he would have his own place, larger than what he has now and so collected for where he expected to be in the future and not where he was in the moment. The most important thing for him was to acquire the paintings he loved.
     Also he wanted to commission paintings to capture different stages in his life journey. So far he has bought a total of seven paintings, four big commissions, and three originals. 
    One of the paintings he commissioned was simple in idea but it became one of the most popular art prints. It was "Elephant Mountain", which gets its name from the mountain Leo used to hike with his beloved husky. Occasionally he would hike up the beautiful mountain that has a breathtaking view of the city. From this viewpoint you can gaze at the marvels of what was once the tallest building in the world, Taipei's 101. Leo only asked that I include three things in the painting and left the rest up to me. He wanted his husky, his whiskey, and elephant mountain. Though in conversations Leo would talk about finding his "Dream", so I decided to include a doorway to his dreams below him, and the key in his hand. Thus whenever he chose to look for his "Dream" he would easily find it.

     Leo loved to come to our gallery and we would sit around and chat while I would be painting away in the back of the studio. One day he told me that Steam 33 gallery felt like it was a church because the color had a sort of spiritual feeling......... 
    The painting above is one that Leo commissioned so he could remember our  place. He wanted to make this painting because our place, my paintings, and our friendship had become a big part of his life and our life. That really felt amazing and to this day I feel like Leo and Philip will always be one of our tribe.  In the painting he wanted to be in our gallery with, Orange, me, and his partner. I love how the painting came out and it captures the magic of our first gallery and some really good friends.  .........You can spot our little doggy Xiao Hong Doh trying to make an escape in the bottom left corner. 

Click the link here:
PORTRAIT SAMPLES
MAKE MY PORTRAIT
HOW CAN I START MY PORTRAIT?

Xiao Hong Doh (Little Red Bean)

Xiao Hong Doh
(Little Red Bean)

How to Start My Biographic Portrait?

How to Start My Biographic Portrait?

1. Choose the most comfortable size for you. 
Don't worry about the details because the size determines the amount of details to put in a painting without it feeling too crowded. Always choose the biggest size that you can. The largest paintings are the most powerful and can evoke wonderful emotions. In a way they share how epic your life really has been by placing all of your best memories into one painting.

2. How many items can you put in the different sizes? This also depends on the size. We created a list below as suggestions. (The most important items are "HAVE TO" items.) Share your best stories in life, interests, collections, best memories.

Narrative Biographical Portrait Commission Suggestions

Main items in your painting

16" x 20" 1-3 items

24" x 30" 3-5 items

30" x 40" 3-7 items

36" x 48" 3-10 items

48" x 72" 3-20 items

72" x 96" 3-30 items

Items mean places, animals, signs, objects, vehicles, memories, ideas

  •  Pets
  • Favorite destinations (where you went or where you want to go)
  • Dream life, dream car, dream house.......
  • Job or dream job
  • Important symbols to you, ie; key, heart, lock, ladder, hammer, etc.
  • Fantasy world, historical, surreal, adventure....
  • Any commission ideas that are not for commercial use are submitted here.

3. Tell me your life story in a few paragraphs or a few pages. The details of your life can help me understand your character, personality, interests which I can use as a way of constructing your world. I will decide which pieces fit the main idea and look the best together.

4. Send pictures of things important to you and pictures of you in Dropbox to johnniegrinder.

5. Connect on Facebook with Johnnie Grinder if you can, so I can see your world and learn more about you for your painting.

These are suggestions. You can decide what is the most important to you. You don't need
to design the painting. That is what I do. Just tell me your story the best you can. This will be a lot of fun.  Enjoy the process and I will ask you more questions later if needed.

Order your portrait now! Click the link here: MAKE MY PORTRAIT. 
Send your life story to johnniegrinder@gmail.com

The Well of Lost Souls

When I was growing up there was one person that was always happy to sit and listen to me ramble on about my young adventures. She was my rock in a stormy childhood and my friend when I really needed one. She was the hamburger pizza maestro, the tamale pie matador, and the lemon lime jello master with the three MC's. That wonderful sweet old lady, was my Grandma.........when she passed away it felt like my heart was ripped out of my chest...........but I felt there was no better way to remember her and keep her close to me than to make an animation about her.

The "Well of Lost Souls" was my second year film that I made as a graduate student in the MFA Animation program at UCLA. It was a great journey of growth as an animator and as an adult. The experience at UCLA changed me and gave me the confidence to pursue life as an artist full time.

A Backpack and a Sketchbook is All I Really Need

After 13 years of traveling around Asia, I told myself that on this last trip I wouldn't come back to the USA until I finished my book project. Well, I am back and the book is finished.

Tunnel of The MInd

 The book is titled "Tunnels of the Mind". It is an illustrated adventure that uses pipes as a symbol of connection between people we meet, the books we read, and the experiences we have, past, present, and future. It started when I sold everything I had and headed to Europe with my sketchbooks and a backpack. I lived cheap staying in hostels in Paris sketching the people I met and the collecting ideas around me. Some of my favorite paintings came from sketches that I started in Paris, Prague, Tokyo, Kyoto, Bangkok, and Taipei.e The sketchbooks kept filling up and it turned out that on this journey I had filled up nearly fifty sketchbooks with enchanted forests, cyborgs, friendly creatures, post apocalyptic adventures, and pharmaceutical nightmares. I am still pulling from these sketchbooks to create new paintings. It was a great experience finishing this project.how it lead me to my life today in Brooklyn, New York.

 

18741556_10213580478853434_1716548244_n.jpg

One of these sketches I finally painted last week and put the Giclee prints in the online store. It is the "Gas Mask Boy". He is an adventurer that is a true survivor. He can get through toxic environments, and deal with toxic people. He holds the key in his hand to unlock his dreams as he journeys onward and upward. He is a bit like the "the Fool", in the tarot cards, starting out on a grand journey to chase his dreams and to never give up until he creates the life he is always imagined. Which leads me to my own story as I landed in Brooklyn, New York to build a life in this magical and chaotic city, always striving to improve, and always climbing through the tunnels that will lead me to my dreams.