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:

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.



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.