Joanne Thompson: Thompson Landry Gallery

Written by: Frank Iacono

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As Canada’s only gallery specializing exclusively in Quebec artwork, the Thompson Landry Gallery, which officially opened in March of 2006 by Joanne Thompson and her partner Sylvain Landry, has gained international recognition for its unique ability to provide a space in which the spirit and culture of Quebec is encapsulated.

Housed in the heart of Toronto’s Historic Distillery District, The Thompson Landry Gallery, an impressive 7,000 square feet in total, is comprised of two distinct spaces: The Stone Distillery Building and The Cooperage Space. Each gallery offers a dynamic and exciting ambiance that pays homage to the work of both the very best contemporary artists and the Great Masters from the province of Quebec. Appropriately deemed “The Temple of Quebec Art” by the Toronto Star, the Thompson Landry Gallery is the only location where you can find the talent and diversity that Quebec artists have achieved in their work.

Each gallery space simultaneously reflects their architectural history and boasts unique backdrops that emphasize the artwork on display. Painting, sculpture, glass work, and photography are all set against the original limestone and exposed brick and plaster walls. The juxtaposition between the artwork and the rawness of the spaces creates an extraordinary experience for the viewer.

Always on the leading edge of the artwork coming out of the province of Quebec, the Thompson Landry Gallery pushes the boundaries to find work that is both innovative and exceptional.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Joanne Thompson and asking her about her early art influences, her background, her specific style of art, her favorite artists, and her passion for being an art dealer.

The Creative Spotlight: How and when did you decide to embark in your profession as a gallerist? And, what made you decide to set up shop in the historic Distillery District in Toronto, Ontario Canada?

In 2004 my partner Sylvain Landry and I decided that we wanted to open a gallery in Toronto. The key was finding the perfect place for it. We wanted something that was spacious and had a lot of character. Not something cold and sterile, but a place our clients would feel at home.

The Stone Building at the Distillery District had all those characteristics. I could also design and finish it the way I wanted. We knew we had to build our clientele, so opening in a walking arts district with other galleries, a theatre and one of a kind shops (the Distillery District) made sense to us. It took two years of planning, and we also needed to wait until the Distillery finished the building (late 2005) so that we could move in and finish our space. We finally opened our gallery in March 2006.

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My background is in set design and stage management for theatre. I also worked as a scenic artist in the art department for film and TV. I have always collected artwork, and contemporary Quebec artwork in particular. Artists from Quebec continually asked for my partner Sylvain’s and my opinion on where they should be represented in Toronto. We tried to help them out, but there was never a perfect match. That was when we realized that there was a place in Toronto for a gallery that specialized in the works of contemporary Quebec artists.

TCS: For the benefit of those who are not familiar with Joanne Thompson or the Thompson Landry Gallery, please share with us your education, certifications, training, and/or additional qualifications that you possess?

I graduated in 1993 with an Honours BFA in Theatre – specifically in set design and stage management. That training helped me to be able to think of the design of a room as a whole, and stage management taught me how to be ridiculously organized and deal with pressure. Hanging an exhibition is just a little like producing a theatrical production. I do not have any formal training in curatorial studies or art sales. Being able to visualize a space where the work is to be displayed in three dimensions is of upmost importance to creating a well curated hang.

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I was drawn to Contemporary Quebec artwork in particular because the artists continually push and manipulate the boundaries of their artwork. You can find this in so many ways: in their subjects, their use of mediums, their fearlessness in their approach to their artwork. Nothing supersedes the passion that you can find in their work, and that is something that I truly believe in.

TCS: Can you specifically define what educational path one would take to become a curator?

There are some great universities in Canada that have curatorial and art history courses. For post grad, Sotheby’s Institute of Art has locations in NYC, Los Angeles and London which is a very good way to learn more of the business side of the art world. I believe that interning at an auction house, commercial gallery or museum to get some hands-on experience is always a good idea. Obtaining as much diverse experience as possible is what I would recommend. I would also say that life experience is key. Travelling, visiting galleries, exhibitions and art shows will help to give a better overall perspective of what is happening in the world of art, and will open your mind to new ideas.

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TCS: How have your experiences as an artist shaped your approach to running a gallery?

Coming from a design background I have an appreciation for the time and creative effort it takes for an artist to put together either just one piece, or a full exhibition of works. I think it helps me to understand their process and it makes working together enjoyable and stress free.

TCS: Was there a specific artist that you were most excited about bringing into the Thompson Landry Gallery? And, tell us how you determine which art and artists you will showcase?

I think that the artist I was most excited about bringing onboard at the Thompson Landry Gallery when we first opened 10 years ago was abstract artist, Jean-Pierre Lafrance. He had 35 years of experience and his masterful abstracts are some of the best in Canada. I had collected his works, and respected him as an artist, for many years.

There are several determining factors to choosing artists for the gallery. The first, and most importantly, is we need to love and believe in what the artist does. We always look at whether the artist has something original to say, and do their works consistently share that with the viewer. Finally, it is important to look at whether their works compliment the roster we have already created, and do they add a new perspective and something exciting to the gallery as a whole.

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TCS: Share with us some of the highlights from the Thompson Landry Gallery 2016 Exhibitions? And, describe for us what we can expect in 2017?

2016 was a very exciting year for us as we celebrated our 10th anniversary of the gallery. We had an enormous exhibition featuring 19 of our painters and sculptors creating over 100 works that were displayed in both galleries. The exhibition was widely attended and was one of the most remarkable displays we have curated to date.

In 2016 we also had very successful solo exhibitions for Marie-Josée Roy and André Pitre.

2017 is proving to already have a thrilling start for the gallery. From January 27th through March 12th we are featuring 2 of our artists, Laurence Nerbonne and Ognian Zekoff, in our Cooperage space in celebration of Light Fest at the Distillery District. These two artists are masters of light and shadow, creating dramatic and emotion filled figurative works.

Also in 2017 we have a fantastic line up of very talented, internationally renowned artists:

  • May 18th – June 4th: Danielle Lanteigne and Dominique Fortin
  • June 22nd – July 9th: Jean-Pierre Lafrance
  • September 6th – 24th: Stikki Peaches
  • November 9th – 26th: France Jodoin

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TCS: Describe for us what you think sets the Thompson Landry Gallery apart from other galleries?

At first glance, when you walk into either of the gallery spaces, the work takes your breath away. The pieces on the walls are dynamic, colourful and created with a passion that exudes from the works. The artwork is lit by a professional who makes sure that the works are experienced at their very best. The spaces are welcoming and invite people to stay for a long period of time and enjoy the artwork. Whether someone walking in is enjoying the gallery for the first time, or if they are a versed collector, they are treated with upmost respect and courtesy. The most important thing for us is that our clients are comfortable and have a very enjoyable and memorable experience.

Also, having 2 separate spaces enables us to have a solo show in one gallery while we exhibit our other artists in the other gallery. This means that there are no lengthy times when artists are not being displayed.

TCS: How has the Thompson Landry Gallery evolved over the years?

After three years of having our first space at the Distillery, we opened our second, Cooperage Space. That increased our square footage from 2700 square feet to 7000 square feet.

We have evolved with the artwork that we represent. As the artwork coming out of Quebec changes, we change with it. We want to stay current and always have something new for our clients to discover at our gallery.

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TCS: Looking back over the first 10 years of operation, what do you consider the most successful exhibit?

A very difficult question because it depends on what you mean by “successful”. Some exhibitions have been very financially successful while others are received incredibly well by both the press and by clients, but maybe do not sell as well.

We held an exhibition called GAIA in August 2012, both inside and outside the gallery. It was comprised of 30 pieces inside and 60 large scale works outside around the Distillery District. The works were photographs taken of the earth, by Guy Laliberté, during the time he spent 11 days in space circling the globe 220 miles from the surface of the earth. These photographs were not colour adjusted in any way, as he wanted to show the earth as it really is. All the proceeds from any sales of these photographs went directly to ONE DROP. ONE DROP is a non-profit organization founded by Laliberté to fight poverty worldwide by ensuring access to clean water now and in the future.

This was a very proud moment for the gallery. We were very happy to be part of such a great cause and such an artistic achievement in large scale photography.

TCS: As an art dealer, what’s the gallery’s greatest achievement?

I believe that the gallery’s greatest achievement is the reputation we have built over the past 10 years. Not only with our clients, but with the artists from Quebec. We treat our artists with the upmost respect. This is very important because the relationship between gallerist and artist is hopefully a lifelong one. I am happy when I can make my artists happy.

My proudest moment was probably at our 10th anniversary celebration last September when I could look around at 19 of our artists and know that we have worked incredibly hard but together we have made the gallery a success.

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TCS: When the Thompson Landry Gallery is closed do you visit other art galleries to look at the work of specific artists?

The life of a gallery owner is not glamourous. It means working 6 to 7 days per week, during both the day and night. My one day off tends to be on Mondays which is a day that all other galleries in the city are also closed. That, sadly, makes visiting the other galleries quite difficult. My partner and I do travel quite a lot and visit many galleries in cities all over Europe. We also take the time to visit galleries and studios in Montreal and Quebec City to see who is being featured, and to find artists that we may not have known about before. We are always keeping our eye open for something new and exciting.

TCS: Do you collect? What artists – aside from the ones you represent – are of interest to you?

Yes, collecting is what created my path to owning and operating a gallery.
I love the following international artists: Sophie Ryder, Jean-Pierre Ruel, Desiréé Dolron, Jonas Burgert, Simon Casson, Nicolas Hicks and Quebec artists: Paul Beliveau, Kevin Sonmore,

I also like to collect the lithographs of Marc Chagall and Jean Cocteau

TCS: What piece of artwork has affected you the most and why?

I do not think that there is one particular work that has affected me more than others. I enjoy and appreciate many forms of artwork and to choose just one is impossible for me.

TCS: What is your mantra and, how does it sum up your life?

Eleanor Roosevelt — “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

Jump into everything you do with equal amounts of passion, intelligence and conviction. Live life to its fullest and don’t be scared to try something new.

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TCS: Being a successful art dealer requires both “art” and business skills. What do you think is the optimal mix? Has your opinion on that changed in the past 10 years?

Having business skills are definitely essential to owning an art gallery. That and being able to relate to people, whether it is your clients or the artists you represent. 10 years ago, I didn’t know that being the Director of an art gallery, I would create such long and close relationships with both my artists and my clients, many I now call my close friends. You need to be able to read people and what they need from you.

Having “a good eye” in order to create a hang is where I mostly use my “art” skills. This also comes into use when going into a client’s home and advising them in terms of pieces, size and location.

TCS: What advice do you have for young artists who want to make a living through their art?

Work hard and just keep at it. Find your visual language and the message you want to send into the world and sick by it. But, don’t be scared to try new things. When you are ready to find a gallery to be represented at, do your research and find a gallery that you trust and will well represent you. It is a two-way relationship that will hopefully be very long term.

About Frank Iacono

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Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.

Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.stone-gallery-panorama-low-res-jpg

Randy Bates – Haunted Attractions

Written by: Frank Iacono

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Over the years, Halloween has become one of the most celebrated holidays of the year, and this is important as the Halloween season lasts for the whole month of October. With the advent of high tech horror movies and shows coupled with their amazing special effects, haunted attractions strive to create an atmosphere of realism that rival these Hollywood films and television. Now more than ever, people are going to haunted attractions, hayrides, corn mazes, and pumpkin patches.

Haunted Houses in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area are some of the scariest haunted houses in America. And, Randy Bates, better known as the mayhem-keeper, operates two major haunted attractions in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania area. In 1991, he opened The Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride, located on Arasapha Farm in Glen Mills PA, and then in 2009 he became the managing partner of the Pennhurst Haunted Asylum, located in Spring City, PA. Both are highly detailed and themed, and have a combination of high tech animatronics, digital sound and light systems, and professional actors. The Bates Motel and Haunted Hayride is a member of America Haunts, the national coalition of America’s best haunted attractions.

With its trilogy of terror that includes The Bates Motel, Haunted Hayride, and The Haunted Corn Maze, Arasapha has been terrifying visitors with some of the most amazing heart-pounding theatrics, Hollywood-style special effects, costumes, props, and trained actors for years. The attraction has garnered national attention and even been named one of the best 13 haunted attractions in America year after frightening year. Additionally, the Bates attractions have been featured in various publications including Haunted Attractions Magazine and Hauntworld as well as on the Travel Channel.

The Pennhurst Haunted Asylum consists of 4 main attractions. The Asylum is a hospital themed walk-through of the first and second floors of the old administration building. The Dungeon of Lost Souls is a medical experiment laboratory gone horribly wrong. Using items found on the abandoned Pennhurst property, this attraction is dark and intense. The Tunnel Terror haunt is located in the subterranean tunnels of the Pennhurst complex: a 900 foot walk-through of the darkest history at Pennhurst. The Ghost Hunt attraction is a self-guided tour of the Mayflower dormitory, reportedly the most haunted building on the premises, and featured on Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Randy Bates and asking him a few questions about his farm, his career in the haunt industry, his attractions, his influences, his success and struggles, and the future of the fright business.

Q&A Session

TCS: How and when did you decide to delve into a career in the haunt industry and whom or what would you say inspired you?

In the late 80’s there was a haunted trail nearby that was a fundraiser for a local historical society. In 1990, they shut down due to damage to their property. In 1991, we decided to run a similar operation, but do it from our hay wagons. For 15 years, we had been doing hayrides and bonfires for church groups, scouts, fraternities, and so on. So, we had the infrastructure in place to start the haunted hayride. I really had no one that inspired me; in fact, I had never heard of haunted hayrides and never went to a haunted house. I always loved scaring people and tormented my sisters and their friends. This is our 26th season and the business has saved our family farm and provides income to over 300 people.


TCS: For the benefit of those who are not familiar with Arasapha Farm located in Glen Mills, Pennsylvania, can you describe for us the three main haunted attractions and how they have evolved over the years?

The Haunted Hayride began in 1991, Bates Motel opened in 1996, and the Revenge of the Scarecrows Haunted Trail opened in 2000. Each event gets additional props, sets, and scenes each year as we always strive to be the best.


The Haunted Hayride

For over 25 years, the Haunted Hayride at Arasapha Farm has been scaring its visitors with amazing props, digital FX, great actors and extraordinary professional makeup. The Hayride has been featured several times on the Travel Channel and has been rated as the Number 1 Haunted Attraction in America by Hauntworld Magazine, USA Today, and many other national publications. The Haunted Hayride is a 25 minute, action packed, heart pounding ride through the dark forest of Arasapha Farm, located just outside of Philadelphia Pennsylvania, and is filled with huge, detailed sets, giant monsters and more pyrotechnics than a Kiss concert. With scenes like a 100’ foot long, 40 foot tall drive thru insane asylum, a full scale mockup of a New England church and a 200 foot long cave, the Haunted Hayride is an amazing example of Hollywood style sets and props. And then there is the scares. With over 75 actors and 25 scenes, it is no wonder why this event is always on the “Top 13” national lists of the best haunted attractions. To celebrate our 25th Anniversary, we have added a new, giant set that will put this year’s hayride over the top. This jaw dropping scene is guaranteed to strike fear in the bravest of souls! And, this year we present the return of the Headless Horseman, one of our customer’s all-time favorites.

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Bates Motel

Don’t forget to check into the Bates Motel, for the most incredible display of terror and mayhem this side of Hollywood. Filled with high tech special effects, digital soundtrack and lighting, the Bates Motel takes Halloween to a new level of horror…up close and personal! With incredible detail and stellar acting, it is no wonder why the Bates Motel is considered one of the best Haunted Houses in America. The realism in this attraction is astonishing, and is guaranteed to wow the experienced haunted house enthusiast. As you creep through this show, you see levitating spirits, floor boards that come alive, pictures that follow you, and incredible, custom animatronic props that you will not see anywhere else. The actors interact with you on a personal level and the screams echo throughout the building! What’s new for this year? You will have to come out and see for yourself! The Bates Motel is a high startle; high action haunted attraction and not recommended for children under 8 or people with heart conditions.

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Revenge of the Scarecrows Haunted Trail

The third show in this Trilogy of Terror at Arasapha Farm is the Revenge of the Scarecrows Haunted Trail. It is a terrifying walk through a tall corn field filled with buildings and sets, tons of animatronic monsters and over 30 actors in full makeup and custom costumes. This event is like no other corn maze in the country and has fast become a favorite at the Bates Farm.

Arasapha Farms Haunted Corn Maze

TCS: When do you start preparing for the Bates Motel haunted hayride and the haunted corn maze and tell us what exactly goes into the overall preparation?

Preparation begins in January. We start with a brainstorming session with our managers and creative staff. Ideas are thrown around and detailed plans are drawn up. Build crew lists materials needed, electronics, lighting, and what props we will need. Over the winter months, our art staff refurbishes older props and creates new ones in our mold and sculpts facility. Construction crew repairs animatronics, adds new features to them, and manufacture new ones in our metal fabrication shop.

In March, our staff attends the Transworld Halloween trade show in St. Louis, Missouri. There, we attend seminars, network with other haunt owners, and search the show for new props, makeup, and ideas. Some of our staff, including myself, hosts seminars for the show. These include safety and awareness, show control operations, makeup, and custom mold making. Once we return from St. Louis, construction begins on the Bates Motel. Rooms are torn out and replaced with new ones. By April construction begins on the hayride, usually with additional trails, sets and props. We have our own sawmill on the farm and produce lumber for many of these sets. By July, we are in full blown construction with as many as 15 employees working full-time.

When we come up with a new idea, the build crew draws up the construction design and a list of materials, the electronics crew determines how the scene will be triggered, lighting, sound effects, foggers, and most importantly, where the scare is. The art crew then decide how the scene will be detailed, paints needed, additional scene decoration and what the characters will be wearing and type of mask or makeup.

All of this is what sets us apart from other attractions is our uniqueness.


TCS: Can you talk about how your key staff members utilize your complete workshop on the premises to create some of the details of each of attraction?

Our facility has a complete metal fabrication section, wood shop, and creative art department. We make our own makeup appliances, masks, and monsters.

TCS: Can you describe the talent search process in becoming an actor for your haunted attractions?

First we ask current employees if they have family or friends that would be interested in working for the attractions. We have a link on our website where potential staff can complete an employment form. We also advertise on Craig’s list. Once we have a sufficient number of potential employees, we hold auditions at the farm. We usually hold these in July and August. My Daughter, Angela handles all hiring and staff placement; an enormous job considering we have over 300 employees. At the auditions, our actor managers put these people thru an intensive workshop to determine if they will be suitable for the long hours and physical stress.


TCS: Which one of your three attractions is the most popular and why?

Our most popular attraction is The Haunted Hayride. This is most likely due to the fact that it’s suitable for all ages. One of my favorite scenes is our collapsing mine shaft. It is something we drew up years ago and still gets great screams. The Bates Motel and Haunted Trail are more intense as the actors and props are much closer to the customers.

TCS: Can you tell us about how your attendance at the Halloween Trade Show in Chicago, Illinois, in 1996 truly impacted your decision to open The Bates Motel attraction?

In 1996, my staff and I attended the Trade show in Chicago, IL. We had pretty much developed in a vacuum with little or no outside influence. When we saw the amazing props, masks, and costumes that were available, it totally blew us away. I attended a seminar given by Leonard Pickel, an authority on haunted houses since the early 1980s. We learned how to design and build a haunt from the ground up. I also attended a seminar on haunted hayrides, eager for great information. It was the most disappointing seminar as the presenter was operating his hayride with customers sitting in the back of a pickup truck! This is when we realized that we were at the cutting edge of hayrides, and even had other haunt owners pumping us for info. During this time, haunters would not exchange info with anyone who had an attraction in the same state. I never had that problem and now attraction owners discuss their operations freely.


TCS: How long have you and your family owned Arasapha Farm? And, can you describe for us some of the other attractions that you’ve implemented over the years to keep the farm running on a yearly basis?

Arasapha farm was purchased in 1952 by my parents Bill and Anne Bates. They raised sheep, chickens and then game birds such as pheasants, quail and fancy birds. They also grew crops. In 1970, my dad and I planted 2000 Christmas trees that we eventually harvested and sold. After my father died in 1982, my wife, two kids and I moved back to the farm to help my mother. Over the years we have developed the farm into an Agritainment venue, with the Halloween events, Daytime children’s events, including bounce houses, farm animal petting zoo, hayrides, corn mazes and other fun games. In 2006, we planted 5,000 trees, and began our Holiday Hayride. This is a ride thru the rolling hills of the farm with huge light displays, festive music, snow machines and live reindeer. We also added a Santa’s workshop, photos with Santa and a gift shop. At all our attractions we offer food and drinks.

TCS: Can you give us at least three “Good to Know” facts about The Bates Motel, Haunted Hayride, and The Haunted Corn Maze?

  • If you plan to come out on a Saturday night in October, be prepared to wait in long lines. Our attractions have become very popular over the years and the majority of our customers come on Saturday nights.
  • Always wear comfortable shoes as you will be on a working farm.
  • The Haunted Hayride is always the first attraction to close, so make sure you do that event first.

TCS: In your opinion, what do you feel are the key factors in operating a successful haunted attraction?

Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell and advertise! To have a successful event, you need a great team. From management staff to artists and IT guys, you must have a complete staff. Marketing is the next most important key to success. A complete marketing plan that includes media ads, print articles, coupons and flyers, and digital marketing is necessary. You also need to have a quality show which will bring in repeat business. Changes to your show are also necessary for the repeaters.


TCS: Within Pennsylvania, there are many well-known haunted attractions so what do you feel makes your attraction stand out from all the other scary destinations?

There are lots of quality attractions in the area. One thing this has done is raise the awareness of Haunted Attractions in the tristate area. PA has become a mecca for travelers looking for the best haunted attractions, and come from all over the US and Canada. Our attractions stand out because of our uniqueness. I don’t attend other shows, so all our ideas are our own. Usually by the end of the season, I’m pretty burnt out, but now that my family is running many aspects for the business, it has taken a lot of stress off my shoulders. I still get excited when we design and build new things, and love watching the customers high five each other after attending.

TCS: Have you embraced social media marketing strategies to promote and market your business?

Yes, we have used social media to market our business and stay connected with our audience via the following vehicles:

  • Bates Motel & Haunted Hayride Website
  • Bates Motel & Haunted Hayride Facebook
  • Bates Motel & Haunted Hayride Instagram
  • Bates Motel & Haunted Hayride Twitter
  • Bates Motel & Haunted Hayride YouTube

TCS: Congratulations on running such a fun and successful attraction for the past 26 years. In that timeframe, what would you say has been the most rewarding and the most challenging aspects of running your haunted attractions?

The most rewarding part is watching my children grow up and become major parts of my business. Also, the thank you’s we get from our customers. For over 12 years, we have made all the top 13 lists, including number one attraction in the country 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. Being featured in major publications and on network television, including twice on the Travel Channel has also been rewarding. The most challenging aspects of the business is handling over 300 employees. The hiring, paperwork and actor placement takes a lot of time and effort. We have a backup team ready to fill in when staff call out and that makes for a lot of juggling.

TCS: Describe your role as Managing Partner with the Pennhurst Haunted Asylum?

In 2009, I was approached by the owner of Pennhurst to produce a haunted attraction there. I wrote the business plan and told him that if I was to be involved, that it had to be world class right from the start. The Bates Motel build crew spent most of the spring and all summer in 2010 and opened with two attractions that October. There was a lot of negative publicity surrounding the use of the property, and all my friends said don’t worry, publicity is good. They were right.


Opening night was amazing, with all three major networks and Fox News covering us with live feeds. The first year we built the Asylum haunt and the tunnel of terror. We worked right up until opening day. In 2011, we designed the Dungeon of Lost Souls, a more mainstream themed attraction. My daughter, who handled all the social media marketing, mentioned that many people wanted to see some of the buildings as they were 30 years ago. So we opened the ghost hunt attraction. It became an instant success. Dealing with partners can be difficult at times but we made the best of it. In early 2016 the property owner fell into bankruptcy and was threatened with foreclosure on many of his properties, including the Pennhurst property. A new owner is in the process of purchasing it and will open the attractions this year. I decided to sell my shares in the business, partly to take off some of the stress, and also remove myself from liability issues due to the deterioration of the buildings. The previous owner refused to perform maintenance on the buildings and I feel that they are becoming a serious liability. I wish the new staff well.


TCS: What do you think is the fascination behind people wanting to be scared or frightened? And, do you believe in the Paranormal?

Getting scared is an adrenaline rush for most people. There is the physical as well as the mental reaction that people crave and hate at the same time. We designed our attractions to be like a roller coaster ride. Suspenseful beginning, music to get them on edge, then hit them with the scares. Our ultimate job is to mess with people’s heads, and we have gotten very good at it. As for Paranormal, I feel that some people are tuned into it and others are not. I have worked, alone, in the pitch black darkness in the basement at Pennhurst, and never saw anything. My daughter, who is also a professional photographer is tuned in and has had many experiences both at home and at Pennhurst.

TCS: Yes, I know we should have ended the interview with 13 questions to keep with the freight theme but our audience needs to know where do you see the haunted attraction industry headed within the next five years?

Every year, I attend the Transworld Haunted Attraction Show, now located in St. Louis. Every other year we attend the IAAPA show in Orlando, Florida. We also periodically attend the Mid-west haunter’s convention in Columbus, Ohio. It’s always great to see old friends and make new ones. In 1997, I helped found the International Association of Haunted Attractions, and was a past board member. In 2003, we founded the association called America Haunts, a group of the largest haunted attractions around the country. There were 5 original members and have now grown to 28. This is an invitation only, market exclusive association that works together to promote haunted attractions around the country. We gather at the trade shows and have an annual meeting each year at one of the member’s attraction. The group trades ideas, develops unique marketing strategies and promote our attractions.


In 2005, we hired a film crew and produced a one hour TV show called America Haunts. It was sold to the Travel Channel, who liked to format so much they shot 4 more shows the nest year, filming our new members. In 2010 I helped found the Haunted House Association, with the idea that any trade association should be run by qualified attraction owners. I am a past board member and past president of this group. In 2007, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania began requiring Haunted House owners to take a safety course, pass an inspector’s test and file required paperwork with them. I was asked to help write the test and put together seminars specific to haunted attractions. Since then, I teach Code Compliance in Haunted Houses, Hayride Safety, and Outdoor Attraction Safety to new inspectors.

Along with these organizations, I am also a member of our local volunteer fire company, sit on the Delaware County Conservation District board, and am the Vice Chairman of the Edgmont Township Supervisors.

I see the Haunted Attraction industry going the way of Hollywood and video games. Everything is becoming more sophisticated, computerized, and detailed. Someone trying to break in to this business has to put up a lot of money to open and compete. Shows like The Walking Dead on AMC, and all the horror movies that are out prove that there is a huge horror audience. In the Philadelphia market alone there are over 10 major attractions, with many smaller operations. With this much marketing going on, the consumer becomes hyper aware of Halloween haunted attractions, which benefits all of us.

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.

Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.

The Creative Spotlight: 2015

Written by: Frank Iacono

2015-Spotlights

The end of the year causes us to reflect, and in this spirit, I thought it would be fun to recount The Creative Spotlight blog posts from 2015. When it comes to The Creative Spotlight, the goal is simple. Introduce readers to the best local and national musicians, artists, actors, business owners, motivational speakers, photographers, and other published authors. Consider The Creative Spotlight as the ultimate destination for unearthing a wealth of undiscovered talent, reading exciting interviews, learning helpful tips and tricks, and news that you can use…plus lots of great ideas for enriching your life and enjoying yourself.

As we welcome 2016, we want to make sure that you did not miss any of the 18 articles from 2015. This blog includes a complete, categorized list of The Creative Spotlight posts that were published in 2015.

January 2015

Marilyn Russell: Morning Show Host

March 2015

Chris LeGrand: Rolling Stones Tribute Band

April 2015

Neill Byrnes: Draw The Line Aerosmith Tribute Band

Shaun Benson: Actor and Director

May 2015

Carolyn Bennett-Sullivan: Author

June 2015

Dawn Botti: Singer and Songwriter

July 2015

Joanna Maria Morales Miarrostami: Artist

Sheila Brown: Summer Nites Bed and Breakfast 

August 2015

Travis Clark: We The Kings

Duffer’s: Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor

Ages Apart: Alternative Rock Band

Jack Morey: Morey’s Piers

Derek Crider: Singer and Songwriter

September 2015

Everything Falls: Modern Rock Band

Aandra Bohlen: Business Coach

October 2015

Michelle Antonucci Smith: Zumba® Fitness Instructor

November 2015

Meisha Johnson: TV Personality

Karen Mansfield: Singer And Songwriter

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono Photo

Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.

Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.

Joanna Maria Morales Miarrostami: Artist

Written by: Frank Iacono

Joanna Maria Morales Miarrostami

Joanna Maria Morales Miarrostami, a NYS Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker and Artist at Pinot’s Palette Staten Island, was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. When Joanna was 2 years old, she boarded a ship and moved to Florida with her family to escape the revolution of her homeland.

Joanna grew up on a ranch home, built by her father, in Miami, Florida with her parents and 2 sisters. The home featured an in ground pool, a riding track, and a barn. She had 2 horses, 6 goats, 12 chickens, roosters, hamsters, gerbils, and a dog. Her love for animals and in turn drawing them became her favorite pass time. Her family returned to Santo Domingo where she continued to live until she got married and moved back to the United States residing in Colorado.

At the age of 30, Joanna once again picked up drawing and painting. However, this time she started painting with oils and tried other mediums such as acrylic, watercolor, clay sculpting, scratchboard, and oil pastel. From her upbringing, animals were naturally her first subject but since then she’s evolved into flowers, landscapes, and portraits. Now, for more than 20 years, she’s been working nonstop at developing her craft. She’s continuously challenging herself and working toward reaching new heights. Her dream is to one day be able to render a portrait of someone and have the person in portrait be recognized by his/her family and friends. Her background and extraordinary talent holds all the characteristics of a true artist. By practicing, taking online classes, and studying the works of professional artists I strongly believe she will achieve all of her personal goals and ambitions.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Joanna Maria Morales Miarrostami and asking her a few questions about her early influences, her specific style of art, her favorite artists and painting, and her passion for teaching art.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: When did you first become interested in painting? And, who or what influenced you to become an artist?

Joanna Maria Morales Miarrostami: A drawing of a horse and an Indian was done for me at the early age of six. It was magical to see this appear on my father’s sheet of paper. I was fascinated by my Dad’s drawing. Around the same time, my brother showed me how to make, give color, and add various scents to all sorts of candles. Ever since then I’ve been creating art.

Freedom-Watercolor

TCS: Can you remember one of the first things you drew, sculpted, or painted? If so, what makes it memorable?

JMMM: My mom can tell you that when I became an artist at age 6, I painted a bull on a square piece of fabric I cut from my father’s briefs. I had become so excited about drawing that I started a sketchbook of all the animals I could think of. On Father’s Day, I wanted to make something special and I chose the bull. I’m not sure why but I do remember it was challenging and it came out really nice. He was very pleased with it and gifting this painting to him was the best feeling a kid could ever have.

TCS: For those not too familiar with your work, please describe your specific style of art?

JMMM: I’ve always heard mention of developing a style of your own. I wish I knew what descriptive name to distinguish my style. If I could describe with words, I’d say that I strive to bring life to an image. It’s a feeling of being and existing within. I put a lot of love into each piece. I strive for my image to come to life. I put myself into each piece by just loving the process.

Koi-Fish

TCS: What did you do to gain so much knowledge about art?

JMMM: When the time came to choose between Anatomy and Math, I chose Anatomy for the opportunity to draw the human body. I loved the subject and I put together a clay model of the human heart separating the colors and I Aced the class. Upon realizing I wasn’t very good with cadavers, I switched career paths and started working with computers and programming. Graphic Arts and working with programs that allow you to create art from scratch got my attention and still keeps my attention till the wee hours of the night. Learning different ways to create to be expressive and to communicate love and life is what I do. Sharing is a big part of it all too. The feeling received from sharing is the same if not greater than creating; just quicker. Teaching is very rewarding and being appreciated is priceless.

TCS: Why do you think painting is so important to you?

JMMM: That’s a great question! Finding something in our short lifetime that creates happiness for us that is only dependent on ourselves and our desire to have it is a gift. For me, art fills my empty space and by this I surround myself with love and happiness. It’s more than a hobby. It’s part of my life. I hunger for it. It’s my breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Dragnap-and-Marilyn

TCS: Do you have a favorite artist? If yes, what draws you to that person’s work?

JMMM: I love so many and I often visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, NY to sketch the statues. I love to study and Paint after the Masters. I learn and visit their time by recreating their work. It’s almost like reading a book with no images and letting your mind travel there. I haven’t travelled much but I almost feel like I’ve been to many places through art. Leonardo D’Vinci, Michael Angelo, and Alberto Vargas.

TCS: What is the most exciting art project that you have worked on to date?

JMMM: Painting the statue of David has been very exciting and challenging. I started him off with an under painting in oil and I’ve fixed that layer to continue onto the next layer where I will give him more of a statue color. The piece is quite large to give justice to the magnitude of the subject. I allowed myself some artistic license on this piece.

TCS: What do you feel separates you from other artists?

JMMM: I feel that we have more in common than we are different. As an individual, I am different because of how I perceive or feel as an artist how I express these. I’m different only by what the beholder of my work can tell, feel, and see.

Mixed-Art

TCS: In your opinion, what do you feel makes a good artist?

JMMM: A good artist will be patient, diligent, focused, and love what they do. Having an open mind to learn more and explore outside the comfort zone. To look for the challenge and learn from it makes a great artist.

TCS: Is there anybody or anything that you would love to paint?

JMMM: I am constantly seeing what I want to paint. A photograph of what I’d like to paint is now a folder full of images that inspire me. If I could paint everything in that folder I would need more than a lifetime.

TCS: If you weren’t an artist what do you think you would be doing?

JMMM: I can’t think of anything else except a teacher.

sophia-amy

TCS: What is the best and worst part of being an artist?

JMMM: The best is the feeling of accomplishment upon getting to a new level by completing a challenging piece. Being appreciated tops that off. The worst part is not being appreciated.

TCS: How do you currently market your painting?

JMMM: I’ve found a few online sites that allow me to showcase my work. I also participate in outdoor exhibitions locally in the Staten Island, New York area. Thus far, I’ve exhibited at Conference House Park and at the Snug Harbor Fence show. My plans are to exhibit more and expand to New York City and New Jersey for future shows.

Additionally, I market my art on the following websites:

TCS: How exciting was it to paint the The Aragonese Castle on the Island of Ischia in Italy?

JMMM: I enjoyed this painting and placing myself there. It was almost like traveling to Italy and exploring every nook and cranny I could see. If I were to travel there it would definitely feel like I’d been there before. It’s a beautiful place. I’m sure in person it’s breathtaking.

Castello-Aragonese-Ischia

TCS: Tell us about the art class that you teach at Pinot’s Palette Staten Island?

JMMM: My second job is probably the most fun job out there. Every night is a party with new people exploring art most often for the first time. The motto at Pinot’s Palette Staten Island is “Paint. Drink. Have Fun.” They come in unsure and nervous about how they will do. The music is on the wine is pouring the colors are flowing. By the end of the night, the same people are walking out with great confidence, happy and a feeling of accomplishment.

TCS: What provides you with ideas and inspires you to create such beautiful imagery?

JMMM: I love researching the work of historical artists. Conducting Google searches has been helpful and of course the museum. I have a particular fondness to statues.

TCS: What is your most favorite painting that you’ve created? And, can you describe its creation in regards to inspiration, location, lighting, composition, and detail, etc.?

JMMM: I especially love my painting of the Amorino Angel. I was inspired by Bartolomeo Schedoni’s oil painting from 1610.

angel

Here are a couple of my other favorites:

New-York-Mona-Lisa

For more, please visit my Fine Art America website.

Additionally, I created a Facebook page called Metro City Murals where more of my favorites can be found. This site is based on the Zodiac to cover all people throughout the year in wishing them a happy birthday with all my specific zodiac drawings.

TCS: Have you ever stepped out of your comfort zone and discovered a whole new genre of art? If so, how did it turn out?

JMMM: I love stepping out and exploring new ways of creating art. It’s exciting and motivating to keep learning and growing. I always come back to portraits and the human form which is my favorite. I’ve explored ink, watercolor, charcoal, oil, acrylic, scratchboard, clay, and mixed media. I would like to combine sculpture into my art for portraits more.

TCS: Tell us about the South Shore Artists Group, a forty member strong group of professionally educated and self-taught artists, located in Staten Island, New York?

JMMM: Our group meets weekly at a local church where we share our work, work on our art and enjoy coffee and cake together. We plan exhibits and ways to expose our work through exhibitions and on the web.

You can visit us on Facebook at South Shore Artists Group.

Mixed-Art-Pics

TCS: Every artist has at least one important tool that they can’t live without, so what’s the most indispensable item in your studio?

JMMM: Quality materials are a must. A number 2 pencil is a must. A kneadable erasure and the one you can’t buy in a store is patience.

TCS: Do you have any other interesting hobbies or maybe a fun story about an experience involving your artwork?

JMMM: I was intrigued with Mona Lisa and the mystery about her, who she was, her stare, and the obsession over her. I felt I would be very happy having a painting of her. She was quite challenging to paint. It was the first time I heard in my head as I painted guidance as to how big to make the chin. “My chin isn’t that big” was a constant nag until I got it right. Mona wasn’t easy to paint as she was demanding her beauty. I too in the process became obsessed and for this reason it is a piece that I can’t part with.

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono - The Creative Spotlight

Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.

Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.

Robert C. Jackson: Contemporary Realist

Written by: Frank Iacono

Robert-C-Jackson-Artist
Photo By: Ned Jackson Photography

Robert C. Jackson, a resident of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, was born in Kinston, North Carolina. Robert is the oldest of 5 brothers that were each born in different states around and about the Southeast. This transient lifestyle followed Mr. Jackson into his career path as he worked originally as an Electrical Engineer, designing radio systems for Motorola, then as an Assistant Pastor for Cedar Ridge Community Church in Spencerville, Maryland, before settling down to his full-time and fulfilling career as a Contemporary Realist Artist in the mid 1990’s. Since then, all of these life experiences of his past inform and influence his creativity today.

Robert C. Jackson works from life; before he does anything on a canvas he sets up the actual arrangement in his studio. Then, with a pencil he carefully draws on the canvas the skeleton of the future painting. The entire canvas is then coated in a transparent acrylic, which allows him to work on the drawing without smudging. Then, he begins to paint. As Mr. Jackson paints, sometimes he’ll turn his painting upside down to allow his hand to access a certain passage of the painting and also to get a fresh view so that he sees something that might be off. Once he’s at work in the studio, he’s very deliberate about staying on task.

Robert C. Jackson’s artwork is well received across the nation, with gallery shows in Wilmington, DE, Southport, CT, Boston, MA, Denver, CO, New York, NY, and Washington, D.C. A compilation of more than 130 images of Jackson’s paintings can be seen in the book entitled Robert C. Jackson: Paintings by Philip Eliasoph. This beautifully illustrated book includes his paintings with details, photographs of the artist at work, sketchbook reproductions, and an interview with the artist himself.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Robert C. Jackson and asking him a few questions about his influences, his artistic style, his favorite artwork, his career as an artist, his past exhibits, and his upcoming event entitled “Tinkering With Reality” in New York City.

Q&A Session

The Creative Spotlight: When did you first become interested in painting? And, who or what influenced you to become an artist?

Robert C. Jackson: I was always a doodler, but never thought about what I was doing or about art in general. In college all of my notebooks were filled with drawings as I sat daydreaming in Electrical Engineering classes. Sketches of the professors, other students, and things about the classrooms cluttered the pages. My girlfriend (who later became my wife, Suzanne) decided that it would be nice to channel this energy and gave me a set of oil paints for a Christmas present during my senior year. Having no idea what to do with them, I enrolled in Painting 101 and discovered a class that I enjoyed more than anything in my previous years of college. I knew right then I was going to find a way to make art a career for me someday. So, I’d have to say Suzanne is really the one who unknowingly influenced me to take up this journey.

 

TCS: What did you do to gain so much knowledge about art?

RCJ: Once painting, I became somewhat passionate about art in general. I’d visit museums, galleries, art fairs, anything I could find where I could see more. At least 4 times a year I’d run up to New York City and walk as many galleries as I could just taking it all in. I’m actually surprised at how few artists actually do that and basically only look at their own work or a handful of artists that they really like. I also have a pretty impressive art book library and thumb through them constantly. You’d be hard pressed to find me out at lunch without an art book keeping me company.

TCS: For those not too familiar with your work, please describe your specific style of art?

RCJ: I always find this the toughest question to answer. Artists are visual folks; talking and writing are so tough! I often want to say, “let me show you,” as I find my work hard to describe. The easiest thing to say is that I paint realistic still life, but that conjures old stale images in people’s minds. I suppose I could say that I’m trying to paint still life for a 21st century person. My work is colorful, narrative, playful, and attempts to engage the viewer. I like to use objects that speak of our collective nostalgia: balloon dogs, soda crates, grapes, apples, Oreos, donuts, toys, and even iconic art. Right from the start, I was drawn to still life. In a way, it lets the artist be a sculptor, arranging and setting up before immortalizing on canvas. I feel a lot of control in telling my stories using still life.

Robert-C-Jackson-High-Stakes
Artwork Shown: “High Stakes”

TCS: Tell us about your upcoming exhibit at Gallery Henoch in New York entitled “Tinkering With Reality” from November 6th through November 29th? And, what other galleries across the country could we go to see your work?

RCJ: I didn’t realize it until I saw a press release for this show that I have had 27 solo shows – egads! But maybe it’s because I just turned 50 last week and I always looked up to artists that were 50 that I am really feeling strongly about this show. It’s probably the biggest show I have done, both the size of the work, and having 23 paintings. For the last year I have been focused on that 50 number – so I really think this intense focus on the significance of this year caused me to put together a cohesive show that I am quite proud of. Continuing to ponder, it’s funny to sit back and think for a second of all the places I’ve been represented by that I can remember: Washington DC, Richmond VA, Chapel Hill NC, San Francisco, CA, Santa Fe NM, Scottsdale AZ, Tulsa OK, Knoxville TN, Fort Worth TX, Denver CO, , Chatham MA, Southport CT, and others I’m sure I’m forgetting. Still work with quite a few, but locally one could check out Somerville Manning Gallery in Greenville, DE. Besides Gallery Henoch in New York City, the other gallery that I primarily count on is Arden Gallery, in Boston MA.

TCS: Describe for us the background behind “The Thinker”

RCJ: I really enjoy conversing with art history. So there are often nods to other artists all throughout my work. This piece certainly fits that category. Maybe it is from being alone in a studio for so long but my apples are always alive. I’ve always had fun with them because they are the quintessential and normative still life props. Before this painting I had done one of apples having a water balloon fight and really enjoyed messing with the water. My mind wandered to ice, and I wondered what I could do with it. That evolution eventually began with apples knocking out Rodin’s “The Thinker.” I suppose it is like the theorem we’ve heard of where a monkey on a typewriter should be able to randomly knock out Shakespeare if given infinite time. Maybe apples could knock out “The Thinker.”

Robert-C-Jackson-The-Thinker
Artwork Shown: “The Thinker”

TCS: Can you remember one of the first things you drew/sculpted/painted etc.? And, what makes it so memorable?

RCJ: In that Painting 101 course in college, one of the first things I did was paint a still life of a paint brush, a bottle of solvent, and a paint tube on a piece of gessoed cardboard. I still have that painting tucked away somewhere in my house and I remember being so excited and satisfied working on it. Such dull objects became alive to me and I was hooked from that point on.

TCS: Tell us about how significant the exhibit entitled “Reality Check” held at Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania was for you both personally and professionally?

RCJ: Well, Luke in the Bible said “no prophet is accepted in his hometown” and it is especially hard when you are in the same hometown as Andrew Wyeth. I thought for sure that giant shadow would keep me hidden here. So I was having shows all around the country, museum exhibitions, and somewhat not even trying here. So, when the Curator, Audrey Lewis, asked me to show in the “Reality Check” exhibit that was held in 2010 right there in the heart of the Wyeth legacy I couldn’t have been more thrilled. The museum contacted me right near the end of the exhibit and asked if they could purchase my painting “Target the Artist” for their permanent collection. And not only that, they hung it and it has been on display there for years.

Robert-C-Jackson-Target-and-Pranksters
Artwork Shown: “Target the Artist” and “Pranksters”

TCS: What is your most favorite artwork that you’ve created? And, can you describe its creation in regards to location, lighting, composition, etc.?

RCJ: Ok, that might be the second hardest question as it is so hard to be objective about one’s own work. They are all my creations, so probably the one I am most excited about is the most recent. I actually hope I keep feeling that way as I would hate to think my best work is behind me. Basically the last piece I created for this show at Gallery Henoch is a piece titled “Props.” I probably saved the toughest for last. “Props” is 72” x 80” and I really wanted a piece that was large enough that you started to feel like you were standing in it. I think the internet and digital imagery has been weird for art. People are used to seeing a painting on their screen. A piece like this suffers as people really can’t imagine the magnitude – that all the objects are life size and it really is a visual feast in person.

But back to explaining the painting. Whenever I go places I get asked about my props all the time. Since I use food items, people ask if I eat them all, how high I actually stack the objects, how long they sit in my studio, etc… So everything becomes fodder for my paintings and I thought it would be funny to paint somewhat of an impossible situation, a collection of my props sitting together just waiting to be used and becoming part of a still life in themselves. I do set up most of my still life’s though of course a painting like this one had to be set up in phases. I work in a rented studio in an American Legion building in Kennett Square PA. The members often peek in and laugh at crazy arrangements like this one. Set ups are against the same wall and my window is to the left. Rarely do I turn on lights as I prefer the shadows from the window. People often tell me they dropped by but didn’t knock because my lights were off. But I’m usually there.

Robert-C-Jackson-Props
Artwork Shown: “Props”

TCS: One of my favorite from your collection is entitled “The Feast,” so can you share for us the inspiration and story behind it?

RCJ: “The Feast” began as a response to classic Dutch still life with elegant food scattered all over a table. I found it funny to modernize this thought and intermix American junk foods. I continually try and create action in people’s minds from an immobile still life set up. My paintings are always still, but people always come up and describe the action happening. I like that my work becomes a conduit for their daydreaming. “The Feast” is no exception and we are at the moment waiting for the balloon dogs to “dig in.” Maybe they are saying grace or waiting for a host or hostess to come back in. I’ve set up act one of a play and happily let the viewer work out the rest of the story.

 

TCS: Where do you draw your inspiration from and please describe for us what your typical painting process is like?

RCJ: I think there has to be a marriage between craft and concept in a painting. And leaving either out leaves the painting lacking. Unfortunately a lot of realist painters think so much about their craft they forget to come up with a good idea. So, maybe I am overly sensitive to that and am always thinking of new ideas. I have a stack of sketchbooks full of ideas. Some of my ideas come from whatever environment I am in and I jot ideas down on everything: school programs, church bulletins, the newspaper, etc… Other times it is more purposeful and I set out for a coffee or beer and just sit and brainstorm as much as I possibly can. I’ll go back through my sketchbooks later on and star ideas I think still hold water and are worth pursuing on canvas.

Once underway, since so much time has previously been invested with the idea I can now just have fun painting. During this time, I run Netflix, music, podcasts, anything to keep me company during those 8 hours a day alone with just a brush!

TCS: Why do you think painting became and remains so important to you?

RCJ: It’s funny, I have a bunch of friends that dread it now (though plenty that love it too) so I often wonder if it was good for me that a passionate hobby became my profession instead of it simply being my training and only option for a profession. I feel like I get to do my favorite thing every day. It’s where I feel most myself and where I am most comfortable.

Robert-C-Jackson-Nothing-Is-As-Abstract
Artwork Shown: “Nothing Is As Abstract”

TCS: Share with us the background of the triptych of “Dinosaur Feeding Frenzy”?

RCJ: A couple of times a year I get asked to do a commission where someone missed out on a piece that they wanted or they want to run an idea past me. “Dinosaur Feeding Frenzy” was an ideal scenario where the collector asked me to visit and see their space and wanted to know what I would come up with to fill it. They have adorable sons with a fun sense of family and I decided to go with that vibe. I roughed in a sketch with all of my own son’s dinosaurs attacking a pile of desserts. Fortunately they loved the idea and really gave me free rein. As a nod to the boys I hid a Tauntaun in with the dinosaurs since they were fighting with light sabers on that initial visit. The only constraint I fortunately discovered at the onset was that they live in a condo with an elevator and the painting had to be painted as a triptych and assembled once with the frame in their unit in order to get it there!

 

TCS: Do you have a favorite artist? If yes, what draws you to that person’s work?

RCJ: That’s an interesting question and I’m going to go real personal with it. Of course there are hundreds of artists from Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn and Vincent van Gogh to Wayne Thiebaud and Jasper Johns that I simply adore. But when it comes to what has impacted me the most, it would have to be my closest peer, Scott Fraser. As said, iron sharpening iron, this is that in my life. I laugh and am mesmerized by his work. And I’d like to think we have each pushed each of other to go further, he has certainly done that for me.

TCS: Tell us about the concept of your latest book entitled Behind the Easel: The Unique Voices of 20 Contemporary Representational Painters?

RCJ: Being that I didn’t go to art school, I learned so much on all those visits to NYC. Over the years there have been artists that whenever they had a show, I’d drop my own brush (which is seldom something I like to do) and rush up to see what they had done. In the ensuing years I started showing with some of these artists, or would meet them through various contacts and decided that I’d pick 19 of these artists, interview them and make a coffee table book. I’m thrilled with the result. These are representational painters from all over the country (and Canada) that show with about 15 different NYC galleries and all have uniquely signature work. I signed with a publisher for a 12” x 12” coffee table book and did 12 pages on each artist (and decided to interview myself too!). In effect, out of the hundreds and hundreds of art books I have on my shelves, I was able to create my favorite book. These are the artists that caused me to pursue this career and I’ve had their posters in my studio since the start.

The book can be purchased at:

What was the inspiration behind “Icons”? And, what was the selection process in determining which legends would be included?

RCJ: This one is kind of interesting. I painted a piece called “Looking at Art” first in which I tacked up bunches of paintings that have inspired me. Serious art – works that are all over a million dollars with artists like Auerbach, Basquiat and Freud. But I found people looking at the piece and thinking it was cool but wondering who the artists were or if I made them up. Made me realize what a small niche art is, and especially what is familiar or have become written in our minds and have become icons. So I did a 2nd piece that I titled “Icons” of the images that people know, that have been etched into the public consciousness. Along with these I threw in other “icons” such as the Nike and McDonalds logos, as well as an Oreo. I find it interesting that these images or reproductions are probably even more well-known than the paintings themselves. They were chose simply by being the most famous or recognizable. Whereas with “Looking At Art” I chose work that I’ve been taken by personally.

Robert-C-Jackson-Icons-Look
Artwork Shown: “Icons” and “Looking At Art”

TCS: How do you market your artwork, public appearances, and books?

RCJ: I value more than anything good relationships with my galleries. They have space to show my work, advertise, take work to art fairs, etc… Art is still a very tactile experience. Collectors need to see the work in person – at least initially. Once they know your work, they are probably safe buying off an image from an ad or on the internet. But that initial purchase comes because they stood in front of it. I find that a necessity. Like I mentioned before, unless you stand in front of “Props” you just won’t get it. I’ve found that I enjoy painting way more than selling, so I am happy to let galleries do that for me. Social media and a good website let me keep those collectors informed with what I am up to but rarely does a new contact come from those. I’ll also do print ads, but those too are in association with my individual galleries.

To stay connected with Robert C. Jackson, please visit:

TCS: As you’ve developed your skills over the years, how has your perspective as an artist changed?

RCJ: This might hearken back to what I said before about craft and concept. Early on I was just concerned with honing my craft and really wasn’t too sure what to paint. I just wanted to do it well. In those days I’d just grab something from an antique shop and paint it. Over the years the idea behind or contained within the painting has become much more important to me. I’ve also become way more comfortable in just painting what I feel like painting as opposed to what I thought others wanted or expected me to paint. Fortunately people have walked that path with me and have enjoyed where my work has gone.

TCS: What qualities do you think all great artists should possess?

RCJ: Focused determination with a strong work ethic. The notion of an artist laying down a paint stroke then sitting back with a cigarette and staring at it for four hours just doesn’t cut mustard. One has to work hard at this. It is also important to have a signature that your work can be recognized from across a room. There are lots of painters out there; it is invaluable to have a unique voice.

Robert-C-Jackson-Drum-Roll-Please
Artwork Shown: “Drum Roll Please”

TCS: For you, what is the best and worst part of being an artist?

RCJ: The best part is being my own boss and just painting whatever I feel like at the moment. I get such satisfaction in completing a painting. The worst part is that in working for oneself as an artist, there is no regular paycheck on Friday. Could be that you get nothing for many many Fridays in a row, and then it can turn the other way and you feel like you are on top of the world. I guess that is a way of saying that the business side is the stress of it. Would be nice to just paint and not have to think of that, but that is simply a pipe dream.

TCS: What, in your opinion, role does the artist have in our society?

RCJ: Darn, I know some people speak really magnificently about a question like this. I, on the other hand, see it a little less so. I’m pleased if my art can bring a little smile to someone else’s life and make their journey a little more enjoyable. I’m not sure what else I can expect. I do like that people tell me my work dialogs with them and demand conversation. I hope the conversations are enriching.

TCS: If you weren’t an artist what would you be doing instead?

RCJ: I suppose I’ve already been there and done that – I’m set with this. I originally was an Engineer for Motorola designing radio systems for 5 years, and then went into the Ministry for 5 years at Cedar Ridge Community Church in Maryland before becoming an artist. This is a hobby and passion that became my career so there is nothing that anyone could do to pry me from it now.

Robert C. Jackson Books

Behind the Easel: The Unique Voices of 20 Contemporary Representational Painters

Hardcover– October 29, 2014

Robert-C-Jackson-Behind-the-Easel

Robert C. Jackson: Paintings

Hardcover– March 28, 2012

Robert-C-Jackson-Painting

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono - The Creative Spotlight

Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.

Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.

The Creative Spotlight: 2013 Review

Written by: Frank Iacono

The-Creative-Spotlight-Covers

The Creative Spotlight began in March of 2012, when I interviewed Steve O’Driscoll, a long-time friend and business colleague, who published his first book called Rendezvous in Quebec. Since then, The Creative Spotlight has grown into a highly educationally-based blog featuring local musicians, artists, business owners, motivational speakers, photographers, and other published authors. Consider The Creative Spotlight as the ultimate destination for unearthing a wealth of undiscovered talent, reading exciting interviews, learning helpful tips and tricks, and news that you can use…plus lots of great ideas for enriching your life and enjoying yourself.

In 2013, The Creative Spotlight featured the following 13 articles:

February 2013

Ten Toes Up: Funk-infused Rock Quartet

March 2013

Jeremiah A. Iannacci: The Artful Runner

April 2013

Neen James: International Productivity Thought Leader

Denise DiNorscia Williams: BellaPizzelle

June 2013

Dan Gagliano: Separate Ways The Band

Edward Peahota: Speed Painting Artist

Jim Joseph: Real-World Marketer

July 2013

Paul and Lori Russo: Cool Scoops Ice Cream Parlor

August 2013

Jenn Bostic: Singer and Songwriter

September 2013

The HoneyBadgers: Alternative Rock Cover Band

Kim Kalman: Singer and Songwriter

October 2013

Face Down: Classic Hard Rock Cover Band

November 2013

Nancy Malay: Licensed Artist & Designer

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono - The Creative Spotlight

Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.

Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.

Nancy Malay: Licensed Artist & Designer

Written by: Frank Iacono

Nancy Malay Victorian Whimsies

While many know Nancy Malay specifically as “The Christmas Lady”, she also creates a variety of one-of-a-kind vintage-inspired items for every Holiday, including vintage style Santa’s, snowmen, rabbits, chicks, as well as Americana and Halloween items. Nancy, who specializes in nostalgic and whimsical figures, meticulously handcrafts each item using paperclay, papier-mâché and cloth. Embellishments of mica, antique trimmings, German glass glitter, and tinsel add a unique sparkle to each creation reminiscent of earlier days. Some pieces are crafted in the Folk Art tradition, some from vintage or reproduction chocolate molds, while others look like they were handed down from the Victorian Era.

Nancy’s work has been published 40 times in national publications such as Better Homes & Gardens Holiday Crafts, Prims, Create & Decorate, Celebrate 365, Country Women, Studios, and many more. Nancy was also chosen by the prestigious Early American Life magazine as one of the Country’s top artisans, and listed in the Directory of Traditional American Crafts in 2008, 2011, and 2012. Besides selling her original art, she is also a licensed artist/designer for Midwest-CBK and has done contract work for Ashton-Drake and Sculpey.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nancy Malay and asking her a few questions about her artistic influences, her prestigious career, her successful company, and of course her overall love and passion for creating ruly one-of-a-kind handcrafted works of art.

Q&A Session

TCS: Who or what inspired you to become an artist? And, at what age did you know that you wanted to do this for a living?

Nancy Malay: Whether my sisters and I were mixing Papier-Mâché in the bathtub or cutting out Valentines, we made decorations for every Holiday when I was a child. We sewed most of our own clothing, and would make things that we liked and wanted to have, but weren’t able to purchase. My Mother was a very skilled seamstress and my Father was a cabinet maker, so I would say my inspiration came from both of them. I took a few art classes in college, but I received my BS, Double Major in Public Relations & Marketing. Creating was always something I just did “on the side”, while my husband and I ran a business. Over time, the demand for my originals grew, and I had a hard time keeping up with a full time job and working in my studio. But, I think the point at which I knew I would be doing this for a living is when I was asked to license my art.

Nancy-Malay-Snowmen

It seemed like this was “validation” that my work was good enough. I feel so fortunate that I’m able to get up and do what I love every day and get paid for it. The old saying – “Get a job that you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”, really applies to me!

TCS: Can you describe your work in 3 words?

NM: Charming. Whimsical. Timeworn.

Nancy-Malay-Bunnies

TCS: Where is your workshop located and tell us what we would find in it?

NM: My studio is located in our home in Faribault, Minnesota. It has large windows, with a lot of natural light and hardwood floors. I have plenty of space to work on my 6 foot long workbench and shelves hold all of my supplies. I usually have about 10-12 pieces on my table at all times. Bottles of paint, jars of glitter and buttons are all organized by color. Baskets of old lace and fabric are readily available on shelves. Because I don’t have to share this room with anyone, I have it arranged just how I like it. You’ll find Santas and snowmen, alongside witches and rabbits waiting to be completed, as I work on every Holiday all year long. My dog, Zoey, is a great companion in my studio …she seems to approve of all my work, and never complains about my choice of music!

Nancy-Malay-workshop

TCS: What does an average workday for Nancy Malay consist of?

NM: I’m an early riser and a night owl, so you can find me in my studio almost any time of the day or night! I usually start my day around 5:00 am, and head to my studio with a cup of coffee in hand. I truly hate working in a mess, so the first thing I do is start fresh each day by cleaning up. Then, I put together the materials I’ll be using for my projects that day. (I love the vintage or time-worn look, with lots of sparkle and texture. It’s fun for me to go through my stash of antique trims, buttons and accessories and put together objects so that I can use a certain theme, or I’ll focus on specific colors, like pink or red.) Next, I turn on my music and get to work, usually spending at least 8 hours creating.

Nancy-Malay-Workday

TCS: Where do you usually get your craft-based ideas from?

NM: I’m always thinking of new things I want to create, so I guess my ideas come from my imagination. Childhood memories of toys or activities sometimes inspire snowmen or vintage style dolls. A trip to the antique store or flea market always gets my creative juices flowing. I love to recycle and reuse, and I really enjoy the challenge of using something in my work that might otherwise have been thrown away. Old lace and trims, antique buttons, or vintage jewelry are stored everywhere in my studio! While it’s important to keep up with new trends and colors, I just create what comes to mind.

Nancy-Malay-Snowman

TCS: Over the course of your career, what are among some of your favorite crafts that you’ve designed?

NM: It’s really hard to pick a favorite! There are some things that will hang around my studio a bit longer than others, because I’ve had a hard time parting with them – mostly because they took me so long to create! But, I do know of some pieces that have been the most popular with customers, one of them being a little “Snowgirl on a Rocking Horse” and the other a “Snowman in a Pink Coat”.

Nancy-Malay-Crafts

TCS: Tell us about some of the magazine covers where your art work has been featured?

NM: My “Bluebird of Happiness” was on the cover of Create & Decorate magazine, and just recently, one of my snowmen was featured on the cover of a Better Homes & Gardens, “Holiday Crafts” magazine Some of my other work was on the back cover a couple of times in Celebrate 365. I’ve been fortunate to be published over 40 times in national publications.

TCS: Tell us how excited you were when your “Bluebird of Happiness” was featured on the cover of Create & Decorate, Spring 2011?

NM: This was the first time I had something featured on the front cover, so it was really fun. But, I have to say, the when my snowman was on Better Homes & Gardens, it was even more exciting! I had no idea ahead of time, and someone just let me know when they saw it at Barnes and Noble.

Nancy-Malay-Covers

TCS: Are you a member of any juried artist groups? If so, please tell us which ones …

NM: I’m so honored to be a member of two different groups: Primitive Folk Art Talk & Tea (PFATT) and Eclectic Halloween Artist Guild (EHAG). I think it’s great to connect with other artists who have similar interests, as well as doing things together, like charity auctions or Holiday events.

TCS: Share with us how great it must be to have been chosen by the prestigious Early American Life magazine as one of the Country’s Top Artisans?

NM: The first year I was chosen was 2008, and then I was chosen again in 2011 and 2012. Knowing that the competition is tough and that the jury process in very meticulous really makes the excitement of being chosen that much more satisfying. Last year was the first year my work was graded as “Museum Quality”, which was really an honor.

Nancy-Malay-Early-American-Life

TCS: What is your favorite piece from your Midwest-CBK Christmas 2013 collection? And, what other pieces are available in stores nationwide?

NM: I love the “Snowman Carrying a Little Snowgirl” that I made representing my husband carrying our little Granddaughter on his shoulders-mostly because of the sentimental aspect! A close 2nd and 3rd would be the “Christmas House” and “Reindeer”. There are about 45 different pieces of this collection available nationwide and in Canada. It’s always fun to go into a shop and see my items displayed. I also enjoy doing the artist signing events.

Nancy-Malay-Favorites

TCS: Share with us your participation at the Ghoultide Gathering, a magical bazaar of Halloween art featuring celebrated artists from across the country, this past September?

NM: I was so disappointed that I had to back out of the show at the last minute because of some health issues. But, I’ll be there next year…. and yes, it really is a magical show featuring some of the most talented artists around. I love creating Halloween items, especially witches and little houses.

Nancy-Malay-Halloween

TCS: What do you enjoy most about what you do? And, what’s the biggest thing you struggle with?

NM: I love the total freedom to create what I want, when I want. I like to keep things interesting and fresh, so each Season I try to branch out and try something new that I’ve never done before. It might be using a new product that I’ve heard about, or I’ll experiment with different objects. If I’m working on something and it’s not going as planned or I’m creatively “stuck”, I’ve learned to just set it aside and pick it up again another day. I can head outside and spend some time in the garden to break up my day.

One of the things I struggle with most is pricing. It’s hard to put a value on some pieces, or to know what collectors are willing to pay. Also, being authentic and trying to set yourself apart from the other talented artists in the world can be a challenge. I just try to create what comes to mind, and my style just seems to emerge.

TCS: Share with us how you were selected to design a step-by-step snowman project for Better Homes and Gardens in the 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 Holiday Crafts magazine?

NM: When I was asked to create a snowman back in 2010, I was thrilled! I’ve always loved this magazine, with so many wonderful projects to create, and the most beautiful photography! I enjoy writing the tutorials, and have done the step-by-step projects every year, which really shows how my snowmen are created from start to finish – visually as well as in the instructions. When my snowman was on the cover this year, I was so excited and honored!

Nancy-Malay-Snow-Cute

TCS: How do you market your business?

NM: I believe that marketing is one of the most important things any business should do to be successful. Because I have a degree in Marketing, it’s something I’ve always enjoyed. With social media what it is today, it’s a lot easier than it used to be to keep your brand out in the public eye. I still send postcards, newsletters, and I have a blog that I try to keep updated. But at the end of the day, there is nothing like good old-fashioned word of mouth or customer referrals. If others are happy with their purchases, and they share this on their Facebook page, etc., it is different than you promoting yourself. There is no greater joy than having collectors that have bought from me for over 15 years still seek out new pieces!

TCS: What is your website address and what can your customers and prospective see or do on your site?

NM: I do have a website, which is www.nancymalay.com. On my website, you’ll find photos of my previous work, magazines I’m currently published in, a guestbook to sign, and links to take you to my blog or to read more information about me or my work.

Nancy-Malay-Website

TCS: If someone were interested in purchasing some of your original work how can they contact you to get added onto your email notification list?

NM: I always send out an email to those on my notification list when I have original items available for purchase. To be added to this list, please contact me at: nancymalay@gmail.com.

Nancy-Malay-Website-Images

TCS: Tell us all about Nancy Malay’s Web Sale?

NM: While I typically sell my original items as I complete them, certain times of the year I have a Web Sale. This is usually around a certain Holiday, and I’ll sell about a dozen one-of-a-kind items. I notify my customers in advance and try to schedule it at a time that’s convenient for everyone – not too early for those on the West Coast and not too late for those in the East!

Nancy-Malay-Web-Sale

TCS: Share with us some details about your online classes?

NM: I’ve learned a lot over the years by trial and error, and I’ve come up with techniques that work well for me. When I teach classes, I share these tips and techniques with the students. I enjoy doing the video classes the most, because it’s almost like having the student sitting right beside me in my studio. I can show them hands-on techniques of working with paperclay, or explain why certain products work best for different projects.

I’m a “visual” learner myself, so I think this is why I like teaching this way. For instance, there are so many different types of glue on the market – and it’s quite possible that I’ve tried 90% of them! But, there are some, like Fabri-Tac by Beacon, that I can’t do without! It’s an instant bond on things like fabric, leather, etc. I call it my hot glue gun in a bottle!

Nancy-Malay-Web-Classes

TCS: Have you embraced Social Media to promote your business?

NM: I think social media is such a great way to not only promote my business, but a wonderful way to engage and connect with customers on a personal level. I’m an avid gardener and also love photography, so I’m always posting photos of beautiful flowers from my garden, or photos after a hike through the Nature Center. I’ll also share photos of works in progress – it’s a little behind-the-scenes peek into my life! From Pinterest to Facebook, photography is a fantastic tool for sharing your art with the world. Additionally, I also have a YouTube channel and a Twitter account.

Nancy-Malay-Garden

TCS: Share with us your passion for Gardening?

I’ve always loved gardening and playing in the dirt. As an artist, I think it’s just an extension of my love of color and design.

Living in Minnesota can be tough in the winter, but once spring arrives, I love watching the leaves emerge on the trees and things come to life again. I’m ready to bring out the bird baths, make trips to the garden center and get my hands dirty! (And yes, I even like to weed!)

My gardens are a combination of perennials and annuals, with a mixture of texture and color. I look at it as an ever changing canvas or painting.

Experimenting with new plants, and finding out what works in my soil and what doesn’t is challenging and thrilling at the same time. It can be so exciting to find a flower blooming that I never planted…maybe carried there by a bird. I like to change it up a bit every year and be creative when planting things and also add fun items like a trellis, old benches and wire roosters. The smell, the colors and the joy of watching plants sprout through the ground and bloom into glorious flowers just makes me happy!

Sitting on my patio, enjoying a glass of ice tea when the garden is in full bloom is just a little slice of heaven on earth.

Nancy-Malay-Gardens

TCS: From a design perspective, what are you currently working on (i.e., on Facebook you recently mentioned that you had some exciting news, can you please share it)?

NM: Right now, I have several Santas on my workbench. They are one of my favorite things to create, even though they are the most time consuming. I love that they have so much detail and giving each one their facial expressions make them come to life. I find that adding the mohair beard and hair, (strand by strand) is really challenging, but relaxing to do.

I’m also creating prototypes for a company I’m licensed with.

And, that news you want me to share? Soon…..!

Nancy-Malay-Victorian-santa

TCS: What’s your favorite metaphor? And, how does it apply to your work as an artist?

NM: “An Infinite Spectrum of Possibilities” is one of my favorite metaphors! I feel like all of the ideas rolling around in my head really are infinite…and the only thing getting in the way is time!

TCS: What specific qualities do you think an artist within your industry must possess in order to be successful?

NM: Artists have to be confident. Not everyone is going to like your work and you have to face the fact that you are going to have your share of rejections. It’s never easy to be turned down, but you really shouldn’t take it too personally…. you may even be rejected for reasons unrelated to your art. Use it as a tool for finding your niche or taking that step to try something new. And seriously, I do believe that when one door closes, that another one opens.

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono - The Creative Spotlight

Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.

Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.

Edward Peahota: Speed Painting Artist

Written by: Frank Iacono

Ed Peahota

Some artists take pride in how long they spend to painstakingly create a work of art. But the way painter Ed Peahota sees it, time is money. Peahota, a pictorial billboard artist with a career that has spanned 30 years, can actually paint a wall-sized mural of a tiger in less than four minutes. He can also paint the Statue of Liberty but that takes a little longer – maybe about five minutes.

Peahota developed a knack for fast brushwork and has parlayed it into a performance sideline. As an Art Director Edward Peahota’s art designs have been featured all over the world. From huge banners at The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to the “Dave Zinkof” retired microphone banner, that originally hung in the Philadelphia Spectrum, to many Philadelphia Flyers banners including Bernie Parent to various Philadelphia 76ers retired numbers to the JVC Jazz Festival banners in Holland.

Edward’s company, BillboardShuttle.com, specializes in all aspects of outdoor advertising, flex vinyl installation on billboards, available space for rent, computer graphics installation, hand painted artwork on structures, large format printing, sign design layout, radio commercial voice over, old school pounce & pattern making, maintenance, repair, and speed painting shows.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing speed painting artist Ed Peahota, and asking him a few questions about his business, his work, his music, and his overall passion and love for being an artist.

Q&A Session

TCS: How old were you when you knew you wanted to be an artist?

When I was a child, I was always painting something whether it was a model or lines for a street hockey rink. When I was in high school, my favorite and best class was art. I was in that class room before school started, during my lunch period, and after school. Art had a pretty good hold on me by the age of 16.

TCS: Who are among your favorite artists? And, why?

Roger Dean, Peter Max, and Salvador Dali are among my favorite artists as they are all very unique!

TCS: Where did you study art and what was your first job as an artist?

I went to The Art Institute of Philadelphia. My first (1982), and still current job, was as a billboard pictorial artist.

TCS: How would you describe your specific type of art style?

For 20 years, I painted realism on billboards. Now that was hard work. However, with the advent of the personal computer around the turn of the century, that type of work virtually stopped overnight. Today, my style is care-free and just for fun.

ed-peahota-george-harrison

TCS: Tell us about your company BillboardShuttle.com?

BillboardShuttle.com specializes in all aspects of outdoor advertising, flex vinyl installation on billboards, available space for rent, computer graphics installation, hand painted artwork on structures, large format printing, sign design layout, radio commercial voice over, old school pounce & pattern making, maintenance, repair, and speed painting shows by artist.

TCS: What are some of the billboards you’ve painted over your career and tell us about your company BillboardShuttle.com?

I’ve hand painted on billboards everything from Frank Sinatra to Miller Beer Bottles to a lot of casino ads. BillboardShuttle.com is collection of everything I do in the world of outdoor advertising from designing layouts to making patterns for water towers to speed painting shows. The website features a pretty extensive list of everything we do as a company. For more information, please visit BillboardShuttle.com.

BillboardShuttle.comed-peahota-billboards

TCS: Tell us about the idea you had over 20 years ago to paint to music?

Well I always painted to music, I always had a boom box on the swinging stage with me while I painted billboards, In my 20’s, I played in bands and thought it would be cool to go up there on stage with the English rock band Yes and paint a billboard while the band was playing, something related to the song.

TCS: Do you prefer painting to recorded or live music?

I prefer painting to live music most definitely

TCS: Can you describe for us your technique of speed painting?

Since I am a musician I would say my technique of speed painting is to do it in time with the music.

TCS: What was your first speed painting gig and what do you remember most about it?

My first speed painting gig was in October of 2009 in Merchantville, New Jersey for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. What I remember most about it was the crowd gathering around to take photos of the painting with their cell phones. That was cool!

ed-peahota-Susan-G-Koman

TCS: Can you really create wall-sized murals of a Tiger, Jaws, Michael Jackson’s Thriller album cover, and more in under four minutes? How is that possible?

Practice! Practice! Practice!

TCS: Tell us about the portrait you painted of your musical director and mentor Jozef Kocedia?

In 2008, I painted a portrait of Mr. Kocedia who served as musical director at the Shrine of Czestochowa in Doylestown PA. He would play the pipe organ, direct the children’s choir and the Royal Brass Band, and watch a TV monitor of the Mass being held behind him all at the same time. A quote he said stays with me every day, “some people meet for good, some people meet for bad, and we meet for good.” For more information about Jozef Kocedia, please visit his music link.

Jozef Kocedia

TCS: Tell us all about the concept behind the [artBOX] on Adventure Pier in Wildwood, New Jersey?

The concept behind the [artBOX] on Adventure Pier in Wildwood, New Jersey is to have the grown-ups come and bring their kids over to see what’s going on rather than the kids bringing their parents over to see an attraction.

TCS: How did you get involved with the [artBOX] and do you plan to be at the shore all summer?

I was asked by Jack Morey of Morey’s Piers to be part of one of the art studios. People can tour the art colony and gallery by visiting the art studios and watching the artists at work. I am honored to be joined by my wife, Hong Nguyen Peahota in the art studio too. Hong does amazing detailed painting on glass!

ed-peahota-artbox

TCS: Tell us about how you got the gig to paint the tarp for New York Yankees Stadium?

When the Yankees were experiencing problems with printing on their tarp, as a result of the material, they contacted me to hand paint it. I hand painted the tarp in one of my studios and it was quite challenging because of the unusual demonstration being a cylinder cover. It was such a thrill when they drove me out onto the field, in one of those golf carts, to take me over to install the tarp. That night, I took a friend of mine named Frank Wilson (a fellow billboard painter for 40 yrs.) who joined me on the field. Frank and I took pictures from the pitcher’s mound. Then people on the side lines started yelling something at us so we walked over to the warning track and all the water sprinklers came on. Luckily the sprinklers just missed us! That was funny and such a great experience.

ed-peahota-tarp

TCS: What comment or question do you hear most often from admirers of your art?

I like this question because it’s always good stuff like “awesome,” “dude you totally shocked me,” or “I had no idea what you were doing.” The audience always thinks it’s something else until I spin the canvas and then it’s a “wow factor.” I can always hear the crowd at that moment.

TCS: Tell us about your pop rock band and your original song “Here in Wildwood”?

I’ve been playing and recording music since my father gave me a tape recorder in 1968. I’ve written many songs throughout my life, most of those songs were written and recorded at the original Woodstock Festival Site in Bethel, New York. The song “Here in Wildwood” has evolved, as songs often do, over the years. I started out by adding a chorus to the song and then it simply evolved into what it is now. I feel that all of my songs will continue to evolve and change throughout the years as I play them I am always thinking of something new to add. Like a painting, songs are never finished.

TCS: With whom in history do you feel you most identify with?

Well I can only say that I read books on Benjamin Franklin because he was so creative and I like to try to find out what made him tick. Incidentally, I have a bust of him in our home. However, I really don’t see myself as identifying with anyone but myself.

TCS: What is your favorite Color, Animal, Season, Movie and Book?

My favorite:

  • Color is Blue
  • Animal is a Dog
  • Season is Spring
  • Movie is “The Quiet Man” starring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara
  • Book is “Your Best Life Now” by Joel Osteen

TCS: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be? And, why?

There is nowhere in the world I’d rather be than Wildwood, New Jersey right now. It’s an exciting time in our lives, but when the season is over I like to see the Coliseum in Rome, Italy.

TCS: What would you say is your greatest career achievement?

Over my career there have been many. Recently, I drew the lettering on the roof of the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. It was the largest layout I ever worked on. It can be seen from outer space and from Google Earth 10 miles up. Inside the Wells Fargo Center, I‘ve designed a lot of Philadelphia Sixers and Philadelphia Flyers banners from the 1980’s. But, the [artBOX] is giving me the opportunity to do it all. I will be selling prints of my best work as well as some of my regular sized paintings too. All of the artists appearing at the [artBOX] are planning to have lots of fun. And, of course I will be performing speed painting shows with different bands performing throughout the summer. As an artist, what more could I ask for!

ed-peahota-wells-fargo

TCS: Do you have any helpful tips or inspiring words for kids wanting to become artists?

Believe in yourself, never give up, and visualize your success. Personally, I can’t sit still but an artist early on must realize that you need to exercise patience. Understand that everything is in God’s good time ─ whether you believe it is or it isn’t you are correct.

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono - The Creative Spotlight
Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.

Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.

Jeremiah A. Iannacci: The Artful Runner

Written by: Frank Iacono

Jerry-Iannacci

Allow me to introduce you to The Artful Runner, Jeremiah (Jerry) A. Iannacci. Jerry is an artist and Art Teacher from Eddystone, Pennsylvania. He has been producing drawings and paintings focusing on his primary interests — distance running, baseball, scenes from American life, and the lyrics of Bruce Springsteen (since February 2012) for the past seven years. The Artful Runner marks the first time that all of the various images he created will be displayed and available for purchase online at http://theartfulrunner.vpweb.com.

Jerry grew up in Eddystone, a suburb of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with his parents, two brothers and sister. At different times in his life, his small row home included extended family consisting of his maternal grandparents and his paternal grandmother. Eddystone is a working class town along the banks of the Delaware River. The industries that line the river’s edge and the small town life the borough provided has distinctly influenced his art to this day. In fact, many of his works, feature references to family, friends and places that played key roles in his life.

The Artful Runner was first formed as Facebook Fan Page in 2011, after Jerry came up with the name by combining two of his favorite subjects: Art and Running. In the future, the goal is to open an Artful Runner Gallery and Cafe in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Specific locations are still being considered.

Part of The Artful Runner philosophy is to help others. In that regard, Jerry set up a scholarship fund in memory of his brother, Thom (an accomplished jewelry designer) and his mother, Anna M. (a fan of all things creative) at Ridley High School. The Iannacci Family Scholarship for the Arts will be awarded annually to student(s) in the visual and performing arts. For more information on how to donate to the fund, please contact him or leave a message in his Guest Book.

In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing artist Jeremiah A. Iannacci, the creator of The Way of The Boss — Art Inspired by The Lyrics of Bruce Springsteen, a series of water-color, acrylic, oil paintings, prints and drawings that illustrate specific lyrics from his song extensive list.

Q&A Session

CS: When did you first discover your creative talents?

I have been drawing and painting since I was a kid. In grade school, at St. Rose of Lima in Eddystone, Pennsylvania I was always the class artist. Teachers and other students would ask me to draw things for class. In high school, I was fortunate to transfer to Ridley and meet Mrs. Joan Costello . Mrs. Cos, as she was known, made sure I used my talents wisely and pursued improvement constantly. My dad would always draw when I was a kid and my grandfather was a master sculptor and stone mason.

CS: Who would you say influenced you the most for becoming an artist?

I would have to list a whole group of people who influenced my desire to pursue art as a career. But, the person who most influenced me most was my mom. She encouraged me to go to art school at Kutztown University, even after I tried to go in a completely different direction.

CS: Who is ultimately your favorite artist (please explain why)?

My favorite artist is a complicated question. The artists of the Italian Renaissance are the greatest artists of all time. They created the language all other artists use to this day. Rembrandt is also a master of the art of painting. However, the artists I like the most are the Ash Can School.

It is a distinctly American style and captured the essence of early to mid-20th Century ordinary life.

If I had to choose one artist, it would be Edward Hopper. Hopper created the iconic image, Nighthawks that made an immediate impression on me as a teenager.

CS: Do you feel that you’ve developed a unique identifiable style through your artwork? If so, please describe that style and why you selected it?

I’m not sure that my style is fully evolved yet. It has been described by most as semi-realism.

CS: Please share with us what inspired the following works:

Most of the images (all except for Playing Catch, Winter Running Group, and I Don’t Run For Medals) are inspired by specific lyrics from Bruce Springsteen songs. They are part of a project I began a year or so ago.

Roll Down the Window and Let the Wind Blow Back Your Hair – is inspired from Thunder Road, a classic road trip song and my favorite song ever recorded.
Running Barefoot on the Beach – is inspired from Seaside Bar Song, a lesser known Springsteen song about summer nights at the beach.
Change Your Shirt, Tonight We Got Style – is inspired from Meeting Across the River, a song requested by oldest brother, Mike. It has been his favorite as long as I can remember.

artful-runner-images

When I See You Walking with Him– is a line inspired from a song called I Wish I Were Blind. The song is about a break up and the guy seeing his ex with her new man.
Looking for that Million Dollar Sound – is a line inspired from the song The Promise from the period between the success of Born To Run and the release of Darkness on the Edge of Town. It is a full to disc set of unreleased songs from that period. The Promise was long thought to be one of the greatest song ever penned by Springsteen, despite never actually appearing on any album. The song chronicles the life paths of a group of friends. It is brilliant.
I’ll Do the Work that God Provides – is inspired from Jack of All Trades from the Wrecking Ball cd, it chronicles a guy desperate for the work that will provide for his family. It is a theme throughout the songs on the cd that addresses the current state of American life, rich get richer and everyone else struggles to live their American Dream.

The artful runner

Church Doors Flung OpenMy City of Ruins is a song written about the demise of Asbury Park, NJ; but, in the aftermath of 9-11 it became a hymn of revival and redemption. It is now part of the live show when Springsteen recalls the lost members of the E Street Band. The image depicts a church in a desolate part of town, where the preacher still preaches, but the congregation is gone. The sky above suggests a heavenly presence despite the bleak foreground scene.
Wearing the Cross of my Calling – was inspired by the song The Rising and was suggested by long time friend and Chicago city fire fighter, John Joyce. While the obvious scene shows a fire truck with a firefighter leaping from the rig, the right side of the image shows a chaplain with rosary beads in hand. He offers prayers for those fighting the fire and the possible victims inside the burning building. The chaplain symbolically represents Father Mychal Judge, the first casualty of 9-11 on the ground in NYC.
She Stares Alone into the Night – is taken from Racing in the Street, a song about racing cars and relationships with girls, youthful exuberance and the loss of it…I read a quote where Steve Van Zandt (E. Street Band guitarist) commented about the two original versions of the song. In the other, the car racing guys were without female companionship. Little Steven, as he is known, told Springsteen “there has to be a girl, there is always a girl”.

The artful runner

As mentioned, the other three works were influenced and inspired by my other favorite things to do – run and play baseball.

Playing CatchPlaying Catch could be a father and a son or brothers, depending on the viewer. It is one of the simple joys in life, two gloves and a ball on a baseball field or in the yard.
Winter Running Group – shows a group of intrepid runners meeting on what is obviously a cold and dreary day. The inscription across the top is borrowed from the old Postman’s Creed.
I Don’t Run For Medals – is more personal and a statement of my beliefs. My running medals never meant much to me, I’ve always run for other reasons.

Jerry-Iannacci-the-artful-runner

CS: Which of your artwork pieces is your favorite and why?

Having a favorite drawing or painting is sort of akin to having a favorite child for a parent. I am happy with the results of most of the work I’ve done, but see more problems with them than most other people. I like the image I created for the song Factory a lot. It depicts a guy entering the gate of a factory. The guard-house at the entrance is stone and symbolizes my paternal grandfather and the guard inside is based on my maternal grandfather. I really like the image for Walk Like a Man. It is specific to the song, yet universal to the experience of fathers and sons on the beach. I’ve done some drawings for a book that I’ve written called, Winter On The Pond, about kids playing pond hockey. I really like some of those drawings too.

Jerry-Iannacci-artful-runner

CS: If you had to describe yourself in 5 words what would they be?

5 words – Son, Brother, Uncle, Step Dad, Artful Runner…I know, that is 6.

CS: What types of art do you most prefer (please explain why)?

I prefer realistic or semi-realism in painting, drawing and printmaking. I like to be able to see recognizable things and interpret the meaning of the work.

CS: Where have you displayed your artwork in the past?

I have shown work at the Community Art Center in Wallingford, Pennsylvania; a now defunct gallery in Olde City Philadelphia, and at Kutztown University.

CS: How did you come up with idea behind the name The Artful Runner?

The Artful Runner combines my love of running with my creative side and is a play on the Artful Dodger of Dickens’ fame.

The Artful Runner

CS: Can you tell us about the concepts for Art in a Pub Night I and II, the featured art work and ultimately the benefactors?

The idea of Art Nights in a Pub, Tap Room or other non-traditional art venue is an attempt to bring art to places where it can be seen by people who don’t go to galleries and museums. The gallery world is not my world. The idea of taking art to the people is something that just came to me one day while running. I pitched the idea to my cousin, Dave Magrogan – owner of Kildare’s Irish Pubs, and thought it would be great. Bars are just the first venue I am exploring, I hope to do home parties or events at youth organizations to help the, raise money to defray the costs for families who want their kids to participate in athletics. In fact, Artful Runner work will be used at two other fundraiser events on April 6th, Nall AC beef & beer at Tom & Jerry’s Sports Bar and Ridley Ice Hockey Alumni Day.

The Art Night format begins with a video presentation that chronicles The Way of The Boss (TWOTB) project from its beginning in February 2012 until now. It continues with a presentation of a selection of other works in a narrated slide presentation. That is followed by a Q&A about the work. There is always a raffle of posters with Artful Runner images on them with proceeds dispersed to charities selected for each event. At the first night, all of the images were from the TWOTB collection, as the event was the debut of that work. The second event raffle will include other The Artful Runner images.

The Artful Runner

When I came up with the idea of the Artful Runner, part of what I wanted to do was to use my work to help others. That could mean creating a drawing or painting for a child or adult suffering from illness or as a fundraising tool for worthy causes.

The money raised at Kildare’s was split between three groups – MANNA, NICK SMILES ON THE FINE ARTS FOUNDATION, and The IANNACCI SCHOLARSHIP FOR THE ARTS at Ridley HS.

The 2nd Art Night will benefit The IANNACCI SCHOLARSHIP and RIDLEY BABE RUTH BABSEBALL.

Art-In-A-Pub Night

CS: How much do you charge for your artwork?

I try to keep my work affordable to working class people like my parents always were. It is disappointing to me that fine art is the privilege of the wealthy in this country. Art galleries charge ridiculous commissions for work and look down upon people of lesser means when they walk through the door. That is not what art should be about. My digital prints range from $5 – $20, posters are $20-$45, original water colors $25-$100, and larger acrylic or oils range from $200 on up. Digital prints are always buy 2, get one half price and I offer a 10 prints for $100 special as well.

CS: How do you bridge the gap of the business side of designing your art work?

The business side of Art is frustrating, to be honest. But, I try to make my work available to as many people as possible by creating images that can be made into digital copies and offered at a reasonable price point.

CS: What’s the best and worst thing about being an artist?

The best thing about being an artist is having the ability to create things that don’t actually exist or recreate moments that have passed. The worst thing, not sure there is a worst thing. I guess it would be the business side of the work.

CS: From a purely artistic perspective, where do you see yourself 5-10 years from now?

My goal for 5-10 years from now would be to have a gallery/cafe called The Artful Runner to display and sell art work and show other artists’ work as well. It would be a breakfast & lunch spot with an eclectic menu of sandwiches, inspired by my dad’s love of sandwiches. We would sponsor a team of runners to complete in road and trail races and continue our Art Nights as well.

CS: Lastly, any words of advice for aspiring artists?

To young aspiring artists, I say this; simply…follow your dream. Even if you are side-tracked by the real world and finding an actual job to support yourself, continue to find time to create. Use social media to promote your work to friends, family, others. You never know where that may lead. A year ago, I was teaching elementary school art and my students and colleagues encouraged me to get my work out there for all to see. In the words of a Springsteen song, “it takes a leap of faith to get things going…”

About Frank Iacono

Frank Iacono - The Creative Spotlight

Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.

Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.