Spotlight On: Custom Vinylmation Artist Howie Green
Our eyes were recently turned to an artist named Howie Green. Just a quick look at his work, and you could tell he took a different approach than many custom artists were are used to spotlighting. I then discovered he was from Boston… always a plus. He has created some wonderful art on the Mickey canvas, as many of you know, but did you know his art covers his hometown and also reaches far beyond?
Destination Vinylmation: How long have you been involved in the art world? Howie Green: I graduated from art school in 1970 with a BFA and have been a working artist, illustrator, designer ever since. And actually I was a working artist even when I was in school. I had a design studio for 17 years with 9 or so employees doing all kinds of work for all kinds of clients, won lots of awards, traveled a lot. It was great but I had enough and wanted to do something more focused and less hectic. I shut it all down 10 years ago to focus on painting which I must say has worked out well.
DV: What attracted you to the Mickey shaped platform to create works of art? HG: I am a life-long toy junkie. When the whole DIY toy thing started up I was painting on any toy I could find; like Kidrobot Munnys and pretty much anything. Initially, I was not interested in the 3″ Mickeys because of the small size, so I started in on a few 9″ ones which all sold.
But I kept getting collectors asking me to do small ones because they couldn’t afford the large ones…so, I started in on a couple 3″ ones and have completed and sold about 40 or so of them to date. Mickey fits my style perfectly… he’s all circles and round and really fun to draw and paint on. Plus one of my early learn-to-draw books was a Disney one so I have been drawing Mickey and crew forever.
DV: Your style is very unique. Instead of creating straight up characters, you use colors and shapes. Is there a name for this technique? HG: Is there a name for my technique? Probably not… I just call it Pop Art toys. Although I have done several commissions of existing super heroes and such I’m not really interested in taking some character that already exists and squashing it onto a Vinylmation figure. What’s the point? I think the worst example of this is Tinker Bell as a fat Vinylmation. Or the Candice one from Phineas and Ferb. Awful! She looks like she ate Tinker Bell. I look at the form as a fun shape 3D canvas and start from there. But I never loose site of the fact that it’s Mickey. I thinks it’s an honor to be able to use Mickey as a canvas. So I’m trying to create my own takes on Mickey as a Pop Art toy which by itself is a wide open concept.
I was at Disney World a while back when they had 5 foot tall Mickeys that had all been painted by and for celebrities. I would have loved have painted one of those! I do a lot of public art works with the Red Sox Foundation folks and I’m painting 4 giant golf balls for the PGA tournament in Rochester, NY this year…
but I still really want to paint a giant Mickey someday. How cool would it be to be able to paint a giant 5 foot tall Vinylmation? Shortly after seeing all those Mickeys, the Cow Parade came to Boston which led to my being involved in many public art projects. I have painted 3 cows, a bench, public utility boxes, murals and on and on. Two of my Cow Parade cows were made into collectible figures and one of them became a bestseller in Europe.
Go figure? I also designed the “Peace, Love & Music” collectible pony figure for the nice folks at Trail of the Painted Ponies. I’m working with them now on a new pony figure that I’m designing with a celebrity friend of mine and hoping it gets a good reaction. Keeping our fingers crossed and its all very hush hush.
DV: I saw the Boston Celtics artwork you created for the Mayor’s Office’s Spring Paint Box program… can you tell us about that job? HG: The Mayor’s office started the Paint Box program about 5-6 years ago. They sent out a “call to artists” to submit designs that they would like paint on thousands of those awful metal public utility boxes all over the city of Boston… and there are thousands of them. I never noticed them before but once you start looking you realize they are everywhere. So they liked my designs and I started doing them and have done I think 9 or 10 of them.
Since my style is pretty accommodating they asked me to do one for the Celtics which is over near the “Garden” where they play. I go out every spring and visit my boxes and do paint touch ups. Remarkably none of them have ever been hit by graffiti. “Honor among thieves,” I guess.
Since the Mayor’s office was happy with my work they asked me to paint the front entrance of Boston City Hall when the new doors were being installed. They had an ugly temporary plywood structure covering the entrance and I got to paint it (with my brother’s help.) I have a couple more boxes lined up to be painted in the Spring.
DV: Can you share some other non-Vinylmation related works with us that you enjoyed? HG: My other work is all over the map – literally. I still do a lot of graphic design work, web sites, and I paint every day.
I always seem to have various art commissions in the works and when I don’t, I do toys. Actually I do toys almost every day too. I have sold my paintings and toys to people all over the globe from Europe to Croatia to Australia to Asia. I have had a nice fan base in Singapore and Asia in general since my first book “Jazz Fish Zen” was published back in the 90’s. It did OK in the states but was very popular in Asia. They seem to have a real love for my goofy Pop Art. I was friends with Steve Kaufman just before he died in 2010 and I was going to be part of his museum show that was being planned for an Asian tour. Alas it will not happen. Steve was Andy Warhol’s last assistant and had a major career as a Pop Artist. Wonderful guy.
Just for fun I started a series of album cover paintings in 2004 that has just culminated in the publication of a portfolio book of over 350 of them – hot off the presses last week! My album cover paintings have been a huge project and more fun than anything.
I have done several large installations of them in Jacksonville and Delray Beach, Florida and my portrait of Biggie Smalls was used for the cover of the tribute album called “Unbelievable” that Puff Daddy and tons of others appeared on. Last year I did a large version of the painting for Wayne Barrows for his office in New York. Wayne is a movie producer who manages Biggie’s estate.