Mandatory Expression: Johnny McKee


Our Mandatory Expression is hosting Indianapolis artist John(ny) McKee. John’s work is absolutely beautiful and haunting in a way. In this interview John opens up about balancing act of art and the world we live in.
Without any further ado – here is Johnny McKee.
 John has been making art in Indianapolis since 1992. Currently he runs Ashland Gallery & Stu’s Studio in Broad Ripple (Indianapolis) Indiana. There, he runs programming for a group of artists who have intellectual disabilities, as well as operating the gallery and running a custom digital print studio. Mr. McKee also teaches beginning and intermediate drawing classes at The Indianapolis Art Center, where he has been an instructor since 2000.  
You can see his most current work at the Indianapolis Art Center’s ‘Double Vision’ exhibition, December 6-February 2, 2014.
John, what is your catalyst?
The reflection on the realization of one’s mortality fuels my work currently. I have been able to grieve, meditate, pray, and reflect while making my newest series of work based on the sky. Art2My nighttime skies have an obsessive amount of white dots on a dark ground that resembles the night sky. The process of making the “stars” gives me a way to work that allows my mind to focus and reflect. It’s a very spiritual process for me. And I believe the finished piece often resembles the questions of negligibility that I ask my self while making it. The day time landscapes, often with a low horizon to emphasize the sky and not the land, are more about the weather. Earth’s atmosphere creates a veil between me, or the viewer, (on Earth) and the answers for which I search. These ideas, and trying to express them in a way that is not cliche or trite, is what excites me.
What piece of technology makes your creative life easier?
I run a digital print studio (Ashland Gallery & Stu’s Studio). While there, I would say the scanner and Photoshop. Outside of work, I would say my little cell phone.
What frustrates you most as a creative person?  
The financial gamble it takes to be a successful creative person can be frustrating. One can invest a lot of time in their craft, and the materials are not free. After your initial investment to create, you invest in marketing your creation. And then hope that people take your work seriously, and they like it, and see its value, and then purchase your idea. Along these lines, it’s incredibly frustrating when people offer you less than what you’re asking. Ask for a payment plan before you ask to pay less.
What is the last thing you splurged on to boost your creativity?
Wall paint and shelving to spruce up my in home studio.
Small word of wisdom.
Hard work and persistence trump raw talent.
Read more about John’s work by connecting to his Facebook page or stop by Ashland Gallery.

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