FAQ of artist and history geek John Mollison

“I interview old guys and draw their airplanes.”

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FAQ - 01/15


How long have I been drawing and writing?

All my life.  Technically, I majored in Journalism/Advertising.  Really, I majored in doodling on my notebook and talking to people to find out why they were interesting.  Or not.


Can I have one of your (insert adjective) business cards?

Uh.  Sure.  Maybe.   They’re almost $5 a piece!   Don’t believe me?  Watch this.  But everyone who buys a print gets one. 


What art medium do I use?

Any more, all my art is digital.  I use a Wacom® digital pen and draw on the big black pad as if it were paper.  Only instead of looking at the paper, I look at the screen.  All of my drawings start out with pencil and paper, though.


How do you get your interviews?

At first, I had to hunt them out.  Today, they come to me.  Mostly.  But I still go after particular stories.


Will you interview my (grandpa, grandma, uncle, cousin...)

I’d LOVE to!   But chances are good, it isn’t going to happen. It’s kind of like trout fishing - you want to fish everywhere but realize you can only fish one stream at a time.  However, if you have a special story that simply can’t be put off...well...contact me by clicking here.


Are you writing a book?
Yes. 


Where can I see some of your art?

Well, I’m in galleries, businesses and private collections in 12 countries and almost every one of the 50 states. 


Why do you do this?

Because it’s crucial.  In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that our lack of value for studying History is “what’s wrong” with our country.  ANY country.


True story—I was having lunch with George McGovern and the topic got around to World Hunger (he chaired the UN  “Food for Peace” program) and we spent at least an hour wondering if a little book on world history and culture would do more good for a starving kid than a meal.  Think about it.  It goes back to that old adage, “Give a soul a fish and you feed for a day but teach a soul to fish and you feed for a lifetime.”


Today, our nation’s education system focuses on too many things at the expense of learning about our own history.  “Dates, Names and Places” is a crushingly boring way to occupy time.  Instead, we need to learn the values, the character and the relevance of those that have gone before us.


Sermon “off.”  At least until I start writing again. :)


How do you price your prints?

I cover costs incurred in time, energy, printing, travel, etc.  My art isn’t that great in and of itself - I can think of ten aviation artists right now that make my work look like I did mine with a q-tip and nail polish.  But I do use the highest quality press available in the United States.  At least as of today.  And as soon as technology improves, I’m on it.


However, the real value of my prints is the signature of the man who made his history in that piece of equipment.  When I see that, I know I’m looking at something real...and I realize it’s truly priceless.


Will you speak to my (Club, Group, Meeting, Organization)?

Yes.  Contact me.


Can I have (insert veteran’s name) phone number?

No. 


How long does it take you to draw something?

It depends of course, but 30 hours is typical.  80 hours tops.  So far.


Why don’t you (put people) in your drawings?

I believe they’re too distracting.  I want people to focus on the image, the airplane and then imagine the rest, including the crew.  In my other-job, I’ve learned the power of not telling the whole story and letting the reader/viewer fill in the rest.


Is this all you do for a living?

No.  I have an advertising agency.  But “this” is pretty damned important, IMO.


Are you a “right-wing Republican warhawk”?

No.  Neither am I a left-wing Democrat peacenik.  But I do love the idea of We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”


I am not “political.”


How come you don’t show the propellor blades?

Stationary props are - in my opinion - ugly. 


Why do you do just Profile illustrations?

I don’t.  My pencil sketches are almost always “scenes” of some sort.  But the color profiles allow me to show the airplane in it’s most technical form.  But, scenes are - to me - incredibly frustrating.  It’s probably due to my ‘being a writer,’ but very, very few artists have accomplished capturing the emotion and power of an aircraft in a scenic form. 


But John Shaw did.  Click here.  This piece blows me away, every time. 


Can I use your online artwork?

Go ahead as long as you put “Artwork ©JohnMollison.com” as the source. 


Please send me a high rez file so I can...

Maybe.  It depends.  Contact me.


• What combat veterans have contributed to your writing/artwork?

Walker “Bud” Mahurin, 56th FG; Alden Rigby, 352nd FG; Robert Goebel, 31st FG; Hamilton “Mac” McWhorter, VF-9; Robert “Punchy” Powell, 352nd FG; Earl Ashworth, 311th FG; Kenneth T. Brown, 36th BG; Stephen “dobs” Stevenson; Donald Bryan, 352nd FG; JD “Jerry” Collinsworth, 31st FG; Clarence “Bud” Anderson, 357th FG; Gerald Brown 55th FG; C. Ollin Perrit, 311th FG; Joseph Foss, VMF-22; Bruce Porter, VMF-3; William “Bill”  Creech, 311th FG;  Bob Schmidt; William “Obee” O’Brien, 357th FG; Matthew Martin, 357th FG; Hank Snow, 311th FG;  Geoffrey Morely-Mower; Joseph Malley, RAF; Elmer Smith, 352nd FG; Raymond Mitchell, 352nd FG Morris Magnussen, 31st FG; Perwin Knudsen, 301(?) BG; Sanford Moats, 352nd FG; William “Bill” Rankin, 56th FG; Dr. Gerhard Schmutterer, II JG.54; Jack Hankins, VF-1; Burton Hawley, 23rd PRS; Morrie Magnuson, 36th FG; Eugene James, VMA/F-312; JN White, 352nd FG; “Mac” McKibben, 352nd FG; James Bleidner, 352nd FG George McGovern, 455th BG; Claude Hone, VMF-216; Wendell Hanson, 341st BG; Dick Rostrom, 401st BG Harold Thune, VF-18; Ted Hutchins, BB-57; Dave Carey, VA-163; Dick Cole, Doolittle Raider; Earl Depner, 354th FG; Leo Thorsness, 355th TFW; Robert Mason, 1st Cav.; Ken Dahlberg, 354th FG; Ken Salisbury, 61st TCG; Howard Jensen, 454th BG;  Iggie Marinello, 352nd FG; Ben Fithian, 319th FS; Richard “Dick” Hewitt, 78th FG; Dick Aschenbrenner, 4th FG;  Don Erickson, 23rd FG; Hod Neilsen, 7th PRG, Robert Groman, 91st SMW, Crawford Shockley, 334th TFS, Steve Pisanos, 334th FS, Rich Hall 602nd FS, Dave Berkland 77th BS, Forrest Fenn, 309th TFS, Dick Francis 523rd TFS, Bob Pardo 433rd TFS, Dick Rutan (MISTY pilot and world-record holder), Bruce Olmstead, 343rd SRS,  John Stiles USAF, Nguyen Hong My North Vietnamese Air Force, Nguyen Duc Soat North Vietnamese Air Force, Leo Istas VMF-313, Chris Morgan, 311th FG, Raymond Plank 64th BS..it’s been 15 years years, I know I’ve missed a couple...


Who’s your favorite interview?

Joe Foss and George McGovern.  Joe convinced me that heroes are merely average guys who make the most of their circumstances by thinking-through their actions. , George demonstrated to me that a strong man’s proof is how he treats those “beneath” him.


What’s the least favorite interview?

A WW2 pilot who had been a prisoner of the Japanese.  I hit the wrong nerve, the pilot became extremely upset...and I knew then and there, the Japanese military culture in WW2 created rabidly evil people.  Two weeks later, I received an eloquent apology and the request that I never contact him again as he was finished trying to talk about WW2.


Did you serve in the military?

No.  And it remains a regret.   I once discounted our nation’s military by seeing it as narrow, outdated and myopic.  Today, I see that military service is a high calling, the foundation of our nation’s security and is peerless in teaching and equipping people for leadership. 


How much do you charge for Commissions?

$5,000 - some more, some less.  And, I insist on 50% down.


Do you always write about what you’re working on?

Yes.  Mostly.  My “blog” gets a fair amount of traffic from people of all walks of life and nationality.  They enjoy reading the stories behind the artwork and of course, I enjoy perpetuating the history. 


What’s the hardest airplane you’ve had to draw?

The B-24 Liberator.  It’s deceptive to my eye.  At first glance, it appears to be a big tube but it’s really not - there are subtle curves and lines that truly define the airplane.  Plus, I haven’t been able to get my head around the proportions of the tails.  I’ve done 3 and each one makes me grind my teeth.   But maybe 4th-time’s the charm, eh?


What do you use as references?

My library of books and... reputable model airplane kits.  There are a TON of tech drawings ‘out there’ on airplanes and my experience has shown every one is wrong.  Or right, depending upon something.  However, model-airplane builders are among the toughest critics of precision.  The best model airplane kit manufacturers like Hasegawa and Tamiya understand this and strive to produce excellent representations of the aircraft.  So, I try to buy a kit and use the pieces as references.


Do you give prints to the veterans?

Yes - for the WW2 vets that I can wrangle for an interview.  It’s my way of showing gratitude for saving the world back then.  The prints are for the veterans to hand out to their friends and family.  I don’t distribute prints for the vets, though.  If you’re a relative of someone I’ve done artwork for, and want a print, contact them.


If I commission you, how long will you take?

2-6 weeks, if I have anything to say about it.


What’s with the fish shape in your signature?

It’s not a fish.  It’s a shark.  Sharks are like airplanes in the water and I like airplanes, so...


What is a Remarque?  How much do you charge for Remarques?

Remarques are little pencil drawings done on the print for the purpose of personalizing/individualizing the print.  Some people think they add value to the print and, being a habitual doodler, I enjoy doing it.  And, I don’t charge for them.  But I don’t do requests.  If you want a Remarque, you take your chances on what it will be.  However, 8:1 odds says it will be a P-51 Mustang of the 352nd Fighter Group.


That being stated, the doodle at the bottom of the page is one I did of a flight of P-40 Warhawks.  It’s on a church bulletin though.   One of my patrons thinks it’s awesome and it’s shown below to illustrate what a remarque might look like and also nod to his compliment.  


What advice do you have for framing and matting?  Where should I go to get my print framed?

Make sure you use “UV” glass to protect the print.  No art is immune to the fading power of the sun’s rays.  Simple frames work best and the nicest pieces I’ve seen are when the owner uses a single-mat instead of the more “bulky” double mat.  But that’s just me.


As for framing, I’ve seen them all - from the $1,000 jobs to the $100 specials at Hobby Lobby and Michael’s. Both have their time & place and can’t say any reputable framer is better than another except for this - Michael’s did a piece that I donated to a fundraiser and the end result was a matting-framing job that made my artwork look INCREDIBLE.  That’s saying something!


What do you hope to accomplish by (all this)?

When people look/read at my stuff and say, “Cool!” I have accomplished something great.

If you’re really looking for trouble, click the above graphic.

Copyright ©2015 John Mollison