John Bloner

Student Spotlight: John Bloner


This week, we meet John Bloner in the Spotlight! John is an artist, Zine enthusiast, and student from the Midwest in the US…

Q: John, Give us a day in your life. Where are you from and when do you create?
I live on the shore of Lake Michigan in Kenosha, Wisconsin, along with my wife and daughter.  I was born here and have lived in Kenosha for most of my life. I’m semi-retired after working for city government for nearly three decades. When I’m not making art, I serve as a part-time Executive Director to a nonprofit public access TV/community media center. 

John Bloner artwork

I draw every day, beginning before my first cup of coffee is brewed, with art supplies kept on the kitchen table, usually a sketchbook, some colored pencils and markers, and my Lamy Safari pen.  Four times per week, I visit my new studio in Racine, WI. I share this space with two other mixed-media artists and I had dreamt for many years of occupying a studio here (pinch me; it’s heaven!). 

John Bloner sketch

Q: Tell us about the moment your creative habit clicked for you. What made you want to draw or create art?
A: In my childhood, I spent a lot of time at the kitchen table, drawing cars. When we went on vacation, I sat inside our trailer, drawing on its dining table. I lived in a town where the auto plant employed most of the men, including my Dad, so automobiles were a frequent source of conversation and wonder. Despite over 60 years of practice, I still struggle to draw tires in perspective. 

Q: How did your creative journey start?
A: My life has been a creative journey, although it has had its detours to other ventures besides visual art.  During the years when I wasn’t drawing or painting, I wrote poems and short-stories, learned to play the Native American flute, and rode my bike for hundreds of miles each summer.

I returned to making art in 2007, thanks to a Kenosha art gallery which welcomed the public one day to stop by to draw cartoons among other artists, children and adults. I met some highly-talented artists that day, and began to visit other galleries to witness the work going on in my community. In 2009, I was browsing art books at a Border’s store when I pulled down a copy of An Illustrated Life. I had owned sketchbooks, but never drew in them beyond the first few pages. I’d thought they were for doodles. Danny Gregory’s book astounded me. Here were fully-realized drawings and paintings in the pages of humble sketchbooks. I couldn’t wait to get started on my own. 

John Bloner drawing

Q: What has your creative practice taught you?
In my 20s, I thought being an artist met you worked in oils on canvas, wore a smock and beret, and aspired to hang your pieces in a gallery.  It took 40 more years before I learned that being an artist simply refers to someone who regularly devotes themselves to making something that wouldn’t otherwise exist if they weren’t there to create it.  I learned that the final product may provide some satisfaction, but it’s not the reason why artists engage themselves creatively each day. It’s about the journey.

My father taught this lesson to me when I was young, but it took many years for it to sink into my head. We were building a model race car set, complete with trees, grass, outcroppings of rock, buildings, and lights, and I expressed my desire to be finished with our work. He said what was important was happening right at that moment: being together, working with our hands, finding solutions to problems step-by-step.  

John Bloner sketch work

Q: If you could give one piece of advice to a brand new artist or someone who’s just recently joined SBS, what would it be?
Don’t break your piggy bank on art supplies, but buy some good ones. Your confidence in your work will improve as you engage in a daily practice of making art, and your confidence will also improve if you are using quality supplies. Ditch the Crayola pencils. Step up from student-grade paint. Don’t say I’ll splurge when my art starts to improve. You and your work are worth it right now. Work on good quality paper, and make sure you’re matching your medium to your paper.


4 mins

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