A Conversation with John Vanderpool

My work has evolved over the years; I have gained great confidence from doing it over and over which allows me to learn from my mistakes. My wife calls one painting I did over and over the definitive dead horse but I certainly learned from it. Even though I went to schools and workshops, there was no magic wand waved over me, teaching me how to draw and paint. I’ve done a lot of experimenting with my medium. I may have the concept for a finished painting in mind but along the way a lot of nice surprises happen. I stretch myself in areas I haven’t been before. Such as the new area of interest…painting my iris garden.

Art Training

My art training was at Colorado Institute of Art and Rocky Mountain School of Art. In addition to these schools of formal education, I attended many sketch groups. I was also lucky to be able to take advantage of the Illustrators Workshops in Monterey Ca. and Tarrytown NY. The instructors were Alan Cober, Fred Otnes, Mark English, Bob Peak, Robert Heindel, and Bernie Fuchs. The dynamics of the Monterey workshop really got me fired up. All my heroes in one spot and a nice encouragement from Bob Peak really made me feel I was on the right track.

Art Prints

My start in art prints came when I was showing at a gallery in Santa Fe. A famous painter and print maker, Frank Howell, wanted to meet me; after being introduced, Frank invited me to his studio. He said that my work would really transfer well in prints and encouraged me to look into the process. I decided the serigraph process was the way to go at the time. I have 3 limited edition serigraphs which are so richly detailed and brilliant in color that you can’t tell them from the originals. And then along came the newest printing process, the Giclee. Again it captures all the bright rich color as well as the subtle nuances


My style is in the Impressionistic way of seeing color and pattern. Some of my favorite artists are Lautrec, Degas, and the Spanish painter, Sorolla. One of the contemporary artists I really admire is Richard Schmid. Some of my favorite subjects to paint are little girls with dolls ( we have posed our niece with our favorite dolls from our collection), turn of the century settings, especially school yard groupings of children, Native Americans in their beautiful costumes, and floral…the Iris. I have a large collection of old photo albums as well as photo postcards that I have been collecting for years; not only do the pictures inspire me, but the notes written on the backs of the cards tell a tale as well. Our iris gardens drive me nuts in the summer when they are a riot of color.


For a start, I like a canvas with a lot of texture. I paint it with flat house paint; after it dries, I lay in my drawing with colored pencils. To give a looseness to the drawing, blur the edges a bit , I go in with paint thinner. When that dries, I apply oil pastel right over the colored pencil lay in. From there I start layering with chalk pastels. I’m most comfortable using dry mediums because of the control it gives me. However, by adding the paint thinner, I then have a fluid medium and can move the colors around large areas easier.

Favorite Painting

“Fourth of July Girl” is my favorite painting. The old photo I was working from showed a summer gathering of relatives and friends circa 1912; even though she was a small area of the over all picture, her little face jumped out at me. I have the original framed and hanging in our home and will never sell it. I call her my “mascot”.

Greatest Accomplishment

My greatest accomplishment was being in the Arts For The Parks two years in a row. I had read about the contest in an art magazine in 1988; Richard Schmid had just won the $100,000 prize for a painting he’d done of Rocky Mountain National Park. I submitted my Painting called “Rocky Mountain Hush” and it was in the Top 100 that year. The next year I entered in the Historical category with my painting called “Visitors at Morning Glory Pool”; again I made the Top 100. Quite a feat when you consider there were between 2300 and 2500 entries. The paintings spent a year traveling with the National Parks Tour to various galleries across the US. Upon returning to Jackson Hole Wy., they sold.

How do I get the message out?

I talk a lot about my work; people will come to me wanting to see what I’m so excited about. When I show them the originals and the available prints, they catch my enthusiasm. I also have my web site which is a mini-gallery of currently available items.

What does it take to be a good painter?

I’d say, find a subject matter you really love and draw and paint it again and again. Assume that you will never solve the mystery of it and must come at it in as many ways as possible. Don’t waste time on subjects you don’t enjoy doing or have no real interest in. That will show in the work.

John Vanderpool Biography

Working from his collections of old photo postcards, vintage clothing, antique dolls and old family albums, John creates vivid paintings that have the look of batik. He achieves this illusion by mixing colored pencils, oil and chalk pastels with paint thinners. All of this is applied to a black canvas.

Upon closer inspection one can see the years of study and the very personal approach John brings to his subject matter. Although primarily self-taught, John attended the Colorado Institute of Art and Rocky Mountain School of Art. He has also attended two of the Illustrators Workshops; consequently he has had instruction from some of the top illustrators of the day such as Robert Heindel , Bernie Fuchs, Bob Peak and Mark English.

John has found some kindred spirits in the work of contemporary illustrators as well as the Impressionists…Degas, Lautrec and the Russian Impressionist Leon Gaspard.

His limited edition serigraphs depicting his niece with antique dolls have been represented in Doll Reader Magazine and Contemporary Doll Collector Magazine.

His original paintings of Rocky Mountain National Park and Yellowstone National Park were honored to have been included in the Top 100 of the Arts for the Parks contest in 1989 and 1990.

John’s originals and prints are in numerous private collections on the coasts as well as Texas, Missouri,New York, Colorado and Canada.

He lives in Erie Colorado, a little hamlet of peace and quiet, where he is currently working on his new series entitled “Turn of the Century America” which depicts the gentle times gone by. Also he has a series called “Victorian Indians”, depicting the Native American posing in photographers studio settings in the early 1900’s. These have been reproduced in giclee prints.

Here are some of Johns favorite links:

Arts Coalition of Erie