Artist Spotlight | John Osgood

In light of the current health crisis, many art shows are shifting to online exhibitions.

However, NoHo Arts District wanted to take a moment in this disconnected period to connect directly with visual artist John Osgood.

John Osgood is a lifelong artist with a unique style, scope, and hunger. Drawing inspiration from Picasso but with a desire to be grounded like Bob Ross, Osgood has championed beautiful murals with a signature style.

John Osgood was kind enough to share not only his own journey as an artist, but where he came from and where he draws inspiration from. Osgood has a keen understanding of an artist’s experience, and likewise for where inspiration is channeled juxtaposed with what sells art. John’s multiple mentions of his wife shares his deep connection with not only his own family, but the world at large.

How long have you been an artist? What has been your professional trajectory/arc?

I have been creating drawings and artwork since I can remember. Having parents that were supportive of my passion for art and desire to create was key. I can remember having drawing competitions with buddies as early as 3rd or 4th grade. I am still good friends with one of those buddies and he also has had the good fortune to create artwork as a career. In high school a teacher of mine could see that I had an ability and helped me understand color, composition, and the skill of drawing. Then in college I began to draw religiously and began to experiment with a variety of mediums. I sold my first painting in 1997 to a college friend and that is when the light bulb went off… I can create a career out of this! Sometime after college, I met the future Mrs. Osgood and she saw what I was trying to do. With her background in marketing she offered to help, and I said yes. It was the best decision I have ever made. We started a clothing company, that turned into an art gallery, that turned into a mural business. Now I am creating artwork for gallery exhibitions, commercial projects and private commissions. I also regularly show artwork at the Voss Gallery in the Mission District in San Francisco and create murals up and down the west coast.

How has your practice changed over time?

In college, I was really just dipping my toe in the water, testing things out and experimenting. During this time I started learning about Pollock, Picasso and Basquiat, whose work really inspired me. It was also in college where I found artistic inspiration in the pain of a break up. While I found out quick that people weren’t too keen to buy “break up” artwork, it didn’t matter because I found the therapeutic side to creating. I think this is what continues to drive me to this day (not the break up, but the ability to get everything off my chest and into my paintings). After college I was really drawn to skateboard graphics and the artwork of Jeremy Fish and Dave Kinsey, and in general with graffiti and mural work.

Between finishing college and meeting my future wife (Michele), I was working full time and carving out creative time as much as I could. Things really started to change after I met Michele. She saw my passion and together we opened up new doors in the local art community. We found a storefront that could act as my studio and as an art gallery for emerging artists. There were not a lot of opportunities outside of coffee shops for up and coming artists. Every month we exhibited a new group of artists which in turn helped us build a new supportive community of artists. From there I met a couple of muralists from a group called Matamuros. Zach “VATE” Bohnenkamp and Kevin “Sensei 23” Sullivan and we formed a new collaboration called Seattle Mural Art. We started creating murals all over Seattle which made me realize how amazing it felt to create on a large scale and how this creative process connects you to the community where you are working. Since moving from Seattle to the Bay Area, I continue to create artwork gallery exhibitions while still creating murals up and down the west coast.

What media do you use to create your art? What process do you use to create your art?

I mainly use acrylic and aerosol on canvas or wood panel. However, oil has been working its way back into my line up as well. It really comes down to the process. Most of the time my artwork starts off with strokes and swaths of acrylic paint to build a color field and composition. I usually work with 10 to 20 different pieces at a time. I also do a lot of layering and I add little phrases and symbols that have personal meaning to me. When things dry and I can paint over, I begin to select what looks good and what doesn’t. If I don’t like it, I paint over it. My wife says she doesn’t become attached to any of my pieces anymore because she knows there is always a chance that the piece will be painted over at any time.

What is your inspiration? Who has been an inspiration to you (professionally and personally)?

For inspiration I draw from so many areas including life, music, movies, my family, nature, watching other artists work, etc. For example, there was this painting I was working on which was taking the shape of a statue of Adonis. While I was taking a break I asked my wife what she thought of it. She didn’t see the statue, but saw a mamma bird trying to show a baby bird how to fly. She was out in the backyard a few months before and saw this happening and called me out. We sat there for a bit and watched how the mama bird sat up on the fence and would fly down to encourage the baby bird as it tested its wings. After I thought about that, I went back to the painting and connected that moment to how my wife and I have journeyed through this very thing with our own son. And with that, the painting of Adonis was reworked and a new piece called ”Fledgling” was born.  I guess my paintings have paths similar to the human journey… they don’t come out pre-planned, I let experiences guide me and inspire me.

What message do you hope your audience imparts from your work?

I think that this is the question that I dread the most. To explain my work and message, is to ask me to hand over my personal journal. What I hope comes from my work is not to find my message, but to find your own message — to find commonality in the human experience and what connects us all.

What is life like as an artist?

It’s a trip. I get to do what I love, my passion, for a living and for that I am so grateful. However, that part is also mixed in with the normal day to day living that most people can relate to including getting my son ready and off to school, throwing laundry around and desperately picking up the mess in the kitchen before Michele comes home and for that I am so grateful because it keeps me grounded.

What has been an artistic challenge you have faced and how did you overcome this?

I would say that time is the biggest challenge that I face. I have the personality type that wants to do “It ALL”. I want to do that big mural project, I want to do that commission and yes, I can do that exhibition in March. Oh, wow… all in March! If art was a food, my eyes would be bigger than my stomach. While I do meet the deadlines, my body takes a toll. As you may be figuring out, I am still working my way through finding the balance. I think it is hard to say no as an artist, as you don’t know where and when the next opportunity is coming.

What project or piece of work have you been most proud of to date?

My most important creation to date is a collaboration between me and my wife, which is our son. Oh, I can hear the groans already. But, hell ya… I’m a proud papa. There just isn’t any piece of artwork that I have created that can out-weigh the amazing feeling behind the creation of life.

What is your dream project?

My dream is to create a residency for up and coming artists.

What 3 artists would you like to be compared to?

That’s a hard one… I don’t really feel comfortable comparing myself to other artists. However, I strive to be as prolific as Picasso, as timeless as David Bowie and as grounded & happy as Bob Ross.

John’s understanding of art and life can be an example to us this uncertain time: the way we pattern our lives in the throes of comfort may not be serving us. Life as a full-time artist is dynamic and uncertain, but gives Osgood time to connect with his family in ways other partnerships don’t permit.

This unsure time will pass too, and we can all take a page out of Osgood’s professional trajectory: do what fulfils you and open spaces which permit pursuance of happiness.

*Artwork in this piece provided by John Osgood, and projected to be in Osgood’s next show “In Plain Sight” in the Mission District of SF at the Voss Gallery. The show is projected to open online late April, though slated to have an opening on May 2nd, pending certain county lockdowns. 

Raleigh Barrett
Author: Raleigh Barrett

Raleigh Barrett is a vegan Angeleno transplant who has lived in the NoHo Arts District for five years. She certainly won’t be leaving California in the next four years. Raleigh recently graduated from the University of Chicago with a Master of Arts specializing in Linguistic Anthropology. While in Chicago, she worked as the Gallery Assistant at the Renaissance Society. Raleigh is thrilled to be back and blogging for the NoHo Arts District.