Archive for Thursday, October 7, 1999

October 7, 1999

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Anyone attending a Lied Center performance this season will see the work of Lawrence artist John Hendrix.

John Hendrix finds it hard to remember a time when he wasn't drawing in some fashion.

"I learned by tracing the Sunday comics, especially Garfield," Hendrix, who grew up in St. Louis, said. "I've been known as 'the art guy' ever since."

Hendrix, who graduated from Kansas University in May with degrees in graphic design and illustration, works as a designer for Fleishman and Hillard, an international design firm based in Kansas City, Mo. His colorful, dry-brush acrylic illustrations are seen on the program covers for this year's Lied Center Series.

"I don't consider myself a painter," he said. "I consider myself a drawer using paints."

As an elementary student, Hendrix created his own comic strip, "The Six Million Dollar Turtle," which he drew and distributed through his high school years. He turned down a scholarship to attend the Kansas City Art Institute after meeting Jon Swindell, KU associate professor of design.

"He convinced me I should go (to KU)," he said, adding that Swindell seemed to appreciate the development of an artist's personal style.

During his freshman year at KU, Hendrix said he studied drawing with lines and flat shapes.

"My pieces became more personal and I started doing dry brush and trying charcoal and other media," he said.

In the following years, Hendrix concentrated on illustration and began developing his own style. After earning his degree, he attended a 1 1/2-month-long illustration academy at William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo., where he worked with some of his heroes -- Mark English, Gary Kelley and C.F. Payne.

"I was doing well there and I felt like KU had prepared," he said. "" I worked with them every day and did life drawings in the evenings."

Hendrix said he began getting worried about whether he could get a job with an illustration degree so he returned to KU for a year to earn his graphic design degree. He took an independent study course with Barry Fitzgerald, KU associate professor of art, whose work appears in national magazines, newspapers, on books and CD covers and in advertisements.

"(John's) really talented," Fitzgerald said. "He has all the things he needs to be successful. He has the base talent that's needed and a tremendous work ethic. " He's always wanted to improve himself, and he always seeks input from a lot of people."

In addition to Fitzgerald, English, Payne and Kelley, Hendrix's other influences include Edward Hopper, Robert Frank, Thomas Hart Benton, Fairfield Porter and N.C. and Andrew Wyeth.

Hendrix has written and illustrated a children's book, "The First Draft," and created the cover of a cookbook for North Company Design. He has received numerous awards, including a third place in the national Strathmore Paper Illustration Contest.

And while he works mainly with acrylics, he also likes watercolors, charcoal and collage.

Hendrix, who has taught a cartoon class for the Lawrence Arts Center and does charcoal portraits at the Senior Citizens Center, said he hopes to eventually build a free-lance business, but he knows that takes time and self-promotion.

"It takes a while. I hope I have a pretty good clientele within eight years," he said.

In the meantime, Hendrix will continue to develop his artistic style.

"I don't feel like I've come into my own," he said. "I don't think I'll ever feel like I've 'arrived.'"

-- Jan Biles' phone message number is 832-7146. Her e-mail address is jbiles@ljworld.com.

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