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Howie Green: Artist and Painter Biography

Howie Green came to international attention as a painter and artist with the publication of his book Jazz Fish Zen: Adventures in Mamboland. His colorful and whimsical artwork has been featured in over 40 group and solo shows and has adorned over 30 public and private murals.

Boston-based since the early 1970s Howie was raised in East Rochester and Clarence Center, NY. Howie Green has a unique artist's eye for the colorful fun that springs out of our popular culture. Images from comics, celebities, movies, TV and various other flotsam and jetsam that washes up on the rocky shores of our popular media all make their way into Howie's colorful and fun Pop Art creations.

Howie uses a pop-fauvist color pallette and has an eclectic, upbeat, approach to his subject matter. Howie says a lot of people tell him that they love "his colors". Howie comments "My colors? They don't belong to me. Colors are out there floating around. I just happen to use them all!"

Unexpected Beginnings

Howie's childhood dream was to be a cartoonist and he has always been a pop-culture collector and enthusiast. The turning point in his life was a casual Christmas present he received when he was 11. Howie remembers, "I got a large pad of multi-colored newsprint paper and some drawing supplies, which was odd because until then I had not shown any great interest in art or any such thing. Something clicked inside me and I started drawing and I've never stopped." Early subject matter like Mickey Mouse and Dick Tracy got great reviews. "I saw what a great reaction I got from my relatives when I drew something they knew. 'Hey, that's a great drawing of Dick Tracy' and such comments were like music to my ears" Howie said. "I had found my calling and all these years later I'm still doing Mickey Mouse!"

And the timing was perfect. At that time the art world was being blasted into orbit by a new movement that was celebrating the very subjects Howie was just beginning to draw. "I remember walking into the Albright-Knox gallery in Buffalo, NY when I was an adolescent to see the first big Pop Art show on tour in the early 60s and just being stunned. And I remember all the controversy it caused" said Howie. "Everyone was talking about it!" Giant paintings of Campbell Soup cans by Andy Warhol and comic book images by Roy Lichtenstein left an indelible mark on Howie. "I love the idea that 'art' could be fun, make me smile and still get such a huge response from people - negative or positive. Andy Warhol became to me what Elvis had been to the generation before me."

Howie with R.I.T. student union mural (1970)
When Howie entered art school in the mid-60s at RIT in Rochester, NY, it was an explosive time in popular culture. Howie's classmates and friends included several artists who would later make their marks in the art world including Mike Gilbert, Karin (Harter/Berg) Lewis and noted artist and painter Peter Berg. While attending RIT Howie gained first-hand exposure to color guru Josef Albers during the summer of 1968 while he was on campus creating the two large lobby murals in the administion tower. Daily visits with Mr. Albers left a strong impresson on Howie who was touched by Albers' grace and humor. Watching Albers and his assistant paint the murals inspired Howie to pursue mural projects for his entire career. The following year Howie painted his own mural on the new RIT campus in the Student Union building.


"GALAXY" by Fritz Trautman
In addition to Mr. Albers, instructors Bob Conge, Wendell Castle and visiting typographic master Hermann Zaph also made significant contributions to Howie's burgeoning artistic career. In the spring of Howie's senior year at RIT his most important artistic influence came through an introduction from friend and classmate Paul Parkman to color theorist, painter and designer Fritz Trautman who was recently the subject of a major exhibition at the University of Rochester's Memorial Gallery Museum . Fritz was an iconic figure in the art world from the 1930-1950s. He had done everything the art world had to offer including work with George Eastman and a long association with the industrialist Kate Gleason on various enterprises. On of Ms. Gleason's major undertakings was a real estate development called Concrest in East Rochester, NY. Howie was amazed to find that Fritz had worked with Gleason on Concrest, the house and the entire development that he'd grown up in. "When I met Fritz I knew I was there for a reason. Fate had made our paths cross and I was open to the possibilities." said Howie. "We met in the spring of 1970 he made me re-think everything I had learned about color and form and shape and such. He was very old and in bad health but sitting on the floor of his apartment and listening to him talk opened up my mind to a whole new reality that has guided my thinking ever since. Fritz was my Buddha and I was a willing student." Click here to read more about Fritz.

Out Into the World

Over the next few decades while pursuing a career as an illustrator and designer and winning over 40 awards, Howie continued to paint. Even a stint in Hollywood as Art Director at Jamie Masada's World Famous Laugh Factory couldn't deter Howie from pursuing his muse. It came close, but no cigar! (You can even see Howie's 20-second feature movie debut in the middle of "Video Valentino" now on YouTube.com.)

In the mid 80's he remembers another life-changing incident - "I was on the phone in one of those endless conference calls and and I was doodling while my mind was on a space walk and I looked down on the my pad and I had drawn a fish with a beret playing a saxophone. I thought it was odd, but it made me laugh so I put it up on my wall and kept looking at it for a few days and decided it was worth developing. Shortly after that, out of the clear blue sky, I got a phone call from Peter Max, who I thought was a friend of mine making a crank call," remembers Howie. "Max has always been one of my favorite artists and an obvious influence on me. I discovered his work in the mid-60s when he was an illustrator before the pop cosmic phase that made him famous." At the time of Max's phone call Howie was art director of "New Age Journal" and he had done a Max-like illustration for the magazine. Howie recalls "Peter saw my illustration and called me to see if we would like to use him to do artwork for the magazine. I was thrilled! Not only did he do artwork for "New Age Journal" for me, but I also worked with him for several years on projects for the University of New Hampshire. I'm also proud to say, Peter did his very first sports painting for me for the cover of the Boston Celtics Media Guide."

Adventures in Mamboland

The creation of the Jazz Fish and working with Peter Max began a very fertile period for Howie during which he produce hundreds of paintings centering around the Jazz Fish and Mamboland, the fanciful world he inhabits. This all came to a head with the publication of Howie's book "Jazz Fish Zen" (Charles Tuttle Publishing), and led to a series of solo and group shows filled with Mamboland artwork. In addition, Mamboland and its characters got translated into computer 3-D characters and animated for various promotion purposes including a children's activity CD-Rom. The Jazz Fish was even liscensed as the name of one of the ships in the America's Cup Races, with a 20 foot tall Jazz Fish on the main sail.

Recent project highlights:

Howie's portrait "Madonna Smoking" was featured in the British Art book "Madonna in Art" by Mem Memet.

Howie's album cover paintings won First Prize in the Absolut Vodka 25th Anniversary art competition in Boson, MA.

Howie painted 3 of the lifesize bovines for the Cow Parade Boston public art event - two were released as collectible Cow Parade figures.

Howie has recently completed installations in Jacksonville and Delray Beach, Florida for the nice folks at the Mellow Mushrooms including numerous murals, over 100 individual paintings and a psychedelic school bus. He also created a large series of pop art paintings for Sun Life Financial, an international finance company.

Howie's portrait of rapper Biggie Smalls was used for the cover on the album "Unbelievable: A Tribute to Biggie Smalls" which featured tracks from Puff Daddy, Lil' Kim, Kayne West and many others.

Howie has been engaged in an ongoing series of public art works including numerous murals for the Boston Red Sox Foundation and Sun Life Financial as well as numerous projects for the Mayor's Office of the City of Boston. He has also been painting an ongoing series of public utility boxes and he did a special holiday themed mural covering the front entrance to Boston City Hall. Howie also participated in the Rochester, NY Benches on Parade public art project and painted a utility box in Rochester's South Wedge neighborhood.

Howie has created numerous product designs including the "Prairie Princess" & "Peace, Love & Music" Pop Art Pony collectible figures for Trail of the Painted Ponies, and limited edition Pop Art toys for maget.com

Two of Howie's designs were chosen among the 40 finalists (from over 1400 entries) in the Volkswagen Polo international design competition, printed as 3D prototypes, and were on exhibition in the Danish Design Center in Copenhagen, Denmark. Recently Howie painted a group of 6 feet tall golf balls for the PGA Tour in Rochester NY.

... so on and on and on... and it's a lot of fun!

617.308.6472 | howie_green@hotmail.com

© Howie Green 2015