Friday, December 15, 2017

Meet a Local Illustrator: A Chat with John Greenwood

20171209_182850by Mike Rhode

John Greenwood was selling a selection of interesting posters at a recent evening at the soon-to-be-closed superhero-themed brewery, Heroic Aleworks. I asked him about his 'fan art,' and bought a few posters too. He's answered our usual questions, but also talks about his job staging themed escape rooms.

What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?

Until recently, none actually. Ive been an artist/graphic artist for about 15 years and most of my most of my professional career has been spent creating for businesses, musicians, and other standard free lance work. Once I started helping other Fan Artist sell their work I realized I could do the same! So this year I began creating for myself and designing comic posters that I'd enjoy having in my own home. Honestly, I've never had more fun creating over the past 15 years as I do now. :)

How about your full time job hosting events such as Escape rooms?

Since I was a child slinging lemonades, homemade candy bars and anything else I could find cheap and sell, I've always had creative entrepreneur spirit. In July of 2016 I decided to finally break free completely on my own and started Hometown Go. Initially the goal was to just create fun experiences in our hometown, but it's quickly grown to be half events and the other half promoting local artists at various Conventions and Fairs.

Tell us a bit about your full-time work creating Escape Rooms? How did you get into this? How do you try to make them entertaining for people?

Our first escape room experience was called The Wizarding World of Woodbridge, with a Harry Potter theme but 100% our own story. We drew inspiration from the alchemical practices that J.K. Rowling followed to create Harry Potter and created our own story about The Elixir Arcanum and the three Wizards who came to early America in the 1600's. Prior to creating this escape room we had just finished our Historic Ghost Tours in one of the oldest homes in Virginia and fell in love with local history, specifically Occoquan, VA history. Within our alchemical story of Wizards, potions, and magic, we also integrated local history, to help build a familiar connection for our customers. Our goal wasn't to create a single room and lock you in it until you escape. We wanted to create something more, a full immersive experience. From the second you entered our 3,000 sf location, you became immersed within our Wizarding World. Train station entrance, grand hall with fan art, selfie booth station, local video game developers demoing their wizard dueling game and free cups of Hot Butter Beer. I didn't even put a sign out front. All you could see was a single brick door and as you opened it, you were immediately immersed within our train station entrance. There were no signs saying don't touch this or remove that etc. Touch, move, do whatever you want as long as you were respectful. Remember, the goal of an escape room at its core is to have FUN. Additionally our escape room was 3 rooms that you journeyed through and every scroll inside was individually hand waxed sealed to help create a unique immersive experience. What really set our escape room apart from others was the continuance of story through Chapters. After completing Chapter 1: The Rogue Sorcerer, you could return and complete Chapter 2: The Curse of the High Priestess. This helped our customers to become more involved in the story, kinda like a real life RPG. When you finish chapter one, you then became part of the story. Because of this continued experience of wizarding fun, 90% of our customers came back to complete the second chapter of our story.

Once completing The Wizarding World of Woodbridge, we wanted to create a new escape room experience with our own super hero. We took lots of time working on the origin, background, villains, etc and came up with CATS FROM SPACE, now running. Our super heroes are Cat X, Tammy Purrkins (a teenage girl from 1987) an our villains are Captain Buttermuffin and the Space Cat Pirates. Due to the successful retention we had for Chapter 1 and 2 in the past, we decided to do the same for Cats From Space. Right now you can come to Occoquan VA, where our shop is, and complete Chapter 1 of Cats From Space: The Truth About Tammy Purrkins. The amount of detail we put into our rooms is nothing short of extraordinary. Every inch is decorated and in this escape room, every item is unique to the 80s. We scoured ebay, thrift stores, yard sales and attics to create this silly and interactive experience. On our Youtube Channel or Facebook Page, you can watch two videos where Ronald Reagan addresses the Cats From Space situation and a recent transmission from Capt. Buttermuffin, threatening to destroy us all. My goal after Chapter one is to continue the story through cartoon or some sort of illustration. When our new villain emerges, we will ask everyone to come back and save the world again in Chapter Two.

Currently we are busy planning our next Wizarding Experience for 2018. Right now I'm torn between continuing our story to Part 2 (chapters 3 & 4), or a new escape room concept that I've been working on called, The Grand Wizards Cup: A Gauntlet of Champions. Either way, it's going to be fun, silly, and a perfectly affordable escape from the regular muggle world we live in. :)

How does Hometown Go find artists for its poster work?

Our main source for finding new artists has been at various Conventions and word of mouth.

How do you do your graphic work? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?

Combination of both. Sometimes I form ideas with pen or ink and scan them into the computer to continue from there. Lately I've mainly just been creating through draw pad into Photoshop/Illustrator.

When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?

I was born on Sept. 1st 1984 in Clovis New Mexico. Raised in a Military family, I moved around the world 15 times by the time I turned 17 years old.

What is your training and/or education in cartooning?

Ive been drawing/cartooning since I was a kid and used to create my own Farside comics. Through Highschool I was in AP Studio Art and went to George Mason University for my Bachelors in Graphic Design with a minor in Video Production.

Who are your influences?

Whoever work inspires me at the moment. I draw from lots of influences and have definitely learned a lot by working with one of our main featured artists, Angela McKendrick.

If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?

I'm a firm believer in looking forward and not worrying about the past. I'd most likely keep everything the same because I've been very happy with my decision to leave the corporate world and start my own path.

What work are you best-known for?

Since I'm a newer Fan Artist, I guess my best sellers have been my Retro Flash art, Neon Gotham City, and Minimalist Justice League Set.

What work are you most proud of?

I think I'm most proud of the Minimalist Set of Justice League. I enjoy going into the details on pieces but taking a set back and creating as little as possible has been a real challenge that has resulted with a nice clean finished look.

What would you like to do or work on in the future?

Right now I'd like to just continue creating and see where things go from there.

What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?

I love to create, not just with art but also through Music and Video Production. If I ever hit a wall, I usually just shift gears and work on something else.

What do you think will be the future of your field?

Hopefully expanding my team to offer more local artists the opportunity to be seen and sell their work.

Do you have a website or blog?

What's your favorite thing about the DC area?

I love the city but wouldn't want to live there. There's so many fun things to do that I don't know where to begin. I will say that whenever I am in DC, I usually find my way to a little Chinese take-out place between DC9 and 9:30 club because they have delicious Steak and Cheese Egg Rolls :)

Least favorite?

Least favorite thing about the city would be city life in general. I enjoy it more when know that I can head home to my quiet neighbor hood, should the city get a little too busy or slammed with traffic.

What monument or museum do you like?

Always love strolling through the various art galleries in the Smithsonian area. Tons of beautiful museums to enjoy.

How about a favorite local restaurant?

Favorite local restaurant in the DC area would probably be The Peking Gourmet. Show me a fresh Duck Taco with plum sauce and I'm in heaven.

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