For the love of art

Van Lynch was a late-comer to painting, but he’s made up for it with passion

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DRIVEN TO ABSTRACTION | Lynch’s varied, colorful paintings have earned him a following after just a few years in the art world. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

Having only been painting for about two years, Van Lynch isn’t at Thomas Kinkeade’s level of fame yet. But that hasn’t stopped him from selling multiple, high-price pieces to establishments around Dallas. (And he’s much better than Kinkeade.) Lynch has turned his creative side into a lucrative part-time art career, working his way up through the ranks of local artists with his unique abstract style.

That’s a far cry from his corporate background. Before he started painting, Lynch graduated Stephen F. Austin University with a degree in business and immediately began working into the hotel industry. He hopped from East Coast to West in various sales and marketing jobs before settling in his native Dallas.

“I was missing something, so that’s why I kind of shifted gears,” he says. Now, Lynch’s day job as an apartment manager for the Amli Residences allows him to live comfortably in his apartment, surrounded by his artwork.

Painting started as a Christmas present from his mother and sister — and he took to it like a fish to water.

“I’ve always wanted to paint or do something creative and I’ve never set aside a time in my life to do that,” Lynch says. “One year, my sister and my mom bought me art lessons with [Cynthia Chartièr] at her beautiful studio and that’s where it all started. I painted with her for approximately six months at that studio. It went from there.”

With Chartièr’s guidance, Lynch discovered a facility as an abstract artist.

“I came in for my first lesson and I was like, ‘What do I do, teacher?’” Lynch recalls. “She said, ‘Anything you want; I’m just here to guide you.’”

After his official lessons ended, Lynch bought studio time for a good place to “make a mess.” It was also where he could meet and trade feedback with other artists, some of whom became friends.

Lynch draws from a variety of inspirations, from colors to images. He frequents the library and owns numerous art books, taking after his favorite artists such as Kandinsky, Mondrian and Monet. When he paints, though, Lynch doesn’t always have a definite image in his mind; he says he works better when he sets out the colors he wants and just goes with it until he deems it finished.

Lynch has displayed his art in shows and festivals around Dallas. His canvases start at about $200 for a 36-by-48-inch piece, rising depending on size and complexity.

One of his biggest sales was to the Downtown restaurant Dallas Fish Market, which bought six canvases from him for their renovation. But even that money goes back into his art.

“I bought more canvas and paints,” Lynch laughs about his proceeds. “For me, as a beginner, it’s my secret little addiction, being at the art supply store every chance I get. I just can’t stop myself.”

The best part about painting for Lynch, though, isn’t the paycheck that comes with a custom order — it’s the happiness he gives someone.

“I think the biggest satisfaction is when someone sees something the first time and are like, ‘Oh my God, I love it,’ Something I did really spoke to someone.” He recalls one instance when he sold a piece to a musician who said, “When I see that, I wanna go home and write a new song.”

Lynch hopes he can retire from his day job eventually and become a fulltime artist, painting and teaching on the side. He’d also like to expand his repertoire to include other artistic media.

 “I’d love to do sculptures, mobiles, welding — things of that nature,” he says. He’d also like to work lights and soldering into his art.

Lynch admits to being a bit of a size queen: His ideal work involves bright, bold colors, simplicity and a lobby-worthy size. His project dream is to combine two dozen of his own medium-sized paintings into a mosaic to make a larger “statement” piece.

The only regret Lynch has is that he waited so long to start what has become his favored hobby, but “now I’m doing it” and he doesn’t plan on stopping.

In additional to commissioned paintings, Lynch likes to use giclèe, a method where art is photographed with a high-resolution camera and then printed onto commercial items such as T-shirts and wood. “I’m not above coffee cups,” Lynch chuckles.

— Draconis Von Trapp

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 2, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Pedaling Olives: An Evening with Michael Godard

Rock star meets high art

Dallas Voice, Wisby – Smith Fine Art Gallery and Hudson Ferus Vodka present an extraordinary collection of works by Artist Michael Godard. Michael Godard, is known as the explosive “Rockstar of the Art World”, and global top selling artist!

His world of art invites us into his lighthearted perspective of life surrounding us, with animated olives, grapes and, dancing strawberries. His unique portrayal of fun is an exciting combination of imagination and subtle humor, which evoke the creative side in “Olive” us right down through our souls. He has redefined art as we know it with a new definition and of course a punch line. Come meet Michael Godard at this very special event and enjoy complimentary beverages.

The night is also a fundraiser. Ten percent of proceeds from art sales will benefit Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS!

DEETS: Wisby-Smith Fine Art Gallery, 500 Crescent Court. 6 p.m. For more information, click here.

—  Rich Lopez

Soap. Opera.

John Jones gets down and dirty with his two passions —singing and handcrafting boutique soaps

John Jones • VelvetRopeSoaps.com
FRESH SCRUBBED | John Jones’ soap-making business plan includes catering to gay boys and the church social blues hairs in Highland Park. (Arnold Wayne Jones/Dallas Voice)

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

John Jones toiled away complacently at his day job at an electric utility office, but he also had a creative side that needed nurturing. A healthy dose of entrepreneurialism led Jones to exercise control over his destiny and explore another aspect of his personality. And it included soap. And opera.

“I always wanted to start my own business,” Jones says. “I wanted to be creative, but it had to be something I could afford to do.”

The thing was, Jones didn’t have an exact idea of what he wanted to do. His only criteria were a cheap set-up cost and something that would feed his creative talents. His a-ha moment came while watching HGTV’s Househunters, where a couple featured on one episode mentioned they were in the soap-making business and that they lived off of it. That piqued Jones’ curiosity.

He bought books, did online research and soon found himself experimenting with lye and oil ratios and fragrance mixtures. Before too long, Jones came up with a recipe that he liked for handmade soaps — not from kits and poured into molds (that “isn’t really making soap,” he says), but crafted raw.

“I knew I could do that and it was fun and creative,” he says. “Now I have these big pots I work with and my guest room is now my soap room.”

Jones dashes off the lingo with ease, using terms like “saponify” (converting fat into soap) and extolling the benefits of using goat’s milk as a base. While he sounds like an old pro, he’s only been at it for a year. But he also realized he needed a new approach to make his product stand out in the marketplace.

It wasn’t just ingredients that would set him apart, but his market. Jones wanted a line of gay soaps with campy names.

“I wanted cute, catchy titles for the different soaps,” he says. “So I put ground coffee beans into my coffee bar, and oatmeal in my country bar. Others have their specific fragrances” as well. Leather bar, anyone? How about bear bar? And then there’s his gay bar, with its rainbow layers.

Notice a pattern here? It’s not by accident.

“I wanted a fresh, fun approach to this, not an old lady approach,” he says. “Me being gay and a bear, I wanted that to be my target audience. So these aren’t your normal soap scents.”

Friends helped him with covering the spectrum of the kinds of “bars” he could frequent, hence products that include piano bar, disco bar, sports bar, even a Goth bar.

“That has dragon’s blood in it,” he explains.

Still, while he saw the gay community as a primary market, his soaps are good enough for anyone. Thanks to his mother, he found a niche market and created and named soaps geared toward the church-social crowd.

“I got the gays covered and the sweet, old Christian ladies, too,” he laughs.

In October 2010, he created Velvet Rope Soaps, navigating the very scary ordeal of official state filings, obtaining liability insurance for cosmetic products, using invested monies in his company efficiently …and, of course, making the soap. Jones’ boyfriend helps him package the soaps and bath soaks, a scented bath salt that’s his other item right now.

At first it was totally an online affair, but after sending out samples, Velvet Rope is now available on store shelves.

“Skivvies has been selling my product for the last four months,” he says. “They just put in their third order and added a second shelf! They’ve been great and I’ve been happy with it. Now some of my goals are getting it into the Highland Park area and Deep Ellum.”

The soaps are still available online, with the added benefit that he can customize soaps, including helping customers develop personalized scents. But for the moment, his signature is branding the soaps with catchy phrases. Many have the company name on them, but he’s open to something else. Just ask.

“I can monogram soaps, put custom labels, wedding dates,” he says. “I was in the vendor market at Texas Bear Round-Up this year and my biggest seller was the leather bar soap branded ‘cum pig.’ Everyone said they were getting it for their boyfriend.” Uh-huh.

As if his job and his business didn’t keep him busy enough, there’s also his interest in singing opera that siphons off his time. Jones is working with local musician and performance artist Kurtz Frausun on The Dawn, billed as an electronic German war opera. The avant-garde show is scheduled for a November premiere at the Eisemann Theatre in Richardson.

“Yeah, it’s been an interesting experience,” Jones says. “Kurtz composed the music around our singing. I’ve never done anything like this before.”

But Jones is quick to get back to his soaps. He discusses potential new products, but wants to keep that under wraps. He has quickly become a savvy businessman even while discovering a new passion. At the very least, people can always use soap — and he encourages dropping it every once in a while.

“Oh yeah,” he says. “Fun things can happen when you bend over in the shower.”

For more information, visit VelvetRopeSoaps.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 17, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens