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Mike Howard is an experienced photographer, writer and painter.
He has worked in military visual communications as a storyteller since 1979, beginning his career as a photojournalist for military newspapers and magazines. He later became an Army public affairs senior NCO who provided oversight to print and broadcast journalism in Italy, Germany, Honduras, Panama, Bosnia, Kosovo and South Korea in addition to numerous locations in the United States. He became a civilian public affairs officer responsible for communications about modernization and readiness, space-based capabilities and missile defense. He was also a spokesperson on joint military installation matters in the National Capital Region, special operations and global Women-Peace-Security issues. He continues as a communications leader in aircraft acquisition.
Howard is an MFA Painting candidate at Savannah College of Arts and Design.
Marks of expression and vibrant colors give my paintings a childlike energy. This quality stems from my father’s harshness on me for drawing pictures during church. I stared out stained glass windows looking at the lines of the metal holding the glass together and light shining through color in glass for hundreds of hours. I refused to draw pictures until late in life. As an adult, vibrant color in stained glass windows still distract me. I learned to photograph scenes to show what was in my mind instead of drawing pictures. I became a soldier. Religious imagery with color shown through glass and black-and-white photographs formed my vision as a U.S. Army photographer.
Today as a painter, my photojournalism skills combine with painting materials reminding me of a child’s crayon to show patriotism and human spirit in life-threatening situations throughout America’s military history. While my artistic marks are not realistic, I strive for emotional realism through this ironic aesthetic and childlike marks while telling visual stories related to traumatic events. I use photojournalistic-but-painterly approaches to capture honesty in moments of feelings through research of historic military events. My overall focus as a contemporary artist is to bring attention to the human cost of war and the sacrifice men and women have given since the American Revolution.
I travel in my mind to make rudimentary, primitive, expressive images. I tell visual stories as a magazine would. Just as such a photojournalist chooses lenses, angles and light to produce emotional images, I choose materials, colors and techniques to enhance my stories. Mine are out of bounds of real cameras and I identify with millions of soldiers who create “trench art” throughout America’s military history. I imagine emotions felt had I been present when events unfold. I create images by drawing mental sketches similar to how photographers imagine the photographs they will take with their photographic gear, “seeing” the images before capturing them with gear. For me, after “seeing,” I go to my “trench” to paint.
Yes, I still stare out stained glass windows when in church thinking about my next paintings.