John Ezell also has a photographic memory, but his is a different talent. He has the ability to think in images – imagining a moment in time – and capturing it brilliantly. Just like photographs one might see in a magazine or newspaper his images his drawings show events as they happen – “real-time” action – the connection of a boxing punch, hockey players jockeying for position, or a rock star in mid-song. But these images are not from any media source – they are all from his imagination, he says, and are brought to existence with innate artistic skill, and a personal style that one might say is larger than life. Chubby pole dancers, a stout Adam and Eve, and portly basketball players vie for our attention in vibrantly colored pencil drawings which are thoughtfully rendered.
John was the first client to attend a DDSO program. The DDSO’s Alan Short Center was founded in 1976 and with it began the artistic career of this remarkable man. Prior to attending ASC he was a resident of Porterville State Hospital for many years before moving to a board and care home. Adept in many media John started making ceramics under the tutelage of one-time ASC staff John Mariscal and began drawing in colored pencil under the mentorship several ASC staff including Albert Ramirez, and later with Tammy George, Valerie Conboy, and Sergio Cervantes. He has exhibited his work throughout the Central Valley and his work is included in many collections. He also won third place in a statewide poster competition for consumer rights and was flown to Southern California to receive his prize. Mr. Ezell’s work is also featured in a two-mural project through a City of Stockton grant. He is a Renaissance man, having also a love and talent for music and theatre, and at one time hosting his own local cable television program “The Cool Papa John Show”. It is said that he also secretly draws comic books.
Mr. Ezell’s drawings are naturally theatrical in design – he stages the action with artistic strategies that draw one into the space. These rich compositions are well-thought out: In “State Fair” two large figures are stationed on either side of the space drawing the viewer into the center and creating a triangular focal area – the same technique used in many Renaissance paintings. This spatial employ is evident in many of his works. In “Hawaiian Girl” the entire middle figure forms a triangular area as does the center figure in “Belly Dancer” and the hockey players in “Mighty Ducks”. Another tactic is the rendering of the back of figures in the foreground as in “Trip To The Zoo” and “Basketball Game” and many other of his works. We are at the same vantage point as the spectators, providing an open door into the scenario. Subjects are often partially rendered, also adding to the photographic feel. Animals, trees, and audience members (and there are many or his works with audiences present) are allowed to be sliced in half or stacked behind each other instead being log jammed into the space, providing a perspective pull and helping to center our attention. Some of his most innovative works, however, use negative space to the fullest and are the most devoid of activity. In “Handball Players” the simplicity of the grey walls magnifies the action of the players and in “Snowboarding at the Olympics” he makes use of the half pipe curve so it functions like a large white oval picture frame.
His talent goes further than these spatial techniques. The vivacity and rhythm of his works is amplified by his mastery of colored pencils, handling of his chosen media, and signature style. Mr. Ezell breaks up space with alternating hot pink, oranges and fire reds against cool deep greens and blues and neutrals that add dimension and life; his adeptness of his chosen media creates solid color fields that pop and please the eye; His charming figures are sheer joy – from Star Trek crew members at the ready to the individuality of each and every audience member that Mr. Ezell invents, and we are uplifted by his creations.
Man’s Paintings Sparked Idea of Stockton Center
An article about John Ezell by Roger Phillips