Johnny Mahto Hogue is finally getting to do what he’s always wanted.
Since retiring and moving from the Four Corners to Rhome in 2007, Hogue is able to fully devote himself to drawing and painting, a passion he developed at an early age.
“It started when I was 5 or 6 years old,” he said. “Anytime I picked up a pencil, I doodled and would draw what I could see. But my parents and grandparents didn’t want me to be an artist. That was not a good thing to be. I had to get a real job.”
So he became a leatherworker and saddlemaker, a trade around which he grew up.
Although he’s from Texas, Hogue fell in love with the Santa Fe area, its people, the land and colors during a visit. He made his home there for several years and opened a saddle shop with intentions to grow his craft as a painter.
“But I worked seven days a week, 10 to 12 hours a day,” he said. “I didn’t have a lot of time for painting.”
But after developing carpal tunnel syndrome and traumatic arthritis from pulling on the leather, he retired and was able to focus on oil painting and learning the colors. The self-taught artist spends at least an hour every day reading and “studying the masters” for composition, color and anatomy.
“Every book I can find on painting or drawing I read, sometimes two or three times,” he said. “I learn by repetition. I’m inspired by the Old Masters and Modern Masters – Norman Rockwell, Andrew Wyeth and Daniel Green.”
He relays his knowledge and skills not only through the works he produces, but also to his students. Hogue teaches three days a week – two days for the Trinity Arts Guild at the Bedford Boys Ranch and one day of private lessons at his studio in Rhome.
“When I’m not teaching or taking care of this place, I’m painting,” he said.
His favorite medium is oil because it’s easy for him to manipulate, but he also uses pastels, acrylics, charcoal and pen and pencil.
To produce a portrait of people or animals, his signature works, he utilizes several of those mediums.
“Whenever I do a painting, I draw it first really good and use that as a blue print,” he said. “When I finish the drawing, I do it in pastel to get the color scheme right, then I do it in oils.”
He also does landscapes and still-life pieces, and he enjoys sculpting and pottery.
But his least favorite is watercolor.
“I don’t like it because it’s flat, and it doesn’t have the color that pastels have.”
Hogue has earned several awards for his work, beginning in 2008 through the Saginaw Arts Association, of which he was a member. His most recent honors include two first places in pastel/graphics and scultpure at a members-only juried show with the Trinity Arts Guild earlier this month.
He won a second place and Best of Show last year; three first places, a Painting of the Year and a second place in 2010; a second place and Best of Show in 2009; and a Best of Show in 2008.
“I wish I could’ve started 20 years ago, but I had to make a living,” he said. “You really have to apply yourself. Now I devote as much time as I possibly can. And I enjoy it. I really, really enjoy it.”
To view his work, visit his website at www.mahtohogue.com.