Saturday, April 20, 2013

Jennifer Howell, The Art of Elysium

Interview: Jennifer Howell


On my recent trip to Los Angeles, I met Jennifer Howell.  Jen is a wonderful, down to earth, and  dynamic person. Jen is also a renowned philanthropist and amazing human being. She is the founder of an interesting project. The Art of Elysium, a non-profit organization founded in 1997,  encourages working actors, artists and musicians to voluntarily dedicate their time and talent to children who are battling serious medical conditions. They provide artistic workshops in the following disciplines: acting, art, comedy, fashion, music, radio, songwriting and creative writing.

What propelled you to create the charitable organization, The Art of Elysium?

I went to film school at Emerson College and moved to Los Angeles to write and direct.  Shortly after moving to LA, a friend of mine, from my hometown of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, relapsed with leukemia.  He had been diagnosed our senior year of high school, but had found a matching donor for a bone marrow transplant and he had gone into what we believed was a full remission.  He was dating my best friend and she called me in December of 1996 and asked me to come home to see Stephen and be with her. That trip changed everything for me.  In one conversation with Stephen and Tara, my life took a very different path than I had ever intended.  I came back to Los Angeles and that conversation played over and over in my head and Stephen’s simple statement of, “I wish someone would do something for the kids who are in the hospital without friends or family visiting them.”  By August of 1997, I just asked a group of my friends that I had gone to art school with to get together and figure out a way that we could share our artistic talents with these children.  That was the beginning and what was to come from that first meeting, first hospital visit. This first interaction with an artist and a child in need is what paved the path for the Art of Elysium.

What is the overall mission of  the Art of Elysium and the meaning behind the name?

That seems like the most straightforward question that you could ask but it is one of the hardest things to answer.  In a simple sentence, the Art of Elysium bridges the artistic community together with hospitalized children to provide a creative outlet for them to express their experiences and serves as a form of distractive therapy.  However, that is the very beginning of this mission.  I was fortunate enough to start taking artists into the hospitals from August 1997-December of 1997 before starting the Art of Elysium.  I got to witness not only the impact the art workshops had on the patients and their families, but the impact it had on the artists.  We would leave the hospital and the artist would be inspired to write, paint, and perform because of their experience.  I believe the greater mission of the Art of Elysium goes something like this:  these amazing children are our spiritual warriors and teachers; they are going through things that most of us will never experience.  Our gift is getting to be of service to these children while they are facing these grave circumstances and through our gift of art, music, writing, dance, fashion design, etc we can give them a voice to express themselves during this time.  Hopefully, this gift of expression will go with them even after they are discharged from the hospital.  It is my belief that artists are forever changed through these experiences, and if we are creating an artistic community that creates from a place of service then we can change the world at large because artists are the true reflection of our society.  We try to do all of our fundraisers through an artistic endeavor and try to support the artists that volunteer and dedicate their hearts and souls to working with our children.  They are the role models that I would love for people to look up to and be inspired by.  Although we have a standard mission statement, it is something that I think about all the time because there is no way to describe the full circle of the Art of Elysium to people unless they have gone in and experienced what we do first hand.  The charity is much more a movement of artists trying to create ELYSIUM by being of service.

How do you find interested celebrities and artists for your work?

We don’t look for celebrities to be involved with the charity.  The celebrities that volunteer with us have all come from word of mouth and I do not look at them as celebrities, but as artists just like all of our other artist volunteers.  The only thing that our “celebrities” can do that our other artist volunteers cannot is bring attention to our cause and help raise money through various endorsements, etc.  We are so greatly appreciative for all of their support and what they do. However, the charity is in no way a “celebrity charity,” and I feel that because we have so many artists who are successful and in the media that people do not realize that our mission is to bring artists at all levels into hospitals to share their talent and artistic expression with children.   

Can you share a bit about your friend who was the catalyst for the project and his legacy?

Stephen Lane Hatten was one of the greatest guys that anyone could ever know.  After relapsing with leukemia, he did not think about himself, but thought about the children that he saw in the hospitals while he was in for his treatments.  His selflessness was the call to action that changed my life.  He is with us every single day, in every workshop, every gallery exhibit, and every artistic endeavor and by our side for every challenge that we face.  His family is still in Hattiesburg, Mississippi and I pray that the Art of Elysium forever honors Stephen and the set of principles that his family gave him to live by.  You never realize who the most important people in your life really are.  Tara Williamson (Stephen’s girlfriend/my best friend from childhood) has been my rock my entire life and I would not be who I am today without her and always knew that she would help shape my identity.  I did not know that when she called me to come home and be with her and visit Stephen that Stephen Hatten would become the single most important person in my life.  He is the one who has shaped my destiny and the future of the Art of Elysium and every artist that gets to participate in an art workshop and every child who is given the gift of expression.

How do you keep the artistic and monetary momentum alive?

The artistic momentum is really easy….we are an artist charity first and foremost and each artist that comes in has their own creative ideas and art projects.  They come in and discuss how they can help raise money through art exhibits, music showcases, film projects and ideas that have probably never even been thought of by anyone.  I feel creatively inspired every day and fulfilled with the knowing that these artists are putting work into the world for audiences to see that come from a fundamental belief that philanthropy comes first and giving is giving of yourself.  The overall monetary model is an on-going work in process.  We are currently trying to look at the sustainability of the Art of Elysium and make certain that the charity and our mission will be around from here to eternity.  We are trying to begin building an endowment fund and it is a new endeavor.  I am actually meeting with someone this week to start looking at a long term strategy.

What are the grassroots elements of the project and how do you help the real life beneficiaries of  the Art of Elysium in hospitals?

The grassroots elements with the Art of Elysium happen after every workshop.  An artist goes in with their art project and shares it with one patient or a group of patients.  They leave the hospital and let’s say they go to the recording studio to meet their band and they tell them about the experience.  The next thing that happens is our phones start ringing at the Aof E offices with new artists wanting to come in for volunteer orientations and when they can get into the hospital for a workshop.  That is truly how this organization has grown.  Saint Francis said, “It is in giving that we receive.”  I think that our volunteers understand this better than most and when they talk about their experiences people see something that inspires them to be of service too.

Where do you see the mission for the Art of Elysium in ten years?

I would love to have Elysium Centers where our artists could have recording studios, art studios, design studios, sound stages, etc for their use to create their art.  The way the center would work is that you could have access to it based on volunteer hours in the hospital with our patients.  When children are discharged from the hospital, they could also come to the space and continue the art workshops they started while in the hospital.  I see it as creating an entire community of artists that give by directly sharing their own gift of creation with a child in need.  I think that the possibilities are limitless when you have artists willing to reach inside and find ways to share their creativity.  I just would like to know that the mission is ever-changing, ever-growing, and ever-creating in a way that can help heal our children, our artists and our world.

As  the Art of Elysium evolves, do you see it going nationwide and to other countries?

I would love to see the Art of Elysium in any city, any country, anywhere where there is a child in a hospital and an artist in their community that is willing to share their gift of art.

Can you share some current projects and artistic ideas that inspire you?

The Art of Elysium’s ELYSIUM INDUSTRY program has just finished our first feature film called FOREVER.  The director is Tatia Pilieva and she has been a long time volunteer and is the first recipient of our TAHNEE AWARD.  This film is the heart of our mission and shows how all of our volunteers come together and create something magical.  Mark Mothersbaugh did the score for the film, Shepard Fairey is currently working on the movie poster and marketing materials and our cast was mainly our volunteers:  Ioan Gruffudd, Shanola Hampton, Rain Phoenix and more.  It is a beautiful film and we are currently getting ready to take it out and share it with the world.  The back end of the film will come into the Art of Elysium and hopefully help us start building our endowment fund.  It is a project that I am super proud of and a model that I think will truly help us become self-sufficient through our artistic endeavors.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Artist Dan Llywelyn Hall: Vantage Point, An Exhibition of Works


presents an exhibition of works by




Vantage Point


Gallery Petit, Chelsea, London

21 March - 19 April





This unique exhibition will showcase landscape paintings by renowned Welsh artist Dan

Llywelyn Hall, accompanied by previously unseen studies for his recent portrait of Her

Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. The show is in conjunction with the anticipated Cardiff

unveiling of the artist’s portrait of the Queen, commissioned by the Welsh Rugby Union.


Dan Llywelyn Hall graduated from the University of Westminster in 2003 and in the same year was

awarded The Sunday Times Young Artist of the Year prize. Subsequently, he was shortlisted for

the BP Portrait Award in 2009 and since then has continued to attract collectors from a variety of

museums, public institutions, corporations as well as private individuals. Llywelyn Hall’s portraits of

First World War veterans Henry Allingham and Harry Patch were recently displayed at Windsor

Castle and are now a permanent feature in the Royal Collection. The Cardiff born artist also

currently has work on display at the National Gallery of Wales, the Imperial War Museum (London),

the House of Lords, BT’s corporate collection, Barclays’ corporate collection, the Museum of

Modern Art Wales and the Contemporary Art Society of Wales.

The Queen's Portrait

A portrait of Her Majesty the Queen commissioned by the Welsh Rugby Union has recently been

completed by Llewelyn Hall. Following a sitting with the Queen late last year at Windsor Castle, the

finished portrait is an imposing three-quarter study, painted on a 5ft by 4ft canvass in an

expressionist style. The image is literally larger than life and Llywelyn Hall says he was particularly

keen to reflect the humanity of his subject.

“To have been granted a sitting with Queen is an ambition fulfilled and it has been an enormous

privilege to be asked to create this work,” says Llywelyn Hall. “As anyone who has ever met Her

Majesty will know, it is simply awe inspiring to be in her presence and I wanted to relay that feeling

as well as showing the very human side to the Queen’s personality."

Haunting Landscapes

Dan Llywelyn Hall, Motif on Autumn Sky, 2007, oil on canvas, 76.5 x 61 cm. Courtesy of the artist

Dan Llywelyn Hall. The Caves, 2007, oil on canvas, 50 x 75 cm. Courtesy of the artist.



As well as exploring portraiture, Llewelyn Hall’s work displays his keen interest in landscape

painting. His approach towards landscape painting is a crossover between two great traditions:

boldly painted surfaces combine the Romantics’ attempt to embody human feeling and thought

with the Expressionists’ raw quality of a form, and sense of immediacy. Llywelyn Hall takes the

nostalgic vision of landscape painting and rejuvenates it with a free use of colour. In this way, he

creates a new and authentic genre, making a significant contribution to the recent revival of

landscape painting in Britain. His work owes much to the legacies of William Blake and Samuel

Palmer, along with the Neo- Romantics of the 1940s such as John Piper, Michael Ayrton and

Llywelyn Hall’s compatriot, David Jones. Agitated brushwork and simplified ornaments also expose

the formative influences of Chaim Soutine and Henri Matisse.

‘Landscape creates the theatre, the set, for much more crucial things. Landscape painting these

days has had such a bad press, a stigma – as a genre it’s mistreated by contemporary art. You

can’t really make it ironic, and that’s its drawback for contemporary art galleries...[to me] irony is for

people who haven’t got any backbone, who are afraid of putting their emotions into the work. I

think you’ve got to be very brave if you’re going to make something that is heartfelt and

meaningful, you’ve got to be prepared to put yourself on the line. That’s absolutely essential.’

Dan Llywelyn Hall in conversation with Andrew Lambirth, THE SPECTATOR

Mystical, spiritual and sublime in character, the beauty of Llywelyn Hall’s landscapes evokes in us

a sense of passing time and our own mortality. While the starting point for his images are concrete

locations, Llywelyn Hall confronts the viewer with worlds infused with his own personal response,

shaped by his feelings and moods. As the personal aspect is given a priority over an objective

depiction, the resulting imaginative scenes invite an inward contemplation on the viewer's part.

Lost in the winding paths leading towards the furthermost horizons, a recurring motif in Llywelyn

Hall’s work, the spectator is captivated within the haunting landscapes.

‘Dan Llywelyn Hall follows a tradition which first flourished amid the dreams of the Romantics. He

is part of that visionary lineage of painters for whom landscape became an embodiment of human

feeling [... yet] his paintings work to conjure a fresh, idiosyncratic and fundamentally modern


Rachel Campbell-Johnston, THE TIMES

‘For Llywelyn Hall, certain places seem to have a talismanic quality, a genius loci or 'spirit of a

place'. Before making a painting he usually decides on a location, and then takes photographs.

After that he strips away what he calls ‘evidence’ to leave the raw essence of a form which he

explores through his intense, free use of colour.’


A collection of Llywelyn Hall’s landscape works will be on show, alongside several studies for his

recent portrait of the Queen, at Sandra Higgins’ Gallery Petit in Chelsea. The exhibition will run

from Thursday 21st March to Friday 19th April. The artist will also be giving a talk with his personal

reflections on painting the Queen.

For more information about the exhibition, artist’s talk, or to arrange a viewing by appoin
tment Sandra Higgins at or

Note to Editors
The exhibitions will be accompanied by a catalogue with essays by Rachel Campbell-Johnston

(Chief Art Critic at The Times), Andrew Lambirth (Art Critic for The Spectator) and Sue Hubbard

(Independent Art Critic, writes regularly for The Independent and The New Statesman).

Both exhibitions are curated by Sandra Higgins, an Independent Art Advisor and Curator, Owner of

the Gallery Petit and the Founder of Discover Art Now. To see Sandra’s full profile:

Discover Art Now

Discover Art Now is a programme of events, private receptions, studio visits and talks launched by

Sandra Higgins, an Independent Art Advisor and Curator with over 20 years' experience in the art

world. For further information:

Fact Sheet

Exhibition Title -- Vantage Point

Exhibition Dates -- 21 March - 12 April

Location -- Gallery Petit, Chelsea, London; full address available upon request

Op ening hours -- By appointment only

Admission -- Free, please contact: sandra@sandrahiggins. com

For all enquiries, high resolution images and further information:

Sandra Higgins, Independent Art Advisor and Curator


M: 07721 741 107

Monday, April 1, 2013

Guest Post: Luke Murphy

From Professional Hockey Player to Published Novelist

From a family of avid readers, even as a child, I always had a passion for books. Whether it was reading novels on road trips or writing assignments in school, literature was always part of my life.

In the winter of 2000, after sustaining a season ending eye injury while playing professional hockey in Oklahoma City, I found myself with a lot of time on my hands, and a new hobby emerged.

I didn’t write with the intention of being published. I wrote for the love of writing, as a hobby. I continued to hobby write through the years, honing my craft, making time between work and family obligations.

Then I made a decision to take my interest one step further. I’ve never been one to take things lightly or jump in half way. I took a full year off from writing to study the craft.

I constantly read, from novels in my favorite genres to books written by experts in the writing field. My first two purchases were “Stein on Writing”, a book written by successful editor Sol Stein, and “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers” by Renni Browne and Dave King.

I read through these novels and highlighted important answers to my questions. My major breakthrough from Stein’s book was to “Show don’t Tell”. I had to trust my readers. I even wrote that phrase on a sticky note and put it on my computer monitor.

The Self-Editing book helped me learn how to cut the FAT off my manuscript, eliminating unnecessary details, making it more lean and crisp, with a better flow. I learned to cut repetition and remain consistent throughout the novel.

I continually researched the internet, reading up on the industry and process “What is selling?” and “Who is buying?” were my two major questions.

I attended the “Bloody Words” writing conference in Ottawa, Canada, rubbing elbows with other writers, editors, agents and publishers. I made friends (published and unpublished authors), bombarding them with questions, learning what it took to become successful.

Feeling that I was finally prepared, in the winter of 2007, with an idea in mind and an outline on paper, I started to write DEAD MAN`S HAND. It took me two years (working around full time jobs) to complete the first draft of my novel.

The first person to read my completed manuscript was my former high school English teacher. With her experience and wisdom, she gave me some very helpful advice. I then hired McCarthy Creative Services to help edit DEAD MAN’S HAND, to make it the best possible novel.

I joined a critique group, teaming up with published authors Nadine Doolittle and Kathy Leveille, and exchanging manuscripts and information. Working with an editor and other authors was very rewarding and not only made my novel better, but made me a better writer.

When I was ready, I researched agents who fit my criteria (successful, worked with my genres, etc.) and sent out query letters. After six months of rejections, I pulled my manuscript back and worked on it again. Then in my next round of proposals, I was offered representation by the Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency.

After months of editing with Jennifer, and more rejections from publishers, my dream was finally realized in April, 2012, when I signed a publishing contract with Imajin Books (Edmonton, Alberta).

What happens when the deck is stacked against you…


From NFL rising-star prospect to wanted fugitive, Calvin Watters is a sadistic African-American Las Vegas debt-collector framed by a murderer who, like the Vegas Police, finds him to be the perfect fall-guy.


…and the cards don't fall your way?


When the brutal slaying of a prominent casino owner is followed by the murder of a well-known bookie, Detective Dale Dayton is thrown into the middle of a highly political case and leads the largest homicide investigation in Vegas in the last twelve years.


What if you're dealt a Dead Man's Hand?


Against his superiors and better judgment, Dayton is willing to give Calvin one last chance. To redeem himself, Calvin must prove his innocence by finding the real killer, while avoiding the LVMPD, as well as protect the woman he loves from a professional assassin hired to silence them.



Dead Man's Hand is a pleasure, a debut novel that doesn't read like one, but still presents original characters and a fresh new voice.” Thomas Perry, New York Times bestselling author of Poison Flower


“You may want to give it the whole night, just to see how it turns out.”—William Martin, New York Times bestselling author of The Lincoln Letter




Luke Murphy lives in Shawville, Quebec with his wife, two daughters and pug.


He played six years of professional hockey before retiring in 2006. Since then, he’s held a number of jobs, from sports columnist to radio journalist, before earning his Bachelor of Education degree (Magna Cum Laude).


Murphy`s debut novel, Dead Man`s Hand, was released by Imajin Books on October 20, 2012.


For more information on Luke and his books, visit:, ‘like’ his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter!/AuthorLMurphy