Some years ago I had the pleasure of working on some publishing projects with Howard David Johnson, a local Austin artist I met through a mutual friend. He was a classically trained artist who was working as a studio photographer at the time and was interested in getting back into art. I was working as an editor and art director for a couple of different publishing ventures and his style was very compatible with my tastes, so I encouraged him to start doing some illustration work and threw a few small jobs his way. It was at a time when digital art was really coming into its own and I gave him a shove in the right direction with some suggestions of ways he could combine his traditional style and techniques with digital technology and got him started experimenting and discovering things on his own.
It's now years later and I recently stopped by his website and discovered some impressive new works and really remarkable developments in his skills and technique. He's living proof that in advanced middle age, if the will and imagination are there, you really can learn new things and grow creatively. David always had a remarkable facility for copying the style of other artists and illustrators, and was particularly influenced by the great illustrators of the late 19th century and the artists of the pre-Raphaelite period. For example, you can see the influence of Millais and Waterhouse in the first and last images accompanying this article. As he began to explore digital media he began combining these classical styles with his interest in photography and digital art to produce mixed media images where elements were hand drawn, scanned, and then finished as digital paintings incorporating photorealistic elements and figures based on live models.
David's online gallery is a remarkable resource and provides a history of the development of his technique, because many of his works are dated on the site. When I first worked with him there was an awkwardness in how he combined these elements, and sometimes the relative perspective wasn't quite right or the different textures of hand-drawn elements and digital elements were jarring. By the time of our last collaborations his style had become more integrated, but you could still tell where he was working freehand and where he was working from photos or live models, and in works he did quickly, like his illustrations of Reiner Knizia's game Res Publica, he still sometimes lapsed into a kind of two-dimensional cut-out style which was distinctive but less aesthetically pleasing.