Fluorescent lights reflect off the walls in the offices of the engineering firm HDR where John Ward, 57, has worked for several decades as a civil site designer. Cubicles fill most of the office space, and the gentle hum of productivity fills the air.
John’s world takes a colorful turn when he returns to his home in western Mt. Sterling at the end of the work day. The house where he lives with his wife, Susan, son, Brandon, daughter-in-law, Melissa, and two of his three grandchildren bustles with family activity, and his grandchildren’s voices echo through the rooms.
It's in this little slice of heaven that he creates his art. Original paintings and drawings of horse racing, dogs, birds and farm life decorate the walls. At the kitchen table, which doubles as his studio, John paints subjects he believes embody the spirit of Kentucky.
John says he's blessed to make money from his art. “It makes me humble because it’s not something someone has to love,” he says.
Kentuckians demonstrated their love for his art when 50,000 of them sifted through 1,800 submissions to select three concepts for the Kentucky State quarter. Two of the three concepts were John's.
He attributes his success as an artist to his father who taught him from early childhood in southern Ohio. John went to college to pursue his passion for painting but abandoned art when his teachers tried to change his style.
“They wanted me to do impressionism, abstract," he says. "So instead of enhancing what I could do, they were taking me a different direction. I didn't like it, and I quit."
John didn’t pick up a brush again for 10 years until a colleague happened upon his work and commissioned him to create several paintings. Since then, his art sales have exploded.
Often working weeks on a single painting he says, “When they buy my art, they buy me.”
When he isn’t painting, he seeks inspiration from his experiences outdoors: raising beagles, hiking and animal watching. He spends as much time with his family as he can.
“He loves his grandsons," says his daughter, Courtney Goodpaster, who also lives in Mt. Sterling. "I think that when I see him smile and laugh the most is when he’s around them.”