Ep 9 Featured Image Podcast

Wood + Nails – John Henson – Ep 9  

December 22, 2021


The capacity for creativity and art-making is in all of us. It’s built into our DNA as human beings. However, the journey to discover that creative potential is different for every single person. This is what fascinates me the most. The story of how someone finds their art is often just as amazing as the art itself.

My guest for this episode is John Henson. John has been a close personal friend for over 30 years and yet, I feel like I’m just getting to know him as an artist. He would probably say the same thing because he never viewed himself as an artist until suddenly, that changed. Ten years ago John reconnected with his own creativity and began making truly unique and personal art that defies the limitations of categories.

Using wood and nails, John tapped into the artist he always wanted to be while finding beauty and healing in unexpected places. His story serves as a reminder that the possibility for our own art-making lies just beneath the surface of ourselves. I hope this episode helps you find it.

 Listen if you are interested in…

  • Amsterdam, armed robbery, and connecting the dots  [3:01] 
  • Finding beauty and healing in unexpected places [12:31]
  • John’s creative process and how he’s had to pivot along the way [23:45]
  • The power of authentic and personal art [34:10] 
  • How John uses the left and right sides of his brain to create data-driven art [39:45] 

Discovering our creative spark is a lot like connecting dots

Not many people’s creative journey starts with getting mugged at knifepoint in Amsterdam while backpacking through Europe, but John’s does. That alone should make you stop reading and hit play on this episode. However, you should know that getting mugged is only the first of many dots John would need to connect to see the full picture of the artist he is today. Ironically, it’s dots that stoked his creative fire in the first place, but I’ll let him tell you all about that.

What I need you to know right now is that John found his art in Amsterdam, or a glimpse of it at least, and then he left it behind. Back in the United States, life moved on and so did John. His art got shoved into a drawer where it remained hidden along with the fire that kept John warm during those cold Amsterdam nights. Every few years he would dig it out to show someone, but he never saw it as art, or himself as an artist, long enough to pursue it. He still had limiting mindsets that needed to be overcome and more dots to connect. Listen to hear how John found his art again, and ultimately, how he found himself.

Using setbacks as a catalyst for greater creativity 

Have you ever had a major setback in your life or with your art? How did you handle it? Did you give up? Maybe you’re going through a setback right now that feels impossible to overcome. If any of that is true, this episode is for you. It took John most of his life to discover his creative passion, to find his art, which just so happens to be creating hyper-realistic recreations of photos by hammering thousands of nails into wood by hand. Incredible, right? It was until John’s back and shoulder developed chronic pain due to the constant force and repetitive motion. The doctors told John that there was no way he could continue making his art by hand. 

I don’t know about you, but that news would be devastating to me. To spend all that time searching for “your thing” and to seemingly have it taken away before you really even got started. But that wasn’t the end of John’s story. He used that setback as a catalyst for greater creativity. Not only did he solve his problem, but he also figured out a way to take his art to the next level. John is proof that there are no limits to creative potential when you refuse to give up.

Finding your way and following your passion

One of the aspects of John’s story that resonates with me the most is his brother Jerry. John’s younger brother Jerry passed away years before he started making art, but it wasn’t until he began hammering nails that he felt like he could process that loss. John’s art required him to spend hours performing the same task that his brother spent most of his life doing as a roofing contractor. The repetitive motion, the constant hammering, allowed John to connect with his brother in a new way and find the closure that had remained elusive for years. 

As a runner, this story makes too much sense to me. The constant pounding of the pavement with my feet works its way into my soul and unearths things I thought were long buried. There is a sorting that happens in our mind with repetition. It allows us to stop overthinking and surrender ourselves to the process. I find that when we consistently follow our passions, we end up finding our way. The constant, repetitive choosing of creativity over doubt, setbacks, and circumstances helps us connect with ourselves and the world around us. 

Resources & People Mentioned

Connect with John Henson

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Nicholas Wilton

Hi! I’m
Nicholas Wilton
the founder of Art2Life.

With over 20 years experience as a working artist and educator, I’ve developed a systematic approach that brings authenticity, spontaneity and joy back into the creative process.

Join me and artists from all over the world in our Free Art2Life Artists Facebook Group or learn more here about Art2Life.

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