June 4th, 2019

This isn’t Before and After. Sadly, AFTER is when the baking plate is empty, but I enjoy every bite of the journey. Now you know that Dana’s elite-level pies are the reason I must regularly schedule a date with my bicycle. We recently cashed in on a bumper harvest of tart cherries. Thank you, Joan. Thank you, Terie. Pitting is no fun, but worth the effort. Yes, I get a kick out of taking pictures of her pies. About the steam cuts: She used to call me “Johnamo.” Eventually it got shortened to Mo. So I started calling her Mo, too. Too much detail? Hey, it’s a blog…

With a whole bunch o’ help from my friends . . .

May 30th, 2019

Here’s an overview from The Collage Miniaturist about the
creative development of my tenth poster for the GABBF:

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

“While many modern-day album artworks tend to favor strict minimalism, The Beatles make a serious case for going bold and wacky without any type of restraint.”
— Nicole Singh

As promised, I’m devoting an entry to the project that kept me out of the collage studio for at least a dozen weeks. I shall beg your forgiveness at the outset for delving into the details of a digital process. Not only has this site kept a seven-year focus on traditional cut-and-glue techniques, but I haven’t indulged the applied-arts side of my multiple personality as a graphic artist. I’m going to depart from that now — perhaps just this once — because it’s been an extraordinary circumstance for me, and a few of you may find the description worthwhile. At any rate, I encourage everyone to read Patrick Roefflaer’s article for a story that is genuinely more interesting than mine!

Not so long ago, a prominent local musician and former brass band director took me aside at an exhibition opening. Based on her recognition of my fondness for collage, she asked me if I would take on a visual homage to the Sgt. Pepper’s album cover design. The purpose would be to mark the 30th production of the Great American Brass Band Festival, held each June in our hometown of Danville, Kentucky. It had always been her dream to link the announcement of her retirement at the annual weekend of concerts to the classic album, with a medley of tunes arranged for brass instruments. Sadly, a severe health crisis had forced her early retirement before that could happen, but she preserved hope that a multi-discipline Beatles tribute for the festival’s upcoming milestone might happen in 2019.

I’d already designed nine posters during the festival’s lifespan. To create a tenth was tempting, and this idea had a barbed hook. It really snagged me. My previous experience offered no sense of proportion about the magnitude of time to which I was committing myself when I said, “Sure.” The first obstacle was whether we were allowed to do it at all. we soon discovered that an enormous number of entities had made a visual salute to the famous image over the past fifty years, and that it had already become a ritual of pop culture, in spite of the complexities involved. There’s even a website that shows over a hundred previous parodies. Before long, we had mutually decided that it might as well be our local festival’s turn to pay homage.

The assignment was now in my lap, and I was overwhelmed with a desire to do it justice and exceed expectations. I found inspiration in filmmakers who I admired (like John Frankenheimer or Robert Altman), because their time-consuming approach would be required for what I’d bitten off. I wanted to bring the same passion, attention to detail, and collaborative leadership to my effort. I ended up shelving all other priorities and putting a ludicrous amount of time into the project, but not without the help of many partners. First and foremost was my wife, Dana, who jumped in head first to play a key part in nearly every aspect of the creative enterprise. After getting advice from an experienced model railroader, she began crafting a miniature flower garden to display the festival acronym for a mandatory foreground allusion. More than once, she would come back to the unfinished artifact to find that its spongy base had “spit out” some of the “flowers.”

The rest of it hinged on two important elements — whether we could pull together our own “Fab Four,” and then surround them with a crowd of numerous figures. It was determined that the Beatles would be “represented” by the previous directors of the Advocate Brass Band, a Golden-Age-style band associated with every festival. Their initial formation to color a political rally in 1989 was a direct influence on the organizing of the annual event itself. This made perfect sense because the foursome would include the festival’s pair of co-founders and their band uniform jackets, although not psychedelic, would be an effective visual reference point. We immediately knew that some digital sleight of hand would be called for, since only two of the four were locally present. One was near a university town many counties away, and the fourth had moved to a distant state. It took lots of coordination to solve that equation, and we pulled it off with the crucial participation of my friend, photography pro Bill Griffin, who took time away from his day job of wealth management. In keeping with the guiding theme of “a little help from our friends,” getting all the ingredients for the poster art to coalesce would demand the magnanimous assistance of others — furnishing space, props, and standing in at our photo shoot, plus image research and acquisition.

At a certain point, I began to focus on researching the background “crowd of fans,” to honor the countless performers, organizers, sponsors, staff, and volunteers who made three decades of festivals possible. It became a daunting, complicated task of culling and selection. I realized that the poster would be the size of a picnic table if everyone who deserved to be on it were included. The original setup by Jann Haworth and Peter Blake was peopled with life-size, hand-tinted cut-outs that imposed a certain physical limitation, and it was fabricated within two weeks. A virtual approach was too open-ended for comfort. There was a limit to how methodical I could become in choosing ingredients for the montage of faces. The solution was to approach it more intuitively, as I would any of my “maximalist” works.

All collage art worthy of the name is irrational at some level, and one of the reasons the original Beatles art is so iconic is the sheer illogic of it. And so, for us, that idea led to a few incongruous personalities, such as Carrie Nation and Howdy Doody. The final assembly was challenging, painstaking, rewarding, and fun, all at the same time. After refining the list of candidates and compiling the source files, each master image had to be sillouetted, retouched, color balanced, and optimized for inclusion. It seemed like the rearranging would never end before every element of the composition appeared to “belong.” I shall confess that I do not possess a powerhouse workstation. The increasing quantity of digital layers in Photoshop had to be continuously merged to prevent the composite file from paralyzing my Macintosh. Even so, it would often exceed 500 MB in size. I tried to save and back up as often as feasible without breaking stride, but there were periodic freezes that would result in “three steps forward and two steps back.”

There should be no misunderstanding, however. The marathon endeavor was punctuated by many fortunate, often astonishing developments. One of our “Fab Four” individuals made a vital connection with an outstanding photographer in Athens, Georgia, who went the extra yard in matching my parameters for an important superimposition of the black-suited Dr Foreman. He also shot an antique bass drum to add another convincing Sgt Pepper’s touch — the same one that appeared on the festival’s first poster in 1990, and it still had the original, hand-painted emblem! Dana took the lead in preparing the poster “mechanical” for offset production, as she always has done for Dixon Design. She also knocked one out of the park during the solicitation of bids. As a contribution to the landmark production, Mike Abbott of Thoroughbred Printing agreed to produce the job at cost, and spent an hour with the press operator, Dana, and me, making sure we were satisfied with the quality.

Our closing duty was to devise a printable key for identifying all the individuals and design elements. My original idea of including a longer “blurb” for each line item quickly became far-fetched when producing the abbreviated version dragged on. By the time we declared it done, the “labor of love” vibe had been exhausted. There wasn’t much love left in the air, and I just wanted all of it to hit the street, which it has, of course, and the positive response has been even more than I anticipated.

This post is already far too long, so I won’t get started on my Eva Marie Saint story, but I need to explain why we included a picture of the creators, and then I’ll finish up on an appropriate collage note. I was adamant that I would not fall prey to the Hitchcock Urge. I had no interest in, nor justification for, inserting myself, since I was making so many brutal choices to leave others on the cutting room floor. Dana was in total agreement, but the team of people who helped with the proofing process took an opposing viewpoint. Their collective drum beat was that the final rendition must include us! You can see that we eventually waved the white flag and stuck a small portrait on top of the Bourbon barrel.

A tiny figure seated at a kitchen table was provided by the Great American Dollhouse Museum as a nod to the Shirley Temple doll in the original composition, which also featured a Madame Tussauds wax figure of Sonny Liston on the opposite side. I knew there had to be a way to include Kentucky’s own Muhammed Ali in our version. Rather than take unavailable time to solicit permission to use a photograph that might get buried in the sea of faces, I turned to my friend Robert Hugh Hunt, who kindly let us insert the extraordinary collage portrait from his 20th Century Icons series!

Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends!

30th GABBF Poster
digital homage by Dana and John A Dixon
24 x 36 inches
Purchase one now! 
Online order page includes a printable key to identification, 
plus a ‘special thank you’ to all our essential collaborators!

March 17th, 2019

Stephen Rolfe Powell
1 9 5 1 – 2 0 1 9

master of hot glass sculpture
exceptional teacher
friend to all who knew him

February 27th, 2019

“Individual freedom is the product of civilizational advancement. The division of labor, essential to the free market, and the division of meaning, essential to human liberty, are the result of society becoming more “complicated.” Fascism, like socialism, was reactionary, precisely because it sought to restore the ancient human impulses of tribalism and authoritarianism. The cult of unity is simple, freedom is complex. Mussolini was just one of thousands of intellectuals who thought that economic planning, nationalism, socialism, and collectivism generally were more sophisticated and advanced ideas. He was wrong, and so are the people who make the exact same claims today.”

Jonah Goldberg 2/27/19

Two Degrees of Bauhaus Bacon

January 23rd, 2019

BAUHAUS, the famous German school that disbanded due to Nazi harassment, will mark its centennial year in 2019. As much as I’ve been tempted, there’s no way I can downplay the significance of how its teachings have been embedded in my life as a graphic artist. In keeping with the popular Six Degrees method, I get a kick out of plotting my “two degrees of separation” from the legendary institution.

As a callow youth, I studied under and was branded by the powerful pedagogy of Professor Gordon Salchow during its embryonic period. During his long tenure at the University of Cincinnati, Salchow would go on to perfect his curriculum and become one of the most seminal graphic design educators in America. He had been at Yale University with the renown Bauhaus theorist Josef Albers.

My first professional position after graduation was offered to me by Bruce Beck, the influential Chicago graphic designer, typographer, and printing craftsman. When Beck was at the Institute of Design at the Illinois Institute of Technology, he was a student of László Moholy-Nagy, another leading Bauhaus faculty member.

I’ve never made a secret of how I tended to resist what each of these mentors wanted me to learn. Nevertheless, close exposure to their mutual example of focus, dedication, and professional enthusiasm made a deep mark on me as a creative person. How much of that transfusion is rooted in the Bauhaus philosophy of design is not possible for me to unravel. I’ve come to accept it as part of the hidden logic of an artistic trajectory. As a result, my regard for these four individuals has sharpened over the years, and my “double dose of Bauhaus” is something I look back on with satisfaction and just a bit of pride.

My two degrees of Bauhaus separation is a dual path:
Albers to Salchow and Moholy-Nagy to Beck. So be it.


January 15th, 2019

“I realize that people do listen to me, and I appreciate that extremely much. But one of the ways I get that hearing is that I don’t sound off on every damn subject.”

Andrew Grove — WIRED magazine, 2001

another perfect visit to the Speed . . .

January 8th, 2019

No matter where one resides, there is almost always proximity to wonderful artwork. One of the great aspects of living in Kentucky is the opportunity to frequent the Speed Art Museum. My choice of the word “frequent” may take on the quality of wishful thinking, but, for Dana and me, this past Sunday was wishful doing!


Dana and I took advantage of art from the Eskenazi Collection
being at the Speed before it returns to Indiana University.


December 4th, 2018

“The deep state is no myth but a sodden, intertwined mass of bloated, self-replicating bureaucracy that constitutes the real power in Washington and that stubbornly outlasts every administration. As government programs have incrementally multiplied, so has their regulatory apparatus, with its intrusive byzantine minutiae. Recently tagged as a source of anti-Trump conspiracy among embedded Democrats, the deep state is probably equally populated by Republicans and apolitical functionaries of Bartleby the Scrivener blandness. Its spreading sclerotic mass is wasteful, redundant, and ultimately tyrannical.”

Camille Paglia 12/4/18

October 15th, 2018

“The modern doctrines of diversity and multiculturalism are a kind of homogenizing totalitarianism. Its acolytes want every institution to be filled with people who look different but think alike. What our society needs is not more ‘diversity’ of this sort but more variety.”

Jonah Goldberg 10/14/18

September 30th, 2018


Fowl Language
collage on structured panel by J A Dixon
11.5 x 11.25 inches
collection of Gio and Josey

June 24th, 2018

“It’s great and good that people are praising Charles. But it would be nice if more people on the right thought for a moment about why his insights and contributions were so valued. Charles came to play. He brought facts with him and he never went beyond them. He never caved on principle, either. In short, he didn’t pander to his audience. He told them what he thought they needed to hear, not what they wanted to hear. Moreover, Charles was never mean or conspiratorial or demagogic. There was not an ounce of cruelty in Charles Krauthammer, yet we live in a moment when too many people think cruelty is a form of strength.”

Jonah Goldberg 6/22/15

June 21st, 2018

“I made a promise to myself on day one [after my injury]. I was not going to allow it to alter my life. All it means is whatever I do is a little bit harder and probably a little bit slower. And that’s basically it. Everybody has their cross to bear — everybody.
— Charles Krauthammer
“I would think about Charles any time I started to feel sorry about myself for any reason, and that would pretty much snap me out of it.”
— Brit Hume

Charles Krauthammer
1 9 5 0 – 2 0 1 8
a giant among
conservative thinkers

May 14th, 2018

Tom Wolfe
1 9 3 0 – 2 0 1 8
a peerless observer
and communicator

Birthday season has arrived!

April 8th, 2018


Although “birthday weather” has not yet arrived, Dana and I launched another season of natal celebration with a visit to the Speed Art Museum and its Women Artists in the Age of Impressionism. After replenishing our souls with art, we found an Ethiopian restaurant that hit the spot. Cheers, Mo!




March 16th, 2018

“A movie, no matter how perfect, is a compact, finite experience that begins and ends over the course of the same evening. Watch it again and again, and you may notice something new each time, but the story itself will not change, nor will the character arcs. Even the greatest of films is a one-night stand, where a TV series is a relationship—between the creators and the characters, and then between the characters and the audience—that can last years, with changes both subtle and inescapable along the way.”

Alan Sepinwall

No way? Way.

January 30th, 2018

You know, the body really is a perfect healing machine. Designed that way. We just have to keep out of its way. Too many people get in its way. Some trip all over themselves getting in its way, and it’s a crying shame. Others see to it that it stays that way. Makes you want to believe in damnation.

Merry Merry!

December 25th, 2017


My work surface cluttered with cards in process.


November 15th, 2017

It’s that time of year when I urge you to “take note” of the card sets featuring some of my collage artworks, (now including Cherry Balm). They’ll be available during Danville’s upcoming Holiday Market at the Arts Center, which opens tonight. It is shaping up to be a unique local kick-off for the gift-giving season — live music, cash bar, and an assortment of holiday treats for hungry shoppers. Begin your year-end activities in earnest!

Holiday Market at the Arts Center ~ Community Arts Center, Danville, Kentucky ~ November 17 to December 23, 2017

Note cards by J A Dixon featuring details of ‘Cherry Balm,’ collage on canvas

Cherry Balm (details)
assorted vertical-format note cards by J A Dixon
4 blank cards, 1 each of 4 cover images
5.125 x 7.75 inches, folded
available for purchase

October 23rd, 2017

“You think there will be fewer insecticides sprayed on farmlands around the globe in the years to come? Think again. It is the most uncomfortable of truths, but one which stares us in the face: that even the most successful organisms that have ever existed on earth are now being overwhelmed by the titanic scale of the human enterprise, as indeed, is the whole natural world.”

Michael McCarthy 10/21/17

October 11th, 2017

Junger still understands what it is to be a journalist. These honest professionals still exist, but there are fewer and fewer of them.

35 years!

September 11th, 2017

“As a husband, you have to remember the crucial importance of three little words — ‘I was wrong.’ That will take you a lot further than ‘I love you.’”
— Charlton Heston

After pondering what to do with my stash of birds for far too long, I decided to start a new series that I describe as “Crafted.” Here is an example — a 35th Anniversary present to my indispensable partner and dearest friend.
That Red Boot ~ J A Dixon

That Red Boot
collage miniature by J A Dixon
5.375 x 7.25 inches
collection of Dana Dixon

August 26th, 2017

“Our congenital distrust of authority and suspicion of history were born in the Enlightenment and it informs us all, progressives and conservatives alike. It is what makes America great and exceptional, but in too big of a dose, it becomes lethal. Letting go of the past is the great American curative for all manner of European social and political pathologies. But letting go is not the same thing as forgetting, and forgetting is not the same thing as hating. The progressive push to erase the past has gone from being a remedy for social resentment to a cause of social resentment.”

Jonah Goldberg 8/25/17