Personal Trivia

Those of you who are curious to know what kind of predilections artists might have, will enjoy reading the following trivia. Perhaps it might help you figure out what goes on inside an artistic mind or what personal influences are reflected in their artwork. If you are like me, you may find artists to be amusing creatures. This is more so if, since birth, the artist shows signs of being both ADHD and gifted. I certainly find John to be a work in progress. But first, a word of caution: don't try to figure him out. It can really drive you up a wall. -msp, editor


John is Puerto Rican. He was born at 6:00 am on Friday, November the 7th 1958, at Grace Hospital, in Cleveland, Ohio, USA. His father was Johnny Rivera-Rivera (1934-2014) -a laborer at the The Ford Motor Co. plant in Brookpark, Ohio, and his mother is Jesusa Resto-Placeres -then a seamstress at Joseph and Feiss (which was purchased in 1989 by Hugo Boss). At the age of four, his parents returned to their hometown in Puerto Rico were Mr. Rivera-Rivera became production manager at Royal Metal Co. -a manufacturer of office and hospital furniture.

Like all Puerto Ricans, John is a mix of three distinct racial groups: European, Native American, and African. According to, John's ethnicity estimate is: 19% Italian-Greek, 16% Spanish, 10% Northern European, 6% British, 12% Native American, 10% African -Southeastern Bantu, and, like most Spaniards, 5% North African. The remaining trace percentages are from Ireland/Scotland/Wales, the Caucasus, Benin/Togo, and Finland.

John's younger brother is Ricky Nelson Rivera-Resto -an award winning technician at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, and his sister (an adopted cousin) is Ada Nivia Maldonado. Presently, John lives in Lakewood, Ohio, with his wife Nancy Anne Lewis, and two adorable Cavalier King Charles Spaniels -Happy and Charlie.

Painting Habits

John learned and practiced painting using Crayola™ crayons and non-toxic tempera colors (yes, the same six-jar pack most children use in school). His cartoons (preparatory drawings for a work of art) were mostly done in tempera up until the year 2003 when he discovered Adobe Photoshop CS specifically to design the pages of this website. Thereafter Photoshop remained his painting tool of choice for designing new works. He used acrylic paints for the first time when he did his first painting, a mural. In fact, he almost bought the entire paint inventory stocked by the store to complete the project. When speed and bright colours are of the essence, he uses acrylics which he often combines with commercial latex paints.

When painting, John takes a lot of breaks, paints while listening to recorded books or romantic music, snacks constantly, and is addicted to coffee (mountain-grown Puerto Rican). He always buys the best quality materials and equipment. His favorite art supplier is Utrecht ( He has commented that the single largest expense in large mural projects is not the paint, but the brushes. Most people do not realize that wall surfaces for murals have a rough finish that eats away brush bristles in no time. For this reason John does most of a mural's underpainting with inexpensive white Chinese bristle chip brushes (sold for less than a couple of dollars per brush in most large hardware stores).

He was introduced to "oils" (oil-base artists' paints) at the Cleveland Institute of Art and they immediately became his medium of choice. With oils, he favours a limited palette to concentrate more on values. What's more, the long drying time of oils allows him better manipulation of paint, "brushless" blending of colors and the ability to build up a job in layers. He has painted murals on a variety of surfaces ranging from bricks to concrete to plaster. For smaller paintings, he works on canvas, but prefers the smooth surface of masonite panels (hardboard made of steam-cooked and pressure-molded wood fibres, also known as Quartrboard, Isorel, hernit, karlit, torex, treetexor pressboard).

Like many artists, John also has some eccentric habits. The most obvious one is that he paints mainly at night. The only time he paints during daylight is when he works on exterior murals. He paints with either hand, even though he is general right handed. Being an artist, he also shares common traits with other artists. But, the one thing John does not share is any love for the act of painting. For him its just a task or a chore that needs to be done. He laments his habit of procrastinating before the commencement of a new commission due to this fact. And before he can get started with any large project, John always follows the following ritual: he cleans his whole house spotless.

Favorite Artists

John's developed a love of art by admiring the works of Michelangelo, Botticelli, and Leonardo. He became equally intrigued by the lives of other great artists of the time and loved reading and learning from their biographies. These readings introduced him to other artist that became his role models in painting. These are Jean August Dominique Ingres and Jean León Gérôme (French), Ken Davies (American), Norman Rockwell (American), Lord Frederick Leighton (British) and Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (Dutch-British). His favorite female artists are Artemisia Gentilleschi (Italian) and contemporary siren, Tamara de Lempicka (Polish). He also greatly admires the art of American fantasy and science fiction artist Frank Frazzetta.

Mind Issues

Like many artists, John hates math, geometry being the only exception because mastering perspective requires it. But he can do math well enough and his first diploma was in bookeeping in a time well before computers. For decades it was first thought that he was partially dyslexic but this assessment was later changed to include a form of dyscalculia, which is a specific learning disability in math that in John's case switches numbers around when writing figures or dialing phone numbers.

Also, during specific circumstances, he also has trouble distinguishing between right and left. Considering that he is able to perform really intricate mental tasks in the course of his career (in addition to being a voracious reader with a curious mind always eager for more learning) some doctors have speculated that in John's case his mind's circuitry works faster than his motor-skills and that this "lag" produces a disconnect or a "mental blink" for a fraction of a second. This might help explain why during public engagements John has for an instant forgotten his name during introductions!


John laments that he can not afford his taste and that his ambitions greatly exceed his resources. While his lifestyle is simple, his tastes are eclectic but selective. His personal preferences reflect scholarly inclinations with very limited interest in material luxuries. He cares little for things such as jewelry, cars, sports or the latest fashions. But he does favour travel, good restaurants, interesting conversation, and dressing up when the role requires it. He does have good table manners and can order food in four languages (Spanish, English, French, and Italian). He only curses in English!

Working Style

John is hyperactive and likes to work simultaneously on several tasks. As a rule, he prefers to perform a task for no more than four hours. He may work on a canvas, switch to a computer game, then pick up a book, next a pen for some creative writing, and finally, back to get back to painting. However, he tries to keep all these activities related to the subject he may be working at the time.

His sleeping patterns are erratic; he normally sleeps when he wants to sleep. Sometimes four hours is enough, while sleeping for twenty hours or so happens on ocassion. This drove his parents crazy, especially because he works mostly during the night. His father used to turn off the electrical power to John's room in order to deprive him of light (and hopefully get him to go to sleep). But this practice did not work as John would resort to moonlight and mirrors for illumination.

John has very little tolerance for activities that he considers irrelevant, but he does become a master of those that keep his interest. In fact, he is a master of many skills and subjects. When a particular problem truly engages his attention, he can focus his concentration and energies for long periods of time, sometimes working for over twenty-four hours non-stop. Once a challenge has been mastered, he looses interest and finds something else to do. He hates to repeat anything he perceives as dull. It goes without saying that John is not a typical "nine-to-five" kind of guy. But he gets things done and done well -his way. To meet his self-imposed standards, he works with admirable intensity, discipline, and dedication.


His idea of a perfect vacation is going native in some foreign country and getting to know the locals. A couple of weeks of relaxation in a tropical heaven makes him want to shoot himself. After all, he grew up in paradise, but his restless spirit craves action. John works in a social atmosphere, but prefers solitude and does not frequent the social scene. Unless he is there for a purpose, crowds make him uneasy. He does have a flair for doing things his way (and getting into trouble) and for keeping his personal affairs private, particularly his romantic life. He has been pleasantly surprised by the fact that, since his marraige to Nancy Lewis in December of 2009, at the age of 51, his life has adapted to a routine of blissful urbanity.


After his divorce from his then wife Maria Espendez in 1992, John's children -John Alexander and Selina Marie - were the centre of his life. He jealously guarded their privacy and rarely involved them in his career. In 2003, when John announced to his theater colleagues that he had just gotten news that he had a grandson, what followed the silence was the question: "You have kids?" Once asked about how it felt to be a grandfather, John replied: "I don't know; I was just getting the hang of fatherhood." Now that the kids have left the nest to live independent lives, grandchildren keep appearing from time to time. To date their is Samuel Andres, Lyla, William, and Solomon John (born in January 2018).


John's hobbies include traveling, stage fighting, computer strategy games, reading (historical books & biographies are favoured) fantasy and foreign films. He also likes to sing (Spanish gospel hymns) and greatly enjoys listening to a selective mix of artists too numerous to count. But the Julio Iglesias version of Don McLean's 'Starry Night', the Andrea Bocelli-Marta Sanchez duo 'Vivo Per Lei', Dyango version of 'En aranjuez con tu amor', and Yim Jae Beum's (South Korea) Sarang, are some of his favorites. While walking his adorable pups, Happy and Charlie, John enjoys singing the Perry Como version of 'And I love you so' -also by Don McLean! In general he enjoys romantic ballads (in any language), classic movie themes by Ennio Morricone and the classics of Vivaldi.

His favorite singers are Andrea Bocelli (Italy), Camilo Sesto (Spain), Danny Rivera (Puerto Rico), Kenny Rogers , and Nat King Cole (USA). Favorite female singers are Barbra Streisand , Celine Dion, and Mireille Mathieu. He would marry any of them just so that they could sing to him in the morning. To this list he added Josh Groban of whom John commented, "Finally, after series of cloned singers that sound like chipmunks, and a horde of tasteless-screaming men presenting themselves with a bevy of semi-nude women who under normal circumstances would not approach them with a ten-foot pole, a new singing star with the elegance and the virile voice of a man has risen". Others later added to the list were the groups Amici Forever and Il Divo.

Like everyone else, John has a number of favorites bands. Among these are Fleetwood Mac, the Beatles, Queen, Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith -to make a few. In general he considers himself a "rock-n-roll kind of guy". Always drawn to great lyrics and melody has not endeared him to the post-millennium musical trends. So he is grateful for the latest "British musical invasion" of Adel, Ed Sheeran, and Sam Smith, for -"Breaking the vicious circle of today's awful music trends". As of this update (2018), the song 'What about us' has brought him a great appreciation for Pink.

But to this day, John all-time favorite singer is... Camilo Sesto. The poetry of his songs, the passion of his interpretations, and his once-in-a-century voice easily makes him stand way above the rest. And, from his long list of musical gems, his 1976 song "solo mía" is John´s absolute favorite.


When it comes to movie stars he favours Hollywood legends like Spencer Tracy, Humphrey Bogart and Cary Grant. Errol Flynn was the role model of his early youth. Actors Annette Bening and Russell Crowe are at the top of his list. Other favorites are Peter O'toole and Brian Blessed (UK), Jean Reno (France), Pedro Infante (Mexico), Shintaro Katsu (Japan), Chow Yun-Fat and Jackie Chan (Hong Kong). Favorite movie directors are Akira Kurosawa, Alfred Hitchcock, Steven Spielberg, John Woo, Takeshi Kitano, Jean Renoir, Ridley Scott and Orson Welles. Favourite movies: Excalibur by John Boorman, Valmont by Milos Forman and Lawrence of Arabia by David Lean. The Elephant Man always makes him cry.


He particularly enjoys reading anything by Colleen McCullough, Mary Doria Russell, Elizabeth Peters, David Gemmel, George MacDonald Frazer, Robert Ludlum, and Alexander Dumas. Autobiographies are his favorite bedtime reading. The only audio-book he has listened to five times is: Dave Barry does Japan (it never fails to make him laugh). Most boring books to read: almost anything on art criticism (take a Valium an hour before reading). His favourite play: Life is a Dream, by Pedro Calderón de la Barca. Second favorite play: Cyrano de Bergerac, by Edmond Rostand. His personal theme song is (though, he won't admit to it): Nobody does it better, from one of the James Bond movies.


John's television habits have been greatly reduced since the computer became the entertainment king. His limited television fare consist of programs on Public television (PBS) such as documentaries and the PBS NewsHour, Classic Star Trek, and the occasional episode of Modern Family and SNL. He has never bought into cable service since he has more important things do do than pay for things he will never see. On YouTube he enjoys watching (the short list) Bill Maher, John Oliver, Chris Cuomo, Rachel Maddow, Trevor Noah, Velshi & Ruhle, Jake Tapper, Ari Melber, Anderson Cooper, TYT shows, and all the late night show comedians. His views are both progressive and liberal even though his private desire is to be dictator of a small tropical island!


While he registered as Republican during the Carter years, his voting record has never been along any party lines for which he has never felt any affiliation. When once asked about why he didn't stick to party choices, he replied: -"Because I have a mind; I can think for myself." He feels that Puerto Ricans have been screwed by every political party so his loyalty is based on individual record regardless of background and their stand on affecting issues. It goes unnoticed by most of his fans that John spend time in Washington DC as an intern with the Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars. These interns are the cream of the crop carefully selected from our nation's learning centers to serve at Capital Hill, the White House, and other Washington DC institutions as part of their development as future leaders.

Even more revealing is that John's artistic specialty of study and interest is propaganda art and in his younger days he volunteered in several local political campaigns. His master's essay: 'American Propaganda: Controlling Public Opinion in Puerto Rico' one of the most read pages in this website. So in general, John has a better understanding of politics and government than most artists or the general public, and he uses that knowledge in the crafting of his social narrative artworks, such as his Cleveland mural:"It's up to us."


John is an athiest. He grew up in a Pentecostal community. There are over 15 pastors in one side of his family (the other side is mostly heathen). He studied for two years in a biblical seminary, and then broadened his religious knowledge in college. His interest in beliefs and religion led him to study all the major religions as well as many minor branches of belief. He also counts as friends many who follow various religious practices. During his travels he has taken every first hand opportunity to broaden his knowledge and understanding. But it was his search of knowledge and answers as well as his inquisitive mind in areas such as natural science, history and archeology that lead him to the evolving revelation of his conclusion. John believes that his disbelief makes him a more objective artist. As to the religious beliefs of others, he follows a quote from an Indonesian sage: "If a person worships a rock and it makes that person a better human being, than his belief is worthy of my respect."

Likes and Dislikes

Three things John avoids are weddings, hospitals and funerals. He has already attended too many. Least favorite things: rap (is it music or choral poetry?), attraction park rides (motion sickness), sailing (he can't swim), flavored coffees (he likes coffee to taste like coffee), and a room full of kids. Favorite food: Caribbean cuisine (but he eats anything except for hot-spicy foods). Favorite color: Yellow. Taste in women: intelligent ones. His definition of Viagra: Puerto Rican hormones. Childhood crush: Sophia Loren -made him want to learn Italian (among other things). Later crush: Linda Carter. Present fantasy: Sophia Loren (you just can't improve on a classic).


First impressions of him seem always to be in the extreme; you either love him or hate him. Those he comes into contact through his work find him to be a fascinating person. His angular looks and confident manner make him stand out in any crowd -and he does look younger than he really is. He can speak well about a myriad of subjects with his frankness of opinion that both delight and anguish his listeners. Acquaintances call him anything from a genius to a ruthless bastard - it depends on what side of the fence they stand. His friends call him a friend for life - dependable, caring and protective through times both good and bad. However, part of his mysterious appeal seems to emanate from certain inconsistencies about him which suggest secrets that few have been privy to.

Words To Live By

Things that scare him: insects, water deeper than four feet, people who have no business owning a firearm, and marriage. He has an aversion for pessimistic attitudes, any form of fanaticism, and people's lack of taste. He also hates his looks but learned to compensate for his deficiencies. His most treasured words of wisdom are, from his father: "if your boss tells you to lift a building, don't say you can't. Go grab it by a corner and try your best to do it."; From his mother: "no one is so poor as not to have water to bathe and wash their clothes, or thread and needle to mend them."; From a country preacher: "kiss and hug your children everyday as if it were the last time you would see them".

Muralmaster® is ‘an educational site’ privately sponsored and maintained. It contains no pop-ups, sales banners or advertisements. People from over thirty countries routinely visit Muralmaster to enjoy the articles and admire the art. This website is also a great learning tool for artists and young students wanting to know more about the inner workings of this artistic profession. In Muralmaster they get what they can’t get elsewhere: an intimate and sobering look into the struggles of an artistic mind and the difficult career-realities of being an artist.