Jim Howle – Artist and Funny Fellow


One of the World Clown Association’s favorite funny folk is Jim Howle. He toured with the great Ringling show for many years and has performed at our conventions many times.

The great news is that he has released a new book this year of wonderful paintings and he created over many years. Jim Howle’s exceptional paintings are of many top clowns. Now many of his paintings are collected in this wonderful coffee table size book.  You will see lovely color paintings of; Felix, Mark Anthony, Otto, Lou Jacobs, Emmet Kelly and many more.  Included are some of the past presidents of the WCA too.

This book is one hundred pages on beautiful paper and Jim will autograph and number the book as it is a limited edition. Jim had help in laying out this book by the gentleman who wrote the great book about Otto Griebling.

Jim shared a few memories of Otto: “He had a heart of gold and treated the new clowns with respect.  If he found you and if he felt you were serious about clowning, he would help you all he could.” Jim was able to work alongside Otto for several years. 

Otto was a hilarious silent clown who stole the show. Jim recalls, “He was able to convey what he was feeling without saying anything. His reactions and takes were so delicate and subtle and soft, yet so big. His body work would express his feelings and they carried all the way to the top row of the tent.”

Jim with Ringling Head clown Steve Smith and former boss clown Greg Phillips

The Art of A Clown – a coffee A hundred pages with over 200 portraits of clowns and includes about 7-8 of comedy series.

“Ever since I had a pencil in my hand, I drew. The biggest part of my school – was drawing in class.  When I was 12 my mom was an artist and she enjoyed painting.  I kind of liked the lifestyle of what I perceived an artist to live… I would never have a 8-5 job ever in my life. I have the freedom to pick and choose what I do.  Once I started doing art for a living it was everything I dreamed and more.  I end up working 90 days a year on art.” Yet he adds, “I am always experimenting – I am never idle, but my basic income was derived from about 90 days a year.  I try to live within what I make.” 

Jim did not just paint clowns, he painted all types of portraits for families and produced about 60 pictures a year. That was about one a week. “Some weeks I would do more. Early on I discovered you have to be self motivated and you can’t wait for the feeling to come over you.  When you start painting – all of a sudden you are into it.  You have to do it as there is a deadline.”  

Over the years he did many large portraits of judges and circus performers, “and many lovely blonde ladies with blue dresses who drove Cadillacs.”

 

“About 1968 I finished art school in Sarasota and I had a chance to join the first clown school.  I was more interested in getting a ride out to NYC or LA to study acting. As I got into the circus a few months into it I thought this is neat, maybe I should stick to this. So I dedicated myself to try to be the best clown I can be.”

“Years later I worked the art work back in and I then painted as a hobby on the Ringling show.  I had a car and most of the time I had a state room on the train. I just painted out of my trunk.  I would lean the canvas up on my trunk and I would paint on my days off or in my room.”

Jim recalls, “I painted from live sittings of the circus people. I realized they could only give me 10 or 15 minutes at a time, they would dash and come back and light would then change or the situation changed so I instead went to photograph their pose with the proper lighting. Get that worked out and then I would have them pose for the final touches.”

“The circus was such an interesting place, so full of color and so full of exciteme

Jim’s Art can be found in this deluxe book

nt. The people were wonderful and fine specimens of humanity and it was inspiring as an artist.  It gave me a place to paint that was real exciting and – the lighting was wonderful.  The opportunity to stay with the circus was wonderful.”

“Then to listen to the crowd response to the clowns was wonderful. It was fun to go on train someplace new and different every day… that was a dream to me.  To go down roads I never had been down and knew I never had to go back. It was just great it was a dream.”

Watch for the next article in this series where Jim Howle shares memories of those wonderful clowns; Prince Paul, Micheal Karp, Dougie Ashton, Mark Anthony, Otto, Lou Jacobs and more…

  • About the author, Norm B. Has traveled the US bringing smiles to audiences with his comedy, magic and balloons. More at NormBarnhart.com.