At first glance, John Danks may give off an air of stern authority with his mustachioed Ron Swanson-esque appearance. This impression quickly dissipates the moment he speaks, revealing a soft-spoken and kind-hearted presence. Danks describes himself as a “self-taught master colored pencil artist” and he has possessed a strong passion for artistic expression for as long as he can remember. His interest and talent for visual arts eventually led him to The Art Institute of Philadelphia where he discovered and developed his skill as a portrait artist. His colored pencil masterpieces have received significant acclaim as he has been featured in numerous publications including Colored Pencil Magazine and Hidden Treasures Magazine, and he has a long list of satisfied clients that he has supplied with customized work. Despite the impressive success that Danks has experienced, he feels that this all comes secondary in his unceasing goal of using his artwork as a therapeutic tool to heal, inspire, and uplift those in need.
Throughout his life, John Danks always saw his artwork as a “safe haven,” a calming temporary escape during tough times. Danks selflessly volunteers with multiple organizations, using his artistic passion to help others whenever possible. Danks is involved with the Bensalem Senior Center, where he conducts art workshops, teaches summer art programs, and donates portraits to help with fundraising, and he also volunteers with Bensalem High School, overseeing portrait drawing workshops and instructing students on the use of colored pencils using his specialized skills.
Danks asserts, “My most important work is volunteering at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children with my art cart.” He goes on to explain, “I implemented, designed, and fully fund this art cart which I created five years ago and it has become a staple of the hospital with the staff and the children. I roll the cart around and visit the children. This has a profound effect on lifting their spirits while they are being treated or waiting to be treated. It also gives family members a brief respite as they frequently have to attend to their children’s needs 24/7.” His favorite unit in the hospital by far is the oncology unit where he serves as an “artistic buddy” for children being treated for various forms of cancer and other ailments. Danks states, “It is very comforting for them to see and recognize the art cart and that we can sit and create and let their minds relax a bit.” He also excitedly explains, “I have also painted an entire room in the ER department with a soothing mural of an ocean scene as a way to make it more comforting for young patients.”
Another one of his favorite volunteer opportunities is being part of the annual St. Christopher’s circus where he sketches portraits, does face painting, and even lets the patients paint on his face! “I adore the reaction I see when they get to paint my face, they love it!” Danks exclaims with a sense of enthusiasm that truly captures the joy he experiences as a result of his service.
In recognition for his dedication to his ongoing work, Danks was awarded with a “Seeds Award” for exceeding excellence as a volunteer.
In addition to his extensive and impressive volunteer work, John Danks also brings his passion for creativity into his workplaces at every opportunity. Danks is employed by two separate drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities and holds a certificate as a Certified Recovery Specialist. He incorporates his unique brand of art therapy into his work and he feels that “art in many forms is an almost indispensable part of one’s recovery and produces an amazing meditative effect.” He strives to share the beneficial influence that art has had in his life with clients at these facilities and has even designed special lectures using artwork from famous masters to illustrate 12 Step recovery principles. Danks states, “One of the most powerful moments came when I sketched a portrait of a lady in treatment, and when she looked at it, she was brought to tears. She spoke of seeing the strength that I captured in her eyes and said that I gave her hope!”
In the future, John Danks plans to continue spreading his creativity-focused message and sharing the manner in which art has helped him to overcome drastic obstacles in his life. He has many plans for different outreach initiatives that aim to educate people on the healing and stress-relieving aspects of art therapy. He expresses, “I look to further myself in my art education and experiences, professionally, therapeutically, and altruistically” and that he hopes to “incorporate his art cart program with other programs, especially in the addiction and recovery field” as well as “give tours or lectures at one of our fine Philadelphia Art Museums.” In short, he hopes to continue with his combined passion of both helping and creating.
When asked to describe his absolute favorite part of all of his efforts, Danks excitedly stumbled over his words with an indecisive stream of thoughts. “I revel in the reaction of some of my clients when receiving a finished portrait of a loved one that has passed away…or the reaction of the kids when the see the art cart rolling into their room, they look like they just got a giant Christmas present…or maybe giving strength to recovering individuals.” John Danks is clearly an extremely selfless and giving individual, and his work is beyond inspiring in that he both uses his immense talent to serve others and experiences an intense sense of joy and satisfaction in the process. Anyone who has the pleasure of seeing him in his element can tell without a doubt that he truly loves his work and cherishes the opportunity to give a sense of relief and hope to those who need it most.
You can learn more about the works of John Danks and order custom portraits through his online portfolio.