Listen to Story
Author C.S. Lewis once said, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”
Denton resident John D. Moulton has certainly taken this adage to heart. Born and raised in the United Kingdom, Moulton did not realize his dream of being an artist until the age of 60, published his first novel at 68, and for the first time illustrated a children’s book at the age of 74.
From Salesman to Writer
Moulton was born in Manchester, England in April 1947. He left formal education at the age of 15, was engaged by 16, and was the father of three by the age of 27. The majority of Moulton’s working career was in the U.K. furniture trade. “My working life was in sales literally from the ground up — from sweeping a wholesaler’s concrete floor, to well-respected sales director for top brands in the UK furniture manufacturing industry,” he explains.
In 2006, Moulton’s wife passed away and he decided to retire at the age of 59. Although he had always been creative and passionate about art and writing, it wasn’t until a year later, Moulton says, that he became serious about both art forms.
In fact, Moulton began writing his novel White Ashes, when he was still working in furniture sales. Moulton recalls writing during any spare moments he had, whether that was on the train while commuting, at hotel rooms during work travel, and late-night sessions at home. “Hotel rooms (were) always a great place to write,” Moulton says. “I would start around 7 o’clock in the evening and write until 1-2 o’clock in the morning because these people would give me no peace. And when I say these people I mean my characters.”
Moulton says it took 15 years to complete White Ashes and see it published. Moulton also painted the cover of the book, which is a combination of three different paintings.
Focus on Portraiture
At the same time Moulton was writing his novel, he was also becoming more involved in art. He focuses mainly on portraiture, which Moulton says is something that stems from when he was young. “My mother used to get her women’s magazines back in the U.K. and I used to sit there with a ballpoint pen and just draw lines around every shade of the lady’s face on the cover,” he remembers. “I was just interested in just how many different shades are made up in a color photograph of a face. So that got me into portraiture from a very early age.”
For most of his life, Moulton kept drawing his portraits using only colored pencils in mainly sepia tones. As a young boy, he says he was always happy with how his pencil drawings turned out, but once he tried to apply color using paints, he “would ruin it and would just throw it away.”
It wasn’t until years later that Moulton decided to try his hand with other art mediums, self-teaching himself watercolors, oil painting, and even airbrush. In fact, Moulton says it took him 40 years to finally open and use an oil painting kit his mother had given him on his 21st birthday. “I put them in a drawer at 21 and said that’s for real artists, I’m never going to be able to do that,” Moulton recalls. “So I just left them in a drawer and my oil paints stayed in that drawer for 40 years.”
“It wasn’t until I lost my wife in 2006…I went into my studio for something else to think about,” he continues. “I pulled these out of the drawer and thought what the hell, let’s give it a go. And I found out I absolutely loved it.”
The Denton Connection
Moulton’s new-found focus on his art is what ultimately brought him to North Texas and Denton. He received an email from a woman living in Northern Texas, expressing interest in Moulton’s art and wanting to post a banner link to his website on her MySpace page. “I agreed of course, and over the following months we corresponded a great deal,” he says.
The two fell in love and were married in 2008. For the first five years of marriage, he and his new wife D’Ann lived in the U.K. The couple then moved their lives to McKinney in 2012 so D’Ann could be closer to her mother. The Moultons then moved to Denton in 2018, where they currently reside.
And it was one of Moulton’s sepia-colored pencil drawings called “Madeline’s Cat” that got him recognized for his art here in Denton. The portrait is of the daughter of a nurse caring for Moulton’s 94-year-old mother-in-law holding her cat. After posting the portrait to the neighborhood networking website Nextdoor.com this past July, it received more than 650 likes and over 200 comments from neighbors. “Also as a result of that post, I received several portrait commissions and an invitation to present my story and my work to the Denton Kiwanis Club,” Moulton says.
The portrait also caught the attention of Denton local book author Lavelle Carlson. She reached out to Moulton to ask him to illustrate a new children’s book she was writing called Bee, Honey Bunny and Me. “I had never considered a move in that direction, but took on the task willingly, keen to humbly follow in the footsteps of the late Beatrix Potter,” Moulton says. “I had loved her work since childhood and like me, she had always been a lover of the countryside and the animal kingdom.”
Recently published, the book tells the story of a little girl who loves rabbits and hates carrots. “One night she has a dream of a baby bunny with exactly the same issue,” Moulton explains. “In her dream, she watches from a distance as the baby bunny’s mother finds a friend with an answer that would make her baby bunny very happy indeed. The book then closes out with a couple of pages dedicated to the important role bees play in our world and delicately covers concerns for the bumblebee, a critically important pollinator in danger of extinction.”
Thanks to the notoriety Moulton has experienced through Nextdoor, he says he is currently enjoying a steady flow of pencil portrait commissions. He is currently looking for space to set up a full studio so he can also concentrate on his watercolor and oil paintings.
Moulton also sees future projects stemming from his first foray into children’s book illustrations. “Though this children’s book has been our first collaboration, Lavelle and I found that we have a real working partnership,” he explains. “In many ways, it’s been a learning curve for both of us and we are committed to working together again in the future.”
As for his writing, Moulton says many of his book’s fans have demanded another novel. However, rather than a sequel or prequel, he says this will be what he calls a “paraquil.” “It’s the story of one character in the book who is key to the whole story, but interestingly, about whom the reader learns very little,” Moulton explains. “So this will be his story: Just what happened to him after we lose him in those early pages and as the tragic mess he left behind unfolds?”