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Hoople artist well-known for bold pieces

Artist John Bergman, 70 of Hoople, N.D., specializes specializes in painting porcelain, whether that be a three-foot tall vase or a small dinner plate. John's talents have taken him all around the world from China to New Zealand teaching children the ins and outs of painting. John is teaching at the upcoming 28th International Porcelain Artists and Teachers Biennual Convention in Orlando, Florida in early August. (Luke Franke/Grand Forks Herald)1 / 2
A recently painted porcelain plate sits on a table in Bergman's home waiting for it's next home. Bergman paints everything from plates and mugs to bowls and large vases all with the help of the four kilns Bergman keeps stored in his outdoor shed. (Luke Franke/Grand Forks Herald)2 / 2

John Bergman didn’t begin painting for fun. He did it out of necessity.

Suffering from an enlarged liver, Bergman had trouble doing much more than standing or lying down.

Since his mother was a china painter, she started teaching him the basics of painting to ease his mind.

For more than 40 years, Bergman has continued to paint — and make a name for himself.

Bergman will be a guest workshop artist for the 28th International Porcelain Artists and Teachers (IPAT) Biennial Convention on Aug. 3 to 9 in Kissimmee, Fla.

At the convention, Bergman will be one of four artists who will teach and demonstrate their style of art. Of the four presenting, Bergman is one of two from the United States.

“I was quite surprised when I was chosen,” Bergman said. “It’s very neat and quite an honor.”

Traveling the world

Bergman made a name for himself in the ’80s with his new style of porcelain painting. Since the only art instruction Bergman received was a few hours of teaching from his mother about how to use the paints and how to fire, he didn’t do things as many other porcelain painters did. Bergman tried different things, such as using strong, vibrant shades in his porcelain work as opposed to the typical soft, pastel colors.

“When I first started painting, I didn’t know there were things you weren’t supposed to do,” he said. “Some of the things I was doing, they thought you couldn’t do, so when I first showed my work in the late ’70s, they were quite shocked to see what I was doing because of the format and what I was applying on the porcelain.”

Those differences from his artwork and the typical artist were different enough where Bergman was invited on “the circuit,” to travel the country and the world teaching people his porcelain technique.

Bergman has been all over the world painting and teaching, but quit 25 years ago because he didn’t want to live out of a suitcase anymore and he felt ostracized from the art community for painting a male nude, something that was very uncommon in those days.

Continuing to paint

Bergman continued to paint and teach locally, but didn’t have a desire to go back to traveling the world until he received the invitation to the upcoming IPAT convention.

At the convention, he said he’ll teach porcelain painters his method for painting the North Dakota wild rose, violets and holly and berries, with special instructions on how to do the border. Bergman said the simplicity of some of the flowers makes it difficult to paint and portray it.

“I want to show people the bold, new horizons of porcelain painting,” Bergman said. “I want to show people my method and how they can reach their own personal goals.”

Eight years ago, Bergman received a liver transplant and said he is now feeling great and doing the things he loves, knowing each day how lucky he has been.

Bergman now has a collection of 45 pieces that he has been working on for the past year. Now that he’s partially retired, Bergman said he’s been painting even more than he used to.

“I’ve decided maybe it’s time to open up and start traveling and teaching again, if that’s possible. I’m not sure if that’ll happen, but it’s a new goal for me.”

Call Rupard at (701) 780-1122; (800) 477-6572, ext. 1122; or send email to

Wade Rupard

Wade Rupard is a reporter for The Grand Forks Herald. Rupard is a 2014 graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism and is originally from Normal, Ill. 

(701) 780-1122