Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Artist | Brian Johnson

 Awesome Visual Artist with a Unique Style

Artomatic Location: 08-115

W&I: What kind of art do you make and how would you describe it?

Brian: I make a lot of kinds of art. I currently mostly paint abstract paintings on various sized media. From 3"x3" wood flooring samples to custom built canvas stretchers, the largest of which I've made so far has been 8.5'x7' (constructed from Railroad Ties). I also create sculptures from found objects and even landscape items such as stones, fallen trees and dirt mounds. I also write poetry and make noise on the electric guitar. All of my work in any of the mediums revolves around building up layers and hiding and reveiling certain aspects to create some sort of narrative.

W&I: I thought the art on the wood flooring was really cool and creative. What INSPIRED you to start creating this kind of art?

Brian: Well I've been creating as long as I can remember. I was definitely the "art kid" among my peers throughout elementary, middle and high school. I doodle on everything and draw out plans and schematics for ideas, projects and art pieces. I went to college, at Virginia Commonwealth University, with the idea of being an illustrator. But that didn't quite work out so I was introduced to Sculpture by a friend. It was an epiphany moment when I made my first sculpture, taking an idea from my imagination and creating a three-dimensional object. Amazing!...soo fast forward several years post college when I don't have a cush studio or a workshop full of bandsaws and drill presses and oxy-acetelane welding torches. Living in a small apartment made me refocus my art creation process and output. I've never stopped making things, I can't not create, but I've adapted to the available space and what medium and techniques I could manage in a small space. The majority of my sculptural and painting ideas are large scale. So the switch to painting for the time being was really a practical choice. Also, I use acrylic paints (like house paints) because they achieve the viscosity and flow I want for my work, they can easy be bought in a high-gloss (which I think adds to the contrasting color choices I make and highlights the textures I build up) and lastly its relatively cheaper than 'artist acrylics'.

W&I: Tell us a little about how you make your art?

Brian: I am constantly looking for new ways to convey my ideas of the beautiful relationships I see in the world. So usually the very beginnings of a piece is a search for materials. Maybe some scrap wood I find on a walk or seeing something in the hardware store that I think could be great repurposed as something to paint on or build with or some old clothes that I gesso and use as a "canvas". My painting process then starts by a few ideas kind of floating around in my head, maybe I want to do a landscape that conveys balance and void or combining some colors that bring to mind the sea. I most often have a bunch of little mock-up versions I work on simultaneously to try-out different color combinations and patterns and the different materials together, building off of all their distinct properties. Once I decide I have two or three ideas that are really working I'll focus in on them and spend more time with each one to think about what I've got and where I want it to go from there. I'm often asked, especially with my abstract work, how do I know when its done. That is a hard question to answer, it's not a firm documented point that I can say, ok I've reached this point, that means its done. It's a more ethereal, intuitive process. The colors and shapes and visuals will just all snap into place. More recently I've taken to setting some of my larger pieces aside for a few days or weeks to digest what is going with the image. Sometimes I'll go back into it and work it more, and sometimes
after mulling it over I decide it is done after all.

W&I: What are your sources of inspiration?

Brian: Inspiration is everywhere, open your eyes, take a step in any direction and the world offers something to see and experience. I read a lot of books about physics, science and psychology. With all these resources for knowledge and my own sense of wonder and imagination, I seek out links between seemingly separate things. For example, imagine looking up at the criss-crossing power lines at any given corner in a city or suburb, contrasted against the wide-open blue ever-reaching sky. The huge beautiful expanse above compartmentalized into dozens of small odd shapes by the negative space between the cables. Each a little window into a different perspective of the whole. Or, the amazement of a single pine-cone, the
structure of it, how it's "put together" and the astonishing fact that it grows that way, a system and order that is both organic and mechanical. 

W&I: You should write stories or books or something lol. That was beautiful. What is it that you try to communicate through your art?

Brian: I try to communicate balance and to get the viewer to wonder or think about those same relationships that I see. I am fascinated by the delicate balance between biological or organic systems and the mechanical fashion in which parts are fitted together and function. I've been painting in this current abstract style with the acrylics for over six years, fine tuning my technique and expanding the ways and on what I paint. A part of this development is building more of a
narrative, more of an unconscious message.

W&I: How do you stay WIRED

Brian: Honestly sometimes it is really hard to stay motivated when I have such big ideas, but simply by doing something small everyday, I can keep moving forward. I also find it really helpful to do a lot of different things at once, so as one idea or piece gets bogged down for whatever reason, I can switch to something else and still use that creative energy.

W&I: Any words of encouragement or wisdom for the struggling artist out there?

Brian: Being an artist is really about passion, deciding that this is what you want to do, no matter what, because you are compelled to, you are driven from within to create and present your individual expression of the world as you see it. So for struggling artists, I'd say first decide that this is what you want to do no matter what the cost, if you can accept that, then the next part is just to keep doing it. Just keep doing whatever it is that you do, making it better, trying new elements, showing different people. Make your own reality. Never give up.

W&I: What are some of your most memorable moments as an artist?

Brian: When I had that moment when I decide that art was my essence, it defines my core and is all I want to do. Once I made that choice, probably when I was about 16 or 17, from then on it was just a matter of finding the path to get there. It's still an ongoing process, with twists and turns but its the path I've chosen. Another memorable moment was when I was willing to give myself the recognition of my talent that my friends and family had been telling me for years. I am still my own worst critic but I have made some great works and accomplished much more than some of my peer artist that gave in to the pressures of their day jobs or just life in general and left art behind. And selling my first painting to a total stranger, not a friend or family member, was very satisfying. To me it signaled that what I was making was admirable and beautiful to more than just me.

W&I: We want to know more?!

Brian: I am currently exhibiting work at the Artomatic 2012, on the 8th Floor space 08-115 (I think), I am also planning to develop and display a piece for the Figment DC show, happening September 29th, 2012.

People interested in my work or what I'm doing can check me out on my
  website www.artfulanml.com. Send me a message and I'll add you to my mailing list to get the latest and greatest of what's happening.

W&I: Thanks so much for participating in the interview. It was very inspiring and I wish you much success in the future!

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