Artist Richard S. Johnson shares a collection of dynamic figurative paintings filled with energy, light and movement. Visit his website to view more of his portfolio.
I was born in Chicago to an artistic family. My uncle Claude was an illustrator during the golden age of illustration and I was fascinated by his work.
My earliest reminiscences are of pouring through Charles Dana Gibson, N.C. Wyeth and John Singer Sargent books on rainy afternoons. While still in grade school, I won a scholarship to the Art Institute of Chicago where I got to see all of their collection of Sargent paintings and really study them. I later attended the American Academy of Art. Upon graduation I began a career as an illustrator.
Being an illustrator is great training for an artist. You need to master your skills and learn how to make decisions effectively because you are on a deadline and every illustration has to work.
In the late nineties, the illustration world was changing—everything moved online. This forced me to change as well. I had to figure out who I was as an artist and what I would do next.
I have always loved the human figure. The ability to not only have the skill to render the figure accurately but to be able to tell a story within that painting is my goal when painting. This is what made the artists I admired so powerful. Gibson could explain a woman’s whole attitude by the way she waved her hand or tilted her head. Sargent opened a whole world of information about the people he painted, their standing in society, their personality, their world view. It was in the eyes of their subjects and the way that they stood. It is not enough to be accurate. You must capture what is real in the people you paint.
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I have painted many things from still lifes to landscapes to seascapes, but I am always drawn back to the human figure. People are so fascinating to me. I want my audience to have a conversation with me and say, “Yes, that is how youth feels.” or “That is just how sunlight flows over the skin” or “I can just imagine what she is thinking.”
My most current paintings are of dancers. I love their physicality and how they convey emotion through their movements.
During this season of Covid, I especially find them to be energizing and stimulating. I deeply connect with their desire to communicate using their talents.
Over the years my style has become looser and more abstract as I attempt to hear what my subject matter is saying to me. I try not to impose an idea onto the image, but to let the image speak for itself. Many times, I am surprised by what other people “hear” in my paintings. It delights me that I could give a voice to my paintings that reaches beyond me.
Artist Richard S. Johnson invites you to follow him on Facebook.
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