For many of us, bright colors can be a healing balm to a battered spirit. This is especially true in the artwork of Christopher Johnson, a self-taught abstract oil painter from Nyack, New York, who left a 20-year advertising career to pursue fine art full time.
Prompted by his recovery from addiction, Christopher was 47 years old when he decided to pour into his passion. He uses vibrant color palettes and precise line work to inspire serenity, joy, courage and most of all hope. Christopher begins each project on the right side of the canvas with one or more marks. From there, the creative process unfolds organically.
Miami Art Basel
The painting we’re featuring here is titled “Bruised, Battered, But Not Broken,” framed with our Canvas Floater M014 in Matte Black. Christopher was exhibiting this very painting at Miami Art Basel in autumn 2019 when he realized some framing hardware was missing. (Yes, we’re human!) Christopher explains, “I waited to assemble one of the frames the night before I left for Miami only to realize that some of the hardware was missing. I called Frame Destination the next day. They overnighted the hardware I needed to my Hotel in Miami allowing me to put the frame on the piece I wanted to show. They were super friendly and there was no hassle at all getting what I needed, quickly.” We’re just happy he was able to display his work elegantly at such an esteemed art show.
See More of Christopher’s Work
You can follow Christopher’s journey on Instagram. In my Artie’s Eight Q&A below, discover Christopher’s most indispensable tools, and why his work is not a reflection of his personality.
Now for Artie’s Eight Q&A with Christopher Johnson…
1. What is your background; how did you get started?
From my earliest childhood memories, I was always a creative and visual thinker. I loved "making" things: painting, ceramics, sculptures, etc. However, I did not pursue a career as an artist due to fear. It wasn't until my life completely fell apart that I finally decided to pursue my true passion and be true to myself. At age 47, I walked away from a career in advertising to pursue my artwork. The passion for abstract oil painting was first lit in high school when I realized I had a knack to express myself in bold, colorful and thoughtful ways. I have nurtured this passion for the past three years, and my career as an artist is unfolding in ways I never thought it would.
2. What role do you think the artist plays in society?
As artists, our role is critical. Creative expression is vital to a healthy and open-minded society. Artwork inspires people, gives them hope and can touch a soul in a way that words cannot. The artist has a unique skillset to influence, inspire and help others.
3. What has been a formative experience or the best advice you’ve received within your career?
The formative experience for me was going through the pain and horror of addiction and then finding a way out through a recovery program. That program required deep self-discovery and change. Through that process I found the courage I needed to pursue my art, but also discovered the full extent of my passion.
4. What ways does your work reflect your personality?
My work reflects my experiences and gratitude more than it does my personality. I'm a very quiet, laid-back, calm and introspective person. My work is vibrant, bold and full of life. The one area that my work reflects my personality is the thoughtfulness of the ideas behind my paintings.
5. Creative blocks, do you get them? If so, how do you overcome them?
My mental health issues can cause blocks. I have severe depression, anxiety and OCD. Those can be extremely debilitating and block me from my creative process. Another issue I face is my need for perfection. It can paralyze me mentally making it difficult to even start. There are a few things I do that have proven helpful to overcoming creative blocks. One is guided mediation; it clears my head and puts me in more relaxed mindset, allowing me to just let go and create. Exercise and stepping away from it all is another. Lastly, when I’m really stuck, I will just pull out a new canvas, grab some blue oil paints and simply start with no idea in mind.
6. What is your most indispensable tool? (Not counting the obvious, like paints, brushes, canvas, camera, etc.)
I would definitely say patience. I work solely with oil paint. Blending and line work are two major elements of my style. As a result, my pieces take a long time as I have to wait for sections to dry at varying lengths in order to achieve the desired blending and precise line work. My other must-haves are phthalo blue oil paint and my #12 bright natural bristle brush.
7. Do you have a new project you are working on, or a new passionate idea?
Yes, in 2020 I am working on a new series of works that tell the other side of my story. To date, my works have focused mostly on the positive experiences and feelings associated with finding recovery and what recovery has done for me — concepts like hope, perspective, harmony, etc. This year I will be focused on expressing the more painful part of my story and what led me to recovery.
8. What is your favorite paint color name?
Phthalo Blue. Blue is my go-to favorite color, and for some reason it allows me to blend and get different hues more than any other color.
All artwork and/or photographs used in this post are subject to copyright held by the featured artist.
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Last Updated October 27, 2020