I recently had the opportunity to attend a private showing of Layne Johnson’s paintings. It was a happy reunion and I was so excited with his work that I wanted to share it with you, from the creator’s perspective, so Layne granted me an interview.
Q: In the time I have known you, how many years, 15, more? You have been a successful and sought out illustrator for children’s literature. Over the last few years however, you have transitioned into fine art. Tell me about this metamorphosis.
Artists Lilibeth Andre and Layne Johnson with samples of Layne’s portraits.
A: Yes, I believe I’ve known you Lilibeth for at least 15 years. Wow. Regarding the transition back to fine art, it’s been interesting in many ways. It was slow going at first. Part of some of the delay was moving and building a new home. Plus I worked on other projects I always wanted to do but never had the time or space to do them. Building ponds, a large raised bed garden and now raising chickens has been fun, but a lot of work. However, back to the transition . . . after moving and settling into my dream studio, I had to decide what direction to go artistically. I believed I could handle many subjects – figurative, portraits, landscape, etc. But I needed to focus. One big challenge was just getting back into the “groove.” I hadn’t painted in 9 months! Another was building up a new body of work. The portfolio of children’s art, while beautiful, was not the direction I would be going. Exaggerated colors and distorted compositions would not work for the representational art I wanted to pursue now. The truth was that I had a few paintings that were “ready” but I actually had some that I had started years ago, that when looking at them with fresh eyes, saw they needed my attention. One positive was that after doing so many paintings for children’s books, my sensibilities and skills had surged forward making me a much better artist. So I grabbed some of the old work and repainted them. With great success I think. But as of now I’m creating totally new work that I’m excited about. Right now, I focusing on landscapes, and working in a series. But portraits will always be in the mix for me. I do enjoy capturing a person’s image in paint, in effect their “essence.”
There are now new and different opportunities to explore via the internet, so we’ll be delving into that to see what works and what doesn’t. One last thing I’m enjoying is the liberty to paint what I want and not being tied to a book project for months on end. The average book took about six months to complete, but some of the last ones took far longer. I have fond memories of that career, but don’t miss it. I loved what I was doing and achieved honors and success. It’s just after doing it for so long and seeing thousands of kids in school visits, I was ready for a change. Ready to explore my old love – ready to paint art that moves and inspires me. And hopefully others, too!
Q: Clearly you enjoy what you do. What is your medium and your favorite tools of the trade?
A: My medium is oils! Though I’ve worked in just about everything else. For many years I painted in acrylics. I’ve also used watercolor, gouache, ink, dyes, and even egg tempera. I dabbled in intaglio, silkscreen and lithography as well. But the freedom that oils gives me plus the fond memory association I have with the smell of linseed oil makes oil painting my favorite medium. With that said, I use the usual assortment of brushes, though some old damaged ones are favorites for certain textures and effects. I often use Liquin as a mixing medium that aids in drying time.
Q: When did you realize you were an artist? Who was your first supporter and/or mentor?
Artist Layne Johnson talks about his art at a recent private reception.
A: As for as realizing I’m an artist, it was probably around 13 when I started to really paint. I had great feedback from family and friends, but when I started selling art I realized that THAT is what I wanted to do. I’ve had several mentors but my first was Mrs. Clara Skinner. She taught painting classes and I eagerly attended and learned a great deal from her. I have fond memories of her and probably without her I would not have become an artist. My son either, as he followed my path and now has a Master’s degree in art. He works digitally.
Tomorrow I will attend a memorial for Mrs. Skinner. She was a patient, kind, and an encouraging friend and will be sorely missed by many. (6/15/16)
Q: This is a combined question: Where would you like to be with your art in 5 years? How would you like people to remember your work?
A: In 5 years I’d like to be continuing in the direction I’m going, including having my art in galleries, and also selling prints. I’d also like to travel more and plein air paint. Commissioned portraits would also be in the mix. I’ve had several inquiries recently about teaching classes or retreats. I’m not sure how good of a teacher I’d be, but my wife says I’d be great.
I want people to connect with my work emotionally. I want a painting to move people in a way no photograph can. I want people to identify my work with a sense of place – and embrace the light as I do!
Ultimately, I want collectors, not just clients.
Q: How can people find your work and follow your art career?
A: At the moment the easiest way to follow me is through social media.
I’m on Instagram and Facebook: @LayneJohnsonStudio. I’m finishing up my new website and am eager to connect with people there. I’ve many things to say on my blog and need to get busy on that. So in a few months, I’d say following my blog and joining my list will be the best ways to connect with me.