Friday, December 14, 2012

Art and Insights

First off, here's a SNEAK PEEK at a piece I'm working on. 4'x4' on Birch Plywood... more updates soon! (click for larger view) 

Second, a student from West Virginia recently asked if I would help her out by being the subject of a school paper... she interviewed me, and I figured I'd post the interview here, because I ended up being really satisfied with how I answered these questions (miraculously). 

So if you're looking for a good long read or just some insight into my psychosis, here it is. :)

How did you know you wanted to be an artist? 

I feel like everyone has an innate desire to create art. Ask almost anyone, and they'll be able to tell you about a time when they were a kid and they created stuff all the time. I think I just never quit. I was always imagining new stories, writing my own fictional sequels to my favorite video games, and drawing endlessly.

What or who inspired you to go into art?

My earliest memories of drawing were sitting in church on sunday mornings. I would sit with the preacher's kids and we would draw ninja turtles and batman on church bulletins. Later in life, I was inspired by many great artists, and gained the motivation to try and make a real career out of it by learning about the beginnings of their careers. Realizing that my challenges and struggles were similar to those of such great artists was incredibly motivating. I knew that if they could do it, I could do it as well, with the right attitude and approach. I am a firm believer that 90% of success in life is about simply not giving up, and persisting in the pursuit of our passions

When did you begin working in Photoshop and why?

I started working in photoshop in 2000 in a graphic design class in high school. I continued to use it for design and photo manipulation, and soon realized artists were making amazing art with it as well. I got my hands on a cheap tablet, and started brutally experimenting, creating the most terrible art, using the worst practices and methods, and just climbed through the muck until I had something like "experience".... now its an extension of my art, not something I depend upon (fundamental knowledge of artist skills is so much more important than the tools you use).

Where do you do your work?

I do my work in my own studio area in my apartment. I have never had a luxurious space in which to work, and I don't think a lot of artists do, even though most of us aspire to some mythical dream studio. That was another big lesson for me, realizing that "if only I had a bigger desk" or "this monitor is too small" is only a legitimate concern in the most extreme of cases, because if you want to make the work, you will find a way. Carving out a space in my life for creating art, about two years after college [far too late if you ask me] was a huge step toward increasing my productivity. Keep sharp pencils in your face, a blank sheet of paper nearby, and remove as many obstacles as possible toward beginning your work.

What’s your technique?

I think my technique varies from project to project, but it always starts with several rough ideas at once. I think its important to move in baby steps, never taking on too much pressure at any one stage. Sometimes I'll sketch something and decide to create the final images digitally, sometimes I'll start digitally and then decide it would be a better drawing... the point is to be in a constant state of exploration and never feel pressure to make "the perfect line" or worry too much about mistakes. I generally save precision until the very end, and separate it the various decision points to keep things simple. I think about composition general concepts at first, then I think about making things look believable and "correct", and near the end I worry about things like texture, highlights, complex shadows, color theory, etc. Getting ahead of yourself is a big mistake, and rushing the process never helps.

Do you work from life, or from photographs or from imagination?

I like to think that even the most imaginative pieces, if you're making representational art, and you have any aspiration to create believable art, is inspired by life. Knowing how light, depth, texture, and color affect the world we see can only be learned from real observation. That kind of knowledge is not something you can remember easily, and having references is always important, especially when painting or drawing something you don't understand. I can describe a tree to you fairly easily, but to accurately create one, even if it is pink and made entirely of spherical clusters of leaves, you need to understand how a tree works, the unexpected visual cues you need in order to really go "wow, that's a tree".... I like to do a lot of studies before I dive into something I don't understand, because I always learn something about how a material, object, person, or animal looks after closely observing it in studies. Imagination is informed by reality, and I like to let my imagination set the goal, and my education [visual studies of life] do the work to achieve that goal.

What is more important; content or technique?

I think it is important that you have something to say with your art. The great concept artist Thierry Lafontaine told me one time that if I wanted to read a technical masterpiece of the English language, I should read a dictionary. A technical masterpiece in art is much the same way. No matter how many fancy words are there, without the human elements of expression, motive, purpose, and imagination, it will never be 'art'. Some of the greatest writers were simple in their style, a la Mark Twain, and art is the same way, a la Picasso or Matisse. A single stroke or an elaborate tableau with a rich narrative, art is about making statements. All of that being said about content, I think art without technique tends to do a disservice to the message. People that want to rub dog crap on a picture of the madonna and then call it art, well.... they're in a league all their own, and I don't often group them into what I consider great art. A marriage of technique and content is what will set people's emotions ablaze.

How important is the subject matter to your artwork? 

I think subject matter is where I get to really show my own interests and passions. While art is universal in many ways, and would be appreciated by anyone in any culture or time, subject matter is where I can say "hey, I like this beautiful figure I drew" or "Mario Brothers is awesome, and here's something I thought would be neat".... its my opportunity to express my interests, and add my own unique point of view. I think if you like trains, you could be a painter, a writer, a toy collector, an engineer, or a conductor, and that's just how you choose to experience that interest of yours. I like a lot of things, from Jim Henson's creations to old world fairy tale books... and art is sort of the conduit through which I enjoy those things, because its how I enjoy spending my time, its the challenge in life I'm most interested in tackling, and the subject matter changes from time to time, as my interests come and go.

Do you work certain hours each day or only when you are
inspired to work?

I have a fairly strict routine. I'm not sure what that will be like when I stop working full time as an art director, which I definitely aspire to do one day, but right now, I enjoy a great deal of structure. I work from 9 - 6, dinner and TV until about 9, and from 9 until I drop, I work on my various art projects. I think it was the great motivational speaker Jim Rohn that said you should always be working harder on yourself than you do your day-job. That really stuck with me, and I've tried to do that every day since then. That being said, I also try to take it easy on the weekends, and I balance my work routine with as many outside experiences as I can. All human innovation, scientific, artistic, spiritual, whatever.... they all stem from juxtaposition. Having some big ideas marinating in the back of your head and then going to the zoo or some crappy amusement park, or having a conversation with the crazy lady that lives on the corner, they all inform the creative process. The combination of seemingly unrelated things sometimes creates wonderful ideas. So I keep a pretty structured schedule, but within that structure exists time to be random and relax... but always on purpose, with intent, and I try not to let my goals ever slip completely out of my mind.

What motivates you? 

I'm motivated by a lot of things, but I think the biggest motivator in my life is my desire to surprise myself with my potential. I just like to see what I can do, how far I can push it, and how far I can go on this crazy adventure of a life. I'm motivated largely by the fact that I love and appreciate the temporary nature of life. I like to work hard because I have the rare and beautiful chance to be a person in the first world, with both hands, good eyes, and almost no real obstacles other than my own challenges and goals. I like to take a minute sometimes just to appreciate how lucky we are to be on this earth, and sitting in classrooms on student loans, or getting paid 100 times more than people in other countries for significantly easier work. We're lucky to have running water. We're lucky to have food, literacy, and shelter. When you think about how many amazing things have actually worked out for you in your life, you can't help but feel that there's something almost divine about it, that you've been given a chance at something marvelous and miraculous, and nothing should get in your way of taking full advantage of that. You owe it to those that never got the chance, you owe it to your parents, and your future children, and anyone that ever tried hard to help you be awesome at something. Being motivated is incredibly easy to me, because I don't see any other option that I consider to be a moral and fair way to live.

What do you think is the most important influence in your art?

I think the most important influence I receive is from other artists that move me emotionally. I try to view every television show, every movie, every bad billboard or corny commercial as an opportunity see what makes me tick. Whatever makes me tick probably makes others tick, or at least I can then appreciate the differences between me and other people. I think the most important influence I give to others with my art is hopefully just a sense of sincerity and appreciation for whatever my subject matter is. If I can convey to someone the love or disgust or fright or anxiety that I want to convey, then I've done a good job. I generally like to just make people happy, or inspire people to think "what if..." when I make something. I think there's enough negative stuff to meditate on, life is hard enough and sometimes scary enough without me adding to the pile. I'd rather not be white noise, I'd rather bring a little light in a sometimes dismal world, and just remind people to take a moment to appreciate things and be present with something, enjoy something for its inherent beauty, or its unexpected surprises. Just take a minute sometimes, breathe, and like something with your whole self. If my art can accomplish that in people, I will feel like I've really accomplished something. 

Where do you feel your art is going?

"If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans." - Woody Allen

I have a lot of long-term goals, and I work toward them incrementally every day. I imagine what my life will be like one day in the distant future, but its always just so hard to really piece together. By focusing on what I can do NOW to get me where I want to go, today, no excuses, no delays, has been way more fulfilling than fantasizing too much about abstracts. I want to tell great stories, through art, and through the written word, and I want to give as much as humanly possible back to others that want to create, and try to lift them up and help them surpass me. I think so long as I'm creating, imagining, learning, and bettering myself, I'm already "there" and anything else is just a massive bonus. My large projects such as writing a novel are all happening in tandem with my art, same as the places I want to see, the people I want to meet, and the life I want to lead... it's all unfolding now, not later, because I always focus on what I can do today to live up to my full potential and be a happy person.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Friday, September 28, 2012

This is a Bad Idea

Just finished this.... the idea being that an older brother is in trouble with his parents for telling his sister the Easter Bunny isn't real. As punishment, he has to take her trick-or-treating in a bunny costume. Unfortunately for him, his little sister is a bit more adventurous than he'd hoped.

I hope you like it!

To see more, Email me or friend me on facebook or twitter any time, or of course, check out my website.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Photoshop Painting Process

I just wanted to show the process here and a share a little bit about that... I did several thumbnails of several creatures VERY quickly (look at #1 in the sketches, they were all super rough sort of like that), then when I decided that sketch was my favorite, I did three more in another few minutes, just to solidify the feelings and emotions I wanted Sherman to have.

Next, I spent about an hour on the black and white rough, and then another few hours detailing, refining shapes, and coloring.

This was something that was drilled into me at the Imaginism Studios In-House Workshop, how design and visualization before putting in too much work can make your final product that much more interesting, and also fun to paint.

I hope that answers some questions, and if you have more, I'm always around! Email me or friend me on facebook or twitter any time.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Down in Fraggle Rock!

"Fraggle Rock" by Matt Johnson 2012
It has been a LONG time since I've posted here.... things have been non-stop busy with work that isn't ready to show. BUT.... fear not... I have finished a thing I can show you!

This is my entry for the Jim Henson Fraggle Rock Art Contest hosted by I hope you'll take a second to check it out here and click here to vote for me!

Thanks everyone and I hope to post more stuff soon!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Koopa Troopa - Mario Brothers Art

2012 - "The Road to Redemption"

After the long and perilous journey out of the castle with one of the King's ill-won treasures, Koopa Troopa paused to reflect on the decision he had made. After decades of mindless violence and allegiance, he embarks on his journey into the outskirts of enemy territory, the Mushroom Kingdom. Hopefully his humble token of peace would grant him safe passage to find the Man in Red. Although the price of redemption is high, and the danger more real than ever, a short life of freedom is worth an eternity of servitude.

Buy a Print or share this with your friends with the buttons below! Thanks for your continued support, friends!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Around the World and Back Again


Wow, it has already been a month since the Imaginism Studios workshop wrapped up. I've only managed to fit in random digital sketches and some small commissions over the last few weeks. Rest assured, they are better than anything I could do before, but I still haven't had the chance to unleash the full power of 'the box'...haha.

I assure you, however, it is for good reason, I promise! I've been very busy. Take a look at the pictures here and you'll see. 

As pictured above, I did a photoshoot with a lovely friend of mine, Gabby, after we re-outfitted the living room to be an impromptu studio with amazing results. I'll be posting photos from the 6 or 7 hours of shooting we did for the next several months, at least. Not to mention the artistic reference shots I took that I hope to turn into wonderful works of art before all is said and done. 


After that, I got the honor of being this month's Featured Artist at Blick Art Materials here in Paramus. I thought they only wanted ONE piece from me, it turns out they wanted TWELVE! 

That's great news, but it took a lot of scrambling to get everything framed and ready to be put up. My living room and studio were a living art gallery for a day or two until I could transport all the art. Haha.

The end result is this. Not the best display of my work since most of it is so small, I really like for people to be able to get up close and personal with it. However, its still on a wall, doing what it does best....being seen. Hopefully some great contacts come of it or some customers want to buy the pieces right off the wall. 


Lastly, there were a few prints that needed to be mailed, the one above went to my good friend Joe and I couldn't have been happier to frame it up and ship it out for him. 
As you can see, it has been an eventful month so far. I won't even go into the large amount of writing and graphic design projects I've received that have kept me up at night as well. However, when there is money to be made, and it is needed urgently, sometimes we do what we have to do. No complaints here, I'm fortunate to get asked to do so many different things by so many different people. 

Oh, and lets not forget about filming and editing the video about the Imaginism Workshop....there was that, too. Phew. I'm making myself tired just thinking about all this at once. 

If you don't already, friend me on facebook, follow me on twitter, or check out more of my work at!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Artmeme Interview and Video!

Click here to watch the video!

I was fortunate to be asked to do an interview and short video for Artmeme, a NYC based online art community. I talked a great deal about the Imaginism In-House Workshop as well as my own experiences and passions. You can watch the video above or click here to read the full interview!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My Dragon Valentine

Click to see a larger version!
Like many other workshop students, I have spent the last couple of weeks reorganizing life to accommodate the new perspective I have on life and on my goals. From organizing, planning, closing up loose end projects, and catching up after being gone for a month, it is a wonder I am even writing this post this early in the year!

I just wanted to share a piece I recently made for a special show at Blick Art Materials in Paramus, NJ. It is a flattering and humbling honor, they have asked me to be their 'featured artist' for the month. If you're in the area, go check out my work going up this week. I'll have about 12 pieces there, traditional and digital.

The great thing about this piece is that it took a cumulative total of about 4 hours, which would have been at least twice or three times that before the workshop, and it would not have been as interesting.

I look forward to sharing more with you all in the near future as things ramp up. I'll be doing some acrylic paintings and some sequential pieces (i.e., stories) that I think are really exciting.