Artistic Excellence 2015 | Honorable Mention: James Johnson


James Johnson, Nana’s Girl, oil, 12 x 16.

James Johnson, Nana’s Girl, oil, 12 x 16.

What inspired your winning entry? NANA’S GIRL was painted last summer at my in-laws’ home near Glacier National Park. It was sunset, and that golden light really lit up the back porch in a stunning way. The intimate, unplanned moment between my daughter and her nana touched me as much as the impressionistic, color-filled light. The effect of grandparents on their grand-
children is obvious, and you can see here just how secure and happy my daughter feels with my wife’s loving mother. I think this image also highlights the effect of grandchildren on their grandparents—they each just light up. To me, the reflected light on nana’s chin, coming from the direction of my daughter, symbolizes that effect. In my opinion, these kinds of quiet, light-filled, safe moments are the stuff family and fine art should be full of.

How would you describe your style? I am a realistic, impressionistic color nut, obsessed with grandeur, harmony, and sometimes-hidden symbolic meanings. I tend to work alla prima unless I have to deal with drawing issues like getting a person’s exact likeness. I have come to love and practice traditional principles of design, including the golden ratio.

What artists, living or deceased, have influenced your work? To name only a few, Edgar Payne, Vincent van Gogh, Walter Rane, Albin Veselka, Josh Clare, Leon 
Parson, and Mian Situ.

What is the best advice you have ever received? In terms of art, to paint with both heart and mind, not letting one totally overpower the other.

What’s the most meaningful recognition you’ve received for your artwork? 
I recently asked my wife (also a professional painter) who her biggest artistic influences were. I was on the list. We’re married and all. But she’s super-honest, so for me it was a big deal.


Featured in the December 2015 issue of Southwest Art magazine–click below to purchase:
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