Story by Michelle Jameson | Photos courtesy Geoffrey Johnson
A muted palette of whispering brush strokes is all he needs to turn an ordinary scene into ruminative reflection, his canvas becoming a distant voyeuristic peer into human interaction.
But contemporary painter Geoffrey Johnson didn’t find his niche until later in life.
The 51-year-old North Carolina native says his love of art began as a youth and his interest took him into the world of commercial art. Growing weary, he decided it was time for a deeper understanding of his talents. And fate was on his side.
Geoffrey happened to meet a retired professor who recognized his talent. It was this relationship he says motivated him to pursue formal training. He graduated in 1993 from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts where he received numerous awards for his artistic excellence.
His work evolved from painting landscapes into architectural compositions, both interiors and monochromatic city scenes.
Geoffrey says he “draws inspiration from his travels and first-hand observations.”
“Some of my limited palette paintings are simply all the subject calls for; I don’t see it in color,” says Geoffrey. “But, I don’t completely deny my love of color, and sometimes it shows up based on whatever caught my eye. It might be something I saw in a book or the color of the wall in my studio. Color is not symbolic, neither is the lack thereof.”
Critics have noted Geoffrey’s fluid images “capture groups of people and things en masse, while inviting quiet introspection in the viewer.” His paintings have been exhibited nationwide and can be found in numerous private and corporate collections including those of Coca-Cola, Turner Broadcasting, BellSouth and Wachovia Bank.
Now, the impressionist has been named the 2017 Artist of Distinction by the Quinlan Visual Arts Center.
Quinlan Executive Director Amanda McClure says Geoffrey Johnson has been “a very popular artist at the Quinlan from early on in his professional career” when he lived in Atlanta. “After moving on and shooting to ‘art stardom,’ showing his work in other parts of the country, it is exciting to welcome him back.”
We’ve been asking Geoffrey to come back for years, this is the first time the stars aligned,” says McClure.
He will be honored at the annual gala March 4. HOME asked Geoffrey a few questions about his style and career.
Question: How do you feel about being the featured artist at this year’s Gala?
Answer: Very honored. The Quinlan was paramount in helping me early on in my career. They were very supportive and gave me lots of opportunities to show my work. I’m indebted to them and it’s an honor to be invited back after so many years.
Q: To you, what does it mean to achieve success as an artist? At what point did you realize you had become a successful artist?
A: I would say two-part answer: to be able to be true to your own creative process, meaning make art that’s true to what you want to make, that satisfies yourself if that’s possible. And to be able to sell that work and have it accepted in the marketplace.
Q: How would you describe your painting technique?
A: As far as painting technique, mine is a classical approach. Meaning I start out staining the entire canvas a certain tone and work from there, usually from dark to light. It’s a technique that’s been used since before the Renaissance.
Q: What attracts you to the style and imagery of your work?
A: I like high contrast pictures. Anything high contrast: photography, painting, anything visual.
Q: What was the hardest criticism you ever had to take about your work?
A: In my first painting class at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, upon showing my professor a watercolor I was working on, a medium I had labored over for years to try and manage, my professor said, “That’s nice. You know you can do that. Throw that away and see what else you can do. Get some oil paint.” At the time a hard thing to hear but proved to be the best advice I was ever given. It force me out of my comfort zone, which is so important, especially for a young artist or any artist really.
Q: Tell me about how you have progressed artistically from your time in college to now.
A: I’ve become more relaxed, not as afraid to get out of the comfort zone. I went from realistic to more impressionistic, looser approach to painting.
Q: Walk me through your process in the studio, start to finish on a piece.
A: I start out quickly, an initial idea or thought, then put it aside, start another one. Typically I have a lot of work going or started at one time in the studio. My biggest struggle in creating work is once I start a painting, set it aside, in many ways it’s over for me. I’m looking forward to the next thing. So to go back and finish work is somewhat of a challenge for me because then it becomes work.
Q: Is there somewhere you have not shown your work that would be a capstone?
A: I think a major museum show would be a capstone. A show at the Southern Utah Museum of Art is in the works, that’s something I’m excited about.
McClure anticipates the gala tickets will sell out soon. “The event has long been a popular social event, however in recent years, the artist guest of honor distinction and our preview catalog and events leading up to the event are setting it apart as an event that is popular with serious art collectors.”
View more of Geoffrey’s works at www.hubertgallery.com or www.principlegallery.com.