Hey Colin, thanks for doing this with me. I really like your most recent style of illustrations. Are you doing more of that work lately?
Some. The commissioned work has been close to 50/50 in terms of jobs commissioned in the old style versus commissions in the new style.
Do clients specify which style they'd like you to work in?
Yes. Usually they've figured that out before they call. Although, I had one client not too long ago who didn't have a preference either way because he liked both styles. So he left it up to me which is pretty cool.
How is business these days? Has the economy influenced the amount of work you're getting?
Yeah, it's definitely a tougher job market in the post 9/11 world. I've had to work a lot harder to get the jobs, plus I just moved not too long ago from Baltimore to the Minneapolis area. I think some jobs were lost as a result of the move.
Do you enjoy what you're doing Colin?
I enjoy the work (Painting!). The business aspect can be a pain in the ass at times especially when it keeps me from the painting.
How do you get yourself in the mood to paint?
Good question. Some days it isn't easy because it takes a lot of dedication, time and just plain hard work to be good at this discipline. A part of getting myself in the mood (or right frame of mind) comes from the inspiration of others. Not just painters. Sometimes sculptors, film directors, musicians, basically other creative sorts. Another part comes from desire to see a certain vision through to the end and to have a finished piece of art that I can hopefully be proud of. And I suppose a final part comes from fear of failure. Meaning that I sometimes procrastinate on a project (usually my own paintings, not so much on commissioned pieces perhaps because the client's deadline motivates me to complete the project on time) to a point where it worries me and therefore I just start working. This is not necessarily the best way to get started since my motivation comes from fear and not creativity but at least it gives me a starting point.
If you could be doing anything you wanted, what would that be?
Probably to be a film director. I love movies. I've contemplated going back to school for film on occasion (usually when I'm having a slow week!). Anyone who wants to can e-mail me for my list of favorite films. The list has become fairly extensive!
It would also be nice to be a professional golfer but you have to have the skill. That's why I'm a illustrator/painter.
Colin, is there a great divide between illustrators and painters? Or do you all just get along?
This is a tough question. I'm sure you could ask this of an unlimited number of different painters and illustrators and never get the same answer twice. But I'll try to answer it the best way I can.
Certainly in this day and age many illustrators are also painters. Meaning, I suppose, that as illustrators they work on commissioned commercial projects and as painters they do their own work for the purpose of gallery sale or exhibition. In my opinion the divide in these two worlds today comes from the top of the painting world. Meaning that the critics at the top of the fine arts/gallery scene still make distinctions about who they're willing to accept into their "art society" and who they're not. Or more importantly who should be counted in the context of modern art history and who should not.
This distinction still leaves many great artists (whether they be painters, illustrators, outsider artists, etc.) out of the loop in the higher levels of the fine arts world. Basically, many of the artists excluded are included here in your interview section (Mark Ryden, Shag, Gary Baseman, etc.) or in the pages of magazines focusing on art outside the mainstream such as Juxtapoz.
Hopefully, it will only be a matter of time before mainstream art critics give this art coming from outside the mainstream it's due in an art history context. Excluding the elitist critics and painters in the fine arts world that may hold the same view as the elitist critics the rest of us don't need to be told that artists like Ryden, Joe Coleman, Chris Mars, The Clayton Brothers, etc. are great artists. We already know it!
Besides, some of the aforementioned artists have already had pieces excepted into permanent collections of certain high profile art museums. Chris Mars for example had one of his pieces purchased by The Minneapolis Institute of the Arts here in Minnesota. The Clayton Brothers have shown their work with artists generally considered to be in the fine art mainstream. Some of this is already beginning to change.
So, the difference may not be so much between painters and illustrators as it is between painters/illustrators and the elitist critics that have the power/ability to give these artists the proper due and place that they deserve in the context of history and the modern art world.
Any big plans for 2004?
Well, I'm currently working on a series of 100 paintings which combine both of my styles. So that's keeping me really busy at present. The paintings are primarily for gallery shows. All will hopefully appear on my web-site at some point before the end of the year. Although, some examples of this type of work appear in conjunction w/ this interview.
Yup, here they are. Hey, thanks again Colin, you're a peach!
All artwork © Colin Johnson