One of my favourite artists is US artist Michael Johnson, who paints in the naive / folk style and whose appealing and cheerful studies of animals have become increasingly popular, especially among animal lovers.
He grew up in a creative family and his mother was an artist in stained glass.
Michael specializes in water colours, and has painted ever since the very day after he left school in 1993. He simply chose to become an artist at all costs and has never looked back.
He began with colourful abstracts. When he had completed twenty-four of these he decided to paint cats. His liberal use of colour give his paintings a vibrancy and a warm, optimistic quality.
He began using multiple dots in his painting (pointillism) and a relative kindly took him to see a painting by the pointillist artist Seurat. He spent a long while just observing this particular painting. This is his usual technique as it allows him to focus on the details of a particular work rather than coming home with sensory overload!
Michael relates extremely well to animals and made friends with a feral cat which no one else can approach for fear of being assaulted by ferocious claws. He has a special bond with all types of animals. A relative noticed a similarity between his work and that of the folk artist Edward Hicks.
His qualities of innocence, kindness and caring can clearly be sensed in his paintings, in which all animals are friends and get along with one another. Never do you see any tension between the representatives of the dog and cat kingdoms, or any other species. Their sheer joy of living leaps from the pages.
Up until 1996 most of his animals are seen at rest, but since that point he begun to show them in joyful motion, running and jumping across the pages of his work. He also began to incorporate flowers into his work, adding to the vibrant mix of colour.
Recently he began to paint horses and he visits the Watertower Park in Chicago to observe the carriage horses there. He watches horse racing on TV, especially the Kentucky Derby, observing the actions of the horses and transferring the excitement of the track to his paintings.
His art is constantly evolving and developing, as he experiments with new techniques, keeping his work fresh and exciting as he continues to observe the world around him.
Painted for the Tucson Buddy Walk, in aid of research into Down’s Syndrome
Indeed there are few people hard hearted enough to not want at least one of Michael Johnson’s delightful paintings on their wall, if they could. They have the potential to cheer the most depressed spirit.
Michael Johnson at work