Friday, November 19, 2010

Who is Music and Car Affecionado, Aaron Johnson?

As refined as a seasoned pro, as fresh as a rookie, artist Aaron Johnson has stepped into the arena with his meticulous portraits and chrome soaked classic automobiles. Born and based in Northern California, Aaron was raised on a steady diet of Rock and Roll and car exhaust. From grade school desktops to prepared canvas he found drawing gave him an outlet for his lack of guitar skills. Inspired by the sounds and visuals of Rock music Aaron became quite adept at rendering his heroes likenesses. It soon became a consuming passion.

As an adult, seeking artistic bearing, Aaron enrolled at Sacramento City College where he made the Deans List earning a scholarship to California College of the Arts in San Francisco. There, he studied illustration under Barron Storey, Dugald Stermer and Randy Chavez. The lessons learned stretched beyond the manipulation of mediums. Firming his understanding of the relation of art to the world, Aaron explored various subject matter, but maintained a fondness for portraiture. Using his music collection as inspiration, Aaron's art was able to come full circle when he decided to focus on portraying his heroes again.

Aaron's current endeavor is to reach the masses, to share his work with art, music and classic car enthusiasts. This has led to exhibitions at select venues and galleries in the Northern California region and continues to branch out into other states. "For me, creating art is sort of an obsession, when I'm working a piece, pushing and pulling layers of colors, sharpening detail, I'm acutely focused and at my happiest."

John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Cash and Rooney

When did you know you wanted to paint – to create art?

All my life, or as far back as I can remember. It's something I've always done in some fashion, I can vividly recall getting into trouble for drawing on my desk in the fourth grade. I knew I must be okay at it because Mr Riddle didn't make me erase it and the janitor cleaned around it. I wish I could remember what the image was. It wasn't until later in life that I started to paint full time, as a career.

Does anyone else in your family create art?

Not fine art, but I was raised with lots of crafting going on, from my Dad's woodworking and blueprinting to my Grandmother and Aunt's felt crafts and textile work. My cousin is a talented drummer.

What do you want people to like most in your paintings?

The subject matter first mixed with the emotion it draws out from them, then the attention to detail and color. I want the viewer to see more than just their favorite star or classic car. And I hope the care in process and execution shows through.

Who was your strongest influence in painting?

Because you can be influenced in many ways no one person immediately comes to mind. The art faculty at Sacramento City College, Fred Dalkey, the way he layers pastel color in order and how he kept his materials straight. I always remember his commitment to the process of painting and drawing.

Although our styles are very different, Barron Storey probably taught me the mos

t about painting. "Paint what you see," was a saying he would use when a student was stuck on a spot in a painting, "I can't paint horses," I'd say. He'd say, "Look closer in and paint what you see.... it's just shapes and lines."

Anybody familiar with Barron knows how much he draws -- no one draws more, no one. He is never without a sketchbook.

(Editors Note: Aaron went on to say, "My Sister was one of my biggest supporters, and kept me painting early on. I would go on about that, but afraid it's too heavy for a light interview and not really an answer to the question.")

If you didn’t paint for a living, what other profession would you like to have?

I've heard that 80 percent of people with a fallback career, fall back. I don't really know. Too late to learn how to play the guitar and become a rock star, and while I have a good jump-shot, I don't think the Kings will be calling anytime soon.

If I could go back to school, I'd learn sound engineering.

Besides the act of painting, do you need art in your life?

Yes, everyone does. Music helps transition your mind where it needs to be. I especially look to music when looking for motivation or to sooth nerves before I paint.

What sort of art is on your walls at home?

I use walls as storage for my old paintings for the most part -- all the ones I like, old music albums that I've loved and collected, and sketches of old cars. I think art comes through many mediums. I I do have an authentic Salvador Dali print prominently placed -- I like his lightheartedness which masks the serious nature below. He was a tremendous artist, and his vaudeville style, was just to mask his recluse side. It's hard for me, too, to be in public. And I'm a little uncomfortable getting praise. Sometimes at an American Visions Gallery show, I'll feel the owner, Giovanna Stark pushing me out into what she calls "my crowd of admirers." It's tough for me.

We heard you had the opportunity to present Hollywood Legend Mickey Rooney a beautifully framed portrait, and it brought him to tears. Why was he so moved? Were you surprised at his reaction?

I was completely surprised, but his wife Jan sort of explained to me that he when he looked at it, he could see his whimsical side and he could see himself as a likable guy. I guess we don't know how others see us, and he must have thought I caught something that he hopes others see.

The Sacramento Bee loves your work. Twice in the past year, they've printed full-color images in the Friday TICKET. I don't think I've seen that happen before. What's it feel like to pick up a newspaper and see your art?

Every artist wants people to see their work. So, you know, I let out a shout and pump my fist. Then doubt sets in and I wonder if it's just because I was a student of Fred Dalkey's and his wife Virginia is the BEE art critic. Then I wonder if I've done my best work and this is it. Then I sort of hear my grandmother and my sister's voices saying, "All right!"

What made you decide to move on before finishing college?

This isn't a something I usually reveal. I was in my last semester at the College of Arts and Crafts, commuting from Sacramento to the Bay Area, when my grandmother suffered a stroke. She had aphasia and that was it, she was walker bound and couldn't speak, so I became her caregiver and speech therapist, working with the doctors and other family members. She was my mother growing up, so it was a strange role reversal. That was 2005. She adjusted to her speech and was healthy until having issues and passing away at home last year. I'm thankful I had the time with her. It had been a rough period also considering we'd lost my nephew and my sister in the same timeframe. Now I'm learning how to paint full time for real. Avoiding distractions is the hardest part.