Creating luminosity


Liz Wood

Artist Joel Johnson shows a print of the Masonic Lodge to Lori Van Pelt during the artist's reception at Laura M Gallery Thursday night. The building stood on the corner of Main Avenue and First Street in the post office parking lot.

Joel Johnson, Florida based watercolor painter, remembers his roots growing up in Sinclair and will be exhibiting 30 paintings based on those memories at the Nicolaysen Art Museum and Discovery Center in Casper, Wyo.

Johnson recalls seeing Spanish colonial architecture in Sinclair, skiing in Ryan Park and his father's role maintaining the skating rink. The paintings consist of architectural pieces based on the Spanish influences he saw in his hometown, according to Johnson, with landscapes of the Platte River, Lake Marie and Sheep Rock. Though he now lives in Florida, he has art on display at Laura M Gallery in addition to the upcoming exhibition in Casper.

Johnson was originally educated in oil painting. When he was getting his Master of Fine Arts in painting at Utah State University, he was working in both watercolor and oil but had to choose one medium for his graduate exhibition. "I don't know why I made that decision I was much more prolific in oil at that time than I was in watercolor. I look back and I think the reason I made that decision was because watercolors are really an outgrowth of drawing," Johnson said.

According to the artist statement on Johnson's website, he is influenced by painters such as Edward Hopper, Andrew Wyeth, Anders Zorn, Winslow Homer and John Singer Sargent. "He began his career in watercolor," Johnson says of Swedish painter Anders Zorn. "It was watercolors of Swedish landscapes, water in particular. I thought, 'Wow, he was doing things at a very early age that I like to do now.'" Johnson noticed that when Zorn moved on to oil later in his career, but it was hard to tell the difference between the watercolor and the oil.

"My watercolors are very developed. They're not washed out which watercolor gets kind of a reputation for," Johnson said of his background in oil painting influencing his watercolors. According to Johnson, the development and depth of color in his watercolor paintings comes from a technique called glazing, which requires individual layers of paint. Each layer must dry in between coats, but Johnson says it allows him to create dark levels of color without looking matte or flat. "They're very, very thin. They're more water than paint," Johnson said of his technique, staying true to the tradition of transparent watercolors.

Johnson said he became interested in art while in fourth grade at Sinclair Elementary School after an encounter with the high school art teacher. "He got up to the chalkboard and drew an example of what perspective was like," Johnson said. "We all drew then. In fourth grade, we all stayed in and didn't go out to recess. We were so excited about this magic, and it's magical at that age."

"I kind of go back to Joseph Campbell who wrote 'The Power of Myth' and he talks about any piece of art, whether it's music or literature or a painting ... when a viewer listens or reads or is looking at it ... that it should create within the viewer a state of aesthetic arrest," Johnson said. "So, for a brief moment you are taken out of yourself, you are transported almost to a state of transcendence for a brief moment to be where the artist was."


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