Mark Johnson always found it amazing that lines could flow on paper, but it was frustrating that what he saw in his head was so different from what went on paper.
“I always liked to have stories running in my drawings. And my drawings were just like regular drawings, nothing exceptional. It’s been a slow process where I practised and practised and am now able to draw like I draw now.”
Myth Becomes Dream|
These are related works in that they both come from thinking about the drowned lands that sank beneath the waves during the protracted end of the last Ice Age.
He always had an imagination and believed in putting things down the way he was seeing them.
“I was willing to start with something that looked clumsy to begin with, but had the determination to work on it to make it better.”
Around the same time that his drawings got noticed in high school, his parents observed him watching a play with one eye covered. They took him to the doctor and found out that he was near-sighted in one eye and far-sighted in the other: he had anisometropia. This meant that his vision couldn’t combine images from both eyes to present a singular image with depth.
“At that time, when I started wearing my glasses, I was making art using watercolours that would border on bizarre kids’ stuff, animals, and creatures. I thought they all looked kind of cool. I would spend hours sitting down and reading books, similarly, I would spend hours perfecting the art.”
After college, he took off a year to travel out west and loved it, but his yearning for Ontario lured him back to the province.
“And when my factory job became draining and dehumanizing, I decided to turn back to art. So while still doing shift work at the factory, I started taking evening classes in art and indulged myself as much as I could.”
He only turned to art full-time when he met his second wife and moved to Toronto. With her support and encouragement, he figured out how to devote more time to his art.
Mark draws a lot from free association. And it becomes a sort-of-story.
“Because if I draw two different creatures in a painting, I have to bring them together. So what I do is, I lean on storytelling and create an image that projects a whole backstory that supports it and can also go forward from it.”
He finds drawing figures realistically a very hard thing to do. But he gives it his damndest best.
“I work from my own imagination because the camera doesn’t do justice to the scene, and it can produce distortions or take away from the scene as well.”
Sometimes the concept for his artwork is an intellectual device. And then there are flashes of images of events happening around him at the time that will capture his imagination. To Mark, womanhood and the female form is an exceptionally potent, flexible, and valuable tool to access. It’s an exceptionally powerful, universal form to look at.
“I don’t want to do it only because it’s considered cool, but what is the meaning in it? What would people find relevant in it? And that would concern me. I see it sometimes when people are playing with their images, and placing one over the other and distorting it, they may be doing it for some other reasons but, for me, that’s the way I actually see things.”