Mary Johnston - Infinite Possibilities

July 29, 2019

Mary Johnston - Infinite Possibilities

"This natural world we live in is more beautiful and mysterious then we will ever know..."

Effervescent and atmospheric panels that take the viewer to dreamlike landscapes or rich atmospheric skies: the originals of Mary Johnston can be arranges in infinite ways for a dazzling range of design possibilities...

Read on for our exclusive interview with this sunny and spirited artist...

Effervescent and atmospheric panels that take the viewer to dreamlike landscapes or rich atmospheric skies: the originals of Mary Johnston can be arranges in infinite ways for a dazzling range of design possibilities...

Read on for our exclusive interview with this sunny and spirited artist...

How does the great outdoors influence your work?

My cabin in NW Wisconsin is a beautiful place in the Chequamegon-Nicollete National Forest. It is just a little house (850 square feet) but with a beautiful view of the lake. The water is crystal clear. I love to get creative time there when I can. The deck overlooking the lake becomes my 'summer studio'.

I grew up an hour drive away from the cabin in the city of Duluth, Minnesota. Duluth has a large expansive view of Lake Superior as the whole city is on the side of a hill. My dad still lives there. Between being in the forest and going to hang out by Lake Superior there is so much to work with!!

Lake Superior from Duluth - photo by Pete Markham

You have been influenced by art from an early age – what art galleries influenced you in particular?

The Tweed Museum when I was a kid was filled with work that was relevant to the 'time'. Lots of '60's and '70's period work. Modern painting, sculpture and ceramics. Also loved the 'Mountie' paintings (although they have about nothing to do with my creativity). You should look them up!

My dad grew up in Regina, Saskatchewan and we would go up to Canada and visit my grandparents and other family every summer. The images from those rides across the endless prairie are still part of my creative nature today. Strangely enough though, I used to draw all the time when I was a kid. Drawings of big old houses were a favorite. I did lots of 'lettering' teaching myself Calligraphy and Old English. The nature of doing an abstract work is something I am still developing.

8 years ago when I started making the 12" x 12"s my intention was that people could put together their own groupings! I thought that the panels would look good as 'squares' in groups of 4 or 9 etc.
I've now sold them in about every configuration! Straight lines, groups of three etc... People also buy just one for a huge pop of color in a small space. The possibilities are endless...

You’ve developed a very distinctive style of tree silhouettes against almost abstract sky/field backgrounds. How did this beautiful technique evolve?

The 'Trees' and 'Tangled' works developed over a long period of time. I started out selling watercolor works when I was a young mom in my early 30's. Loved making trees and grass etc. using the the script liner brushes. We lived in New Jersey at the time about 35 miles from New York City. Our house sat at the edge of a ridge and there were tall forest trees starting from the edge of the ridge and down. If you take a good look into a forest when there are not leaves on the trees it just looks like a big tangle of branches. We had a view SW to the next set of hills and down into the valley when the leaves were not present. Sometimes the sunsets were so colorful and the hills through the trees and the colors in the sky were amazing. I started off doing these kinds of scenes much more realistic but they evolved in the stylistic works I do today.

What is the story behind your distinctive media such as Birch Panels?

I love the look of the raw birch. Where I grew up in Minnesota the woods were filled with birch. Birch furniture was popular too. There were lots and lots of people of Scandinavian descent in Duluth and the area and I think the look of the natural birch appeals to me because of that background and the nature of where I am from.

I do some really large pieces through the year and it is really hard to do really large work on wood panel. They become really, really heavy. The largest one I have ever done on wood was 48" x 96" for a law firm office in Chicago and it took two of us to carry it. Canvas is so flexible as I can create in any size. I actually love the process of stretching the fabric over the frame and doing the coats of gesso. I learned long ago that the quality of the work from the base up is truly important to a good piece. Canvas does feel somewhat different under my brush than the wood panels do. The works gain a softer quality. Some smaller pieces I use pre-made fine Belgian linen canvas and those are a luxury for the brush!

Once these conditions are met: the works are painstakingly recorded in our state-of-the-art database system (including advanced location tracking) and extensively photographed by Lucy and the image processing team. With extensive ‘macro’ detail shots utilising the Canon EOS 5DS camera: these shots not only form the basis for internet and print promotions: but form a visual record of the work at ultra-high resolution.

Finally; the works that aren’t immediately selected for the gallery walls (or better still, immediately dispatched to a lucky collector) are archived in our temperature controlled ‘vault’. Stored upright, fully surrounded in custom high-impact expanded rubber: the securely stored paintings are routinely checked and rotated onto gallery displays to ensure they remain in mint condition.






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