August 21, 2014 in Washington Voices

The Verve: Imaginative works in many mediums

 
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Brad Johnson, a school custodian by trade, stands with many of his works at his apartment in Spokane on Wednesday. He says his work is best described as abstract expressionism, though he hides motifs and representational imagery in his pieces.
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Brad Johnson’s thoughts go a mile a minute and his respite is three drawing tables on which he elaborately doodles in his apartment in the West Central neighborhood.

“I live for art,” he said, “I’m addicted to it.”

Johnson grew up in Creston, Washington, where, in the first grade, he was dubbed “the artist.” After that, through high school, he was always called on to make art for posters and events.

He went on to Eastern Washington University with aspirations of being an artist but decided in his sophomore year to follow a seemingly more lucrative path as a teacher. He quit before graduating to work full-time at odd jobs and then at a sawmill, where he stayed for 20 years.

Still, he never stopped making art.

“I never argue the validity or the merits of my artwork,” he said. “I am what I am; an artist by no accreditation but my own.”

His style is a mix of surrealism, fantasy and abstract expressionism and his mediums include found objects like driftwood for his sculptures and pen and ink, markers, colored pencils, chalk and spray paint for his imaginative drawings. “I use all and every medium,” he said. The final product appears mechanical yet organic, chaotic yet filled with reason.

Johnson admits his perception is unusual, making it hard for a viewer to interpret his work.

“The acceptance I strive for is not from the public but from me,” he said. “I’m simply interpreting the world around me in an unusual way.”

Johnson rarely titles his work. “Naming a piece would suggest something to look for within it,” he said. In the past, he has used random dates as titles with no relevance to anything, hoping that a viewer will find their own meaning in his work.

Now, he paints and draws every day, releasing his thoughts on heavy paper, wood or canvas. Lately, he has been creating family crests which entails the initials of family members that intertwine and swirl into images of things relevant to the family. “I also provide a key; a map that shows where and what the images are so they know where to look,” he said.

He has never had an art show but is hoping to in the future. Until then, he will keep producing works that are figments of his inner world and a place where he takes a break from his mile-a-minute travels.


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