We’re thrilled to host the work of artist Johnie Thornton in this year’s ‘Muses of Mount Helikon’ exhibit. Johnie paints sleek, hyperrealistic portraits always incorporating some element of rich, draping texture. His works all have dark undertones, made more clear through titles commenting on such subjects as societal beauty standards, misogyny, structural racism, and individual insecurities. Johnie’s work has been a big hit at Helikon since his participation in ‘Mythos’ earlier this year, and it’s clear that the artist has been working non-stop and honing in on the sleek yet dark aesthetic that initially drew us to his work. We talked to Johnie about his studio practice and how he got to where he is now as a full-time artist.
1. Did you aspire to be an artist, or did you fall in love with making art?
Kind of both, I was enthralled with my uncle’s artwork growing up and have always made art myself. It was never presented as an option for me to make a career of art, but I just made it a reality on my own with hard work.
2. Do you have a “day job” outside of your art?
3. What would you tell your younger self when you were first embarking on your artistic career?
Hang on, work your ass off, it’s gonna get really really awesome!!!
4. How long do you usually take to complete a piece? Do you work on multiple pieces simultaneously?
I usually have between 3-5 paintings going at a time. Some of my paintings take a month, some take a week. I like to be able to jump back and forth, rather than being stuck on one piece I may be frustrated with or struggling on– it’s nice to take a break but still be productive on other works.
5. What’s the most indispensable item in your studio?
My favorite brush, it has about five bristles left, but it is used in every painting I make.
6. Do you listen to music/audio while you work or do you prefer to work in silence? Any bands or albums you’ve been enthralled by lately?
7. Yes, music or books on tape, or NPR. Lately I have been listening to OHGr (The lead singer of Skinny Puppy solo project) a ton. It is very hypnotic and I get lost in the music and out of my head while I paint.
8. Where do you currently live and how did you come to reside there?
Palm Springs. I was living in LA for many years, and would come to Palm Springs for weekend getaways, and eventually one of my getaways just didn’t end. I kept my studio in LA for a year and then finally just realized that I live here now!
9. What is something most people don’t know about you?
My elbows and knees naturally hyper-extend. It looks creepy and kinda cool to see them bend backwards, but in the long run it’s probably not a good thing for my body! Also, I secretly listen to Sia when nobody is around… don’t tell anyone!!!! Lol.
Thank you to Johnie for participating in our interview. You can see two of his works in ‘Muses of Mount Helikon IV,’ on view through December 10, 2016. For more information about Johnie visit www.f16life.com. For more information on Helikon Gallery and Studios visit www.helikongallery.com.