Hitting the Target
Years ago while photographing a completed piece in preparation for a one-man show, Layne Johnson could only look on in horror as the painting slipped, falling forward in slow motion. “I was into archery back then, so naturally it fell and impaled itself on an arrow. I was stunned.” Once he recovered from the shock, Layne trimmed off the damage, adjusted the composition and re-stretched the painting. It sold at the show.
A very focused and driven artist, Layne set his sights on making art his career early in life and squarely hit the bullseye. You’ll find him painting on nearly a daily basis though he does “try to take weekends off”. Inspired by the painters of the Hudson River School, Layne’s work is described as a blend of Luminism, Classical Realism with the added touch of American Impressionism. Having transitioned from an earlier hyper-realistic style, his looser painting technique is still quite detailed and depicts light in the landscape skillfully. His primary goal is to capture the beauty and serenity of a particular location to create a “sense of place” and an emotional connection to it. He wants the viewer to be reminded to slow down, take a breath and appreciate the beauty that’s right in front of them.
“I think there’s almost always a story. I’ve painted over 20 books for children so I have a certain perspective on this. In a book, you have the luxury to depict a story over various paintings on numerous pages. But with a single painting, you have to capture the essence of a moment. Sometimes implying what’s happened before, what’s just happened or what’s about to happen. I think that’s an exciting challenge!”
Layne’s first exposure to art was watching his mother work on paint-by-numbers sets. One of which he still owns. Though landscapes have always appealed to him, growing up he painted animals and portraits as well as the “Battle of Midway” on his bedroom wall. Though his parents encouraged his artistic efforts, they didn’t originally consider it a career path. The starving artist scenario playing out in their minds. A friend’s mother taught painting and instilled the basics.
“I didn’t find out until much later that my father, who worked at a refinery, asked her what kind of a realistic future in art I could possibly have.
His only context was seeing someone drawing caricatures at a fair. She told him that NASA had people that painted art for them. He asked no more questions after that and supported my journey in art.”
Layne prefers to paint in oils, though he has extensive experience in watercolor and acrylics. He found himself trying to recreate the same effects of oils with the other media, so returned to his original love and never looked back. Layne always carries a camera to take pictures of things that inspire him. Trips to the Texas Hill Country are a prime source of that inspiration. “Before I start painting a scene, I gather images I’ve taken of the location and compose it. I think it’s important to capture the essence of my experience there.” Occasionally, plein air paintings will become studies for larger works, but Layne typically works in his studio. He loves to listen to movie soundtracks or audio books when working. Harry Potter novels are a particular favorite. He even owns 5 hens named after those characters.
“I’ve had many studios over the years. From a small spare bedroom, to the dream studio I have now. I designed and built this one when we moved to the country a few years ago. It’s 24’x24’ with a 19’ peaked ceiling. The main feature of the north wall is a 13’ high window. I love how my big window fills my studio with light.
Light is so important to creating good paintings. And this space gives me plenty of room to work on large canvases.”
For aspiring artists, Layne has this advice. “Go for it. It’s quite a journey, but I’d tell them it’s “their” journey. Enjoy the path. Practice, patience and time are the ingredients needed. There is no short cut.” In addition to the joy he gets from creating works of art, Layne has discovered another benefit that sharing his vision has brought him, his impact on others.
“I’ve had many, many responses through social media from people worldwide, thanking me for inspiring them to get back to painting and art. Or helping them remember special places and special times. Or simply opening their eyes to everyday beauty.”
And this is precisely how he’d like to be remembered, “As someone who felt deeply and was able to share that with others through art.”
Surrounded by the landscape he loves, Layne’s studio, home and mini-farm that he shares with his wife, Sondra, are located in the woodlands of east Texas. He’s a member of the Oil Painters of America, American Impressionist Society, National Oil and Acrylic Painters’ Society and Artists of Texas. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Houston. His work hangs in private and corporate collections. Included among his numerous accolades are awards from PleinAir Salon and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum.