– Harrison Johnson –
Harrison, who or what made you become an illustrator?
I’ve just enjoyed drawing as long as I can remember.
I always knew that in some way art would be how I would make my way so I was able to focus on it from a relatively early age.
I studied graphic design in college so that gave me a whole other perspective and set of tools for approaching creative work.
I wouldn’t just call myself just an illustrator though because I like doing a little bit of everything. A lot of my work is illustration, but I am also a graphic designer and mixed media artist. I used to think I had to pursue just one of those things but each one of them informs the next. I don’t think I’d be a good designer without an artistic back ground and knowing about the principles of design and all the corresponding tools have helped me develop every other part of my creative mind.
How did you find your style? Has it changed over time? And how you define it today?
Thats actually kind of a loaded question for me.
I could have a philosophical talk about the word style all day. I think everybody has a style and if they are true to it then it permeates into all aspects of their life. When we start consciously working towards achieving a certain style, it fades away and becomes fake.
I think it has to work itself out subconsciously.
Artistically speaking, I don’t think I could say that I “found my style” so much as I am constantly working and learning what feels good while it is being created and what I respond to when I step back for perspective.
I think I’ve learned about style and its perception more from my lifelong obsession with freestyle skiing than I have from any book or class from art school.
What are your favorite subjects?
Lately my favorite subjects have been motorcycles and the natural world.
I find the two can juxtapose each other in really cool ways. So much of the culture and imagery around motorcycling is all about tough guy appearances and giving the middle finger to the world, but that couldn’t be farther from what bikes represent to me.
Motorcycles have brought a lot of beauty into my life; riding through incredible landscapes, fostering relationships with new, interesting people and providing me with a sense of self reliance and adventure.
I guess drawing things like choppers and all kinds of plants and flowers is a way that I express that and offer a new perspective on what bikes can mean to someone.
Please briefly explain the artistic process, the techniques and mediums you use.
All of the art and design I create is rooted in drawing. No matter what the project is, I always start with loose sketching to work out as much of the composition as possible.
Sketches get revised into tighter drawings with bold, organic lines that then get scanned and brought onto a digital platform. From there it becomes about experimenting with color pallets, textures and layering. Sometimes that will be the end of a project but I really like to screen print pieces when possible in order to bring those revised drawings back into a physical object.
What’s the most enjoyable part of your work and what’s most difficult one?
The most enjoyable part of my work is when a concept is already fleshed out a little and I can get into a mind state where I am only focused on the task at hand.
That and seeing my pieces hanging on a wall.
The most difficult thing is definitely being my own toughest critic but I wouldn’t want it any other way. Sometimes I fall to feelings of self doubt just like so many other creative people. It gets really frustrating when you know what your capable of but a concept or technique just aren’t working out.
What’s your relationship with the Two Wheels? Are motorcycles inspiring for your art?
I’d describe my relationship with two wheels as a complete obsession at this time in my life.
I ride almost every day when the weather allows and get a lot of peace and insight from taking my bike on trips when I can.
As someone who has in one way or another, re worked every bike I have owned, I have a lot of appreciation for not only custom builders but the engineers who created the machines in the first place.
Looking at a schematic diagram from a work shop manual can make my head spin thinking about all the details that make everything work together.
Drawing from that is a way for me to learn a bit more about the machines while also bringing my own aesthetic to the conversation, similar to people who build beautiful, one of a kind motorcycles.
You realized the logo for the guys of Vintage Steele, I have already talked about them here, and I love their work, tell me about this collaboration.
Yeah Chris and Josh are some of my favorite people.
Im so lucky to have connected with them. I’m drawn to people who are completely dedicated to whatever it is they are passionate about and those guys are beyond dedicated. Its pretty contagious, so hanging around their shop is super inspiring.
I’ve learned a lot from them, not only in terms of working on bikes but general work ethic and being a positive influence on your community.
They never hesitate to help people out, so with all they give I felt like revising their logo into something that was a little more aesthetically pleasing while successfully communicating their brand was a way I could contribute to their positive energy.
What are your current projects? What are you working on?
Over the summer I collaborated with a long time friend and insanely talented potter Ryan Burch on a line of ceramic house wares and I designed a new T shirt for Vintage Steele that tough guy bikers hopefully will hate.
The thing I am most excited about is that my partner and I just moved into a new space that has some serious at home studio potential. I am setting up a small DIY screen printing studio with one of my best friends so when it starts getting colder around here I can get into a creative space and start working on some projects and images that have been floating around in my head the past few months. I just haven’t had the time and space but that’s about to change.
Any future plans or artistic dreams you can share with us?
Making things, getting in the mountains and on the road, connecting with new people and ideas, and partying with all the people I love.
As I grow as an artist and print maker I’d like to get my work into some galleries, stores, and maybe a motorcycle show?
I’d also like to keep developing as designer and do some more branding projects with other businesses I admire. Artistically like to focus on making larger, physical creations as opposed to the smaller scale stuff I’ve been up to lately.
Being able to step back and look at all your hard work hanging on a wall is one of the most satisfying things for me. Then adding other people to that physical space so you can share a piece of yourself with them takes it to the next level. Chasing that is where I’d like to take my work in the next couple years.