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12 Questions: Emmett Johns

1. What are 1-3 books that have influenced your life?

In my first semester ( January 1960 ) at the American Academy of Art in Chicago, the life drawing instructor recommended to me that I read the ART SPIRIT by Robert Henri. That book was like a bible to me all through the 60's and 70's. In the late 60's I discovered J. Krishnamurti, along with Will Durant's the STORY OF PHILSOPHY. Those three books laid down the foundation for my life.

2. What are you currently working on?

I alternate between abstraction and landscapes. In the last two years I've been working with cold wax abstracts. Normally I paint the abstracts in acrylics. The cold wax process is more methodical, which is a lot different than the spontaneity of acrylics.

I draw in my journals daily.

3. If you could have any painter, living or dead paint your portrait who would it be and why?

I've been a fan of Nicolai Fechin for well over fifty years. We live in New Mexico so I saw his paintings in Taos often. How about a portrait by Van Gogh great brush work and very colorful. Another favorite of mine is Lucian Freud but he takes way too long to create a work of art. Just finished reading The Man With A Blue Scarf. That is a wonderful book of an author sitting for over six months for Freud to paint him.

4. What is the most indispensable item in your studio/workspace? What is your studio like? Could share an image?

My easels, two of them I designed and built myself. My sound equipment is indispensable. I listen to jazz and classical.

My studio is on the top of our garage. It has a high cathedral ceiling with a 8 x 7 foot north window. It has wonderful view of the Sandia Mountains, plus it over looks a the play ground of a grade school right across the street.

5. When you feel overwhelmed or uninspired what do you do? What do you do to get out of a funk? What questions do you ask your self?

I say to my self, what would Jim Dine do in this situation? He will work on a paint-

ing (like a dog chewing on bone) until he makes a work of art of it. A lot of times I'll start a second canvas of the same subject and compete one angainst the other. One of the two will emerge as the final painting. A quick trip to SantaFe to tour my favorite galleries is always a way for me to get recharged.

5. Who/what influences your art?

I am continuously influenced by the works of other artists, both contempory and the old masters. It's a never ending learning process and I love every minute of it. The title of a book of my ink drawings is ' DAMN IT'S FUN BEING AN ARTIST'. Yes, I understand and know it's also a serious responsibility.

Living next to that incredible mountain and witnessing on a daily basis the beauty and power of it is truly awe inspiring.

6. Do you collect anything?

My wife says I collect easels. I do have more than I need. I have boxes of tape recordings. Two years of Prairie Home Companion, a lot of jazz and some classical.

I'll never listen them all, but from time to time I'll pick one out randomly and never be disappointed. We have a wonderful collection of paintings and drawings by our artist friends through the years.

7. What words of advise would you give to your younger self?

Get involved more, entering shows on a consistent basis. I did not approach my art life as a business. I was naive and thought producing a quality body of work was all I had to do. Subsequently I never established reputation and credibility.

8. In the last five years what new belief, or habit has most improved your life or studio practice?

For the last fifty years I've studied a wide variety thought systems beginning with Krishnamurti and on through Thomas Merton. I just finished THE PATH which an study of the ancient Chinese masters. I was already a little familiar with in my reading the Merton material. I always remember what Quincy Jones said, “I want to grow until I go”

12. Share an inspiring image:

The view from my studio of the Sandia Mountains.


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