The briefest look at Johnson’s sports illustrations reveals their tremendous energy: figures thrusting through the air, their colors melding into dashing movements that define player’s shapes. Commissioned by the Adams Mark Hotel, Johnson did twenty (5’X5’) paintings, featuring the greatest athletes of Texas now featured in two of their hotels.
A glance in another direction, Johnson’s fine art painting exhibits life’s quiet moments. A thoughtful use of light and broken brushstrokes defines a reflective mood. Women posed in idyllic situations; quiet scenes of nature with greenery abounding in solitude suggested background to pose subjects. He captures youth in all their hope, beauty, and anticipated yearning in their faces. Oprah Winfrey purchased one of Johnson’s originals, Haven, which he promised her he would never publish in print form.
The third face of Johnson’s work is expressed through his sense of humor and opinion. For twenty five years Johnson was the Editorial Sports cartoonist for The Boston Globe. He went on to draw for The National Sports Daily and currently works for ESPN.com’s Quickie Page.
The ability to take an idea or story to its visual conclusion is a very strong part of Johnson’s portfolio. As a Fine Artist, Illustrator or Cartoonist, Johnson relies on his sense of beauty, opinion or humor to define his art .
These three aspects of Johnson’s work give a glimpse of his most remarkable personal traits: energy, optimism and laughter.
Over the course of his career Johnson developed an expansive scope. He has illustrated several books: The Jesse Owens Story, The Wilt Chamberlain Story, The Secret to Freedom, Singing with Momma Lou, Daisy and the Doll, Knoxville Tennessee, When Joe Louis Won the Title, The Train, If you traveled the Underground Railroad, Grandpa’s Legacy and Alec’s Primer. His work has appeared in Fortune magazine, Sports Illustrated and American Visions. The Cosby Show, The Fresh Prince of Belair and NBC’s Generations displayed many of his prints on their sets.
He’s produced work for The National Center of Afro American Artists, Hallmark cards, Pepsi Cola, Farmer’s Almanac, 20 paintings for Bridgewater State College Hall of Black Achievers, Sporting News and The National Football League and a member of The Society of Illustrators, New York.