From April 6-27, 2018, New City Arts presents Visage, an exhibition of drawings and paintings by Charlottesville artists Frank Walker and Jae Jae Johnson.
Frank Walker and Jae Jae Johnson are portrait artists born and raised in Charlottesville, Virginia. Connected by family nearly a decade ago, Frank and Jae Jae began a meaningful mentorship that continues to this day. This exhibit, their first together, includes portraits of personal and historical significance.
JAE JAE JOHNSON: Growing up, I worked strictly with graphite. Around 2010, I felt a need to experiment and find a medium that would help me establish my style and give me a sense of confidence as an artist. That’s when I decided to try inks and started meeting with Frank. I am a self-taught artist and a hands-on learner, qualities that, coupled with Frank’s mentorship, helped me flourish.
Frank and I met through my aunt (he’s her husband). Through the years, Frank has showed me his many methods and has shared with me what seems to be an endless knowledge of war and of Charlottesville through the ages. I can honestly say that, if it weren’t for Frank, I probably wouldn’t be drawing today. He instilled a confidence in me that allows me to create and cultivate my own personal style and show it off. Frank is also the reason I started working predominantly in gray tone. When I told him I was struggling with shading and shadows, he wisely told me not to be afraid to get back to basics and do a few pieces in gray tone. One idea led to something else and now I’ve developed a style that I’ve fallen in love with.
FRANK WALKER: Most of my life, I’ve been drawn to drawing people. My first encounter with drawing was sketching characters like Sgt. Rock from DC Comics books with no. 2 pencils (I still keep a stack on my desk today). While I was in school, I drew so many soldiers that my fourth grade teacher asked me if I knew how to draw anything other than men and guns. I was in ninth grade when I drew a still life for the first time. After I was done, I threw it in the trash can. My teacher pulled it out end entered it a state-wide art show and it won. I don’t think I’ve done a still life since.
Whether drawing people of historical significance or commissioned pieces for friends and family, it became a challenge to try to capture someone’s character. I’ve found that everyone has someone important in their lives that they want a portrait of. Unlike a photograph, a piece of artwork is more personal.
When I met Jae Jae, I was immediately drawn to him and impressed by his work, his style, and how he achieved his end result by using the stroke of a pen to make a drawing look like a painting. As his mentor, I get to see an up and coming person that is extremely talented. He comes to the studio to draw and we toss around ideas and talk about technique—this is how the old learns from the young and the young learns from the old. Jae Jae and I have a brotherhood of the art agreement that we do things the we want to do it. We’ve found the freedom of doing what you want to do is the greatest challenge.
MEET THE ARTISTS
FRANK WALKER was born in 1953 in Charlottesville, Virginia. He began his education at the Jefferson Elementary School, moved on to Walker Junior High School, St. Emma Military Academy in Powhatan, Virginia, and graduated from Lane High School. College followed at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia where he majored in Painting and Printmaking. After finishing his education, Frank completed a four-year tour in the U.S. Army.
Mr. Walker returned to Charlottesville from the service and was hired in the Division of Art Photography and Television at the University of Virginia Medical Center as a Medical Artist and Graphic Designer. The Medical Center closed this department, bringing an end to his 17-year career at UVA. Frank opened his own business, WALKER’S INK, and was able to capture much of the medical and graphic work that he had produced at the University. Frank has since retired from commercial work and began his journey back to Fine Art in his Fifth Street space.
Walker’s work has been shown in numerous exhibitions including the McGuffey Art Center and The Jefferson School African American Heritage Gallery. His paintings and drawings can be found in numerous private collections. Mr. Walker also has a passion for military history. He maintains an extensive collection of models and figures covering all wars of American history.
Frank is married to Cecelia Walker. He has three children, nine grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
JAE JAE JOHNSON grew up in the 5th St. SW area of Charlottesville, Virginia. He attended Venable Elementary school where his art instructor and favorite teacher, Ms. Joanne Curry, first pushed him to be the best artist he could be. During elementary school, however, he stopped drawing and didn’t start again until his freshman year at Charlottesville High School. After graduating in 2006, Jae Jae went on to Virginia State University where he majored in studio art.
Jae Jae has numerous pieces in private collections in places ranging from Maryland to Oakland, California. This is his first gallery exhibit.
In Jae Jae’s free time, he enjoys entertaining his two children, Ayden and Chase. They share a love for Batman comics, movies, and art. Jae Jae is also an avid Dallas Cowboys fan and memorabilia collector.
Artwork images courtesy of the artists.
Welcome Gallery Exhibit Opening Receptions are presented by Northwestern Mutual and sponsored by Ting and Keevil & Keevil. This exhibit opening reception is free and open to the public. All ages are welcome.