Published on July 25, 2018. Interview by 2018 Summer Intern, Emma Brodeur: Jae Jae Johnson is a Charlottesville-based portrait artist. He participated in the 2018 Artist Exchange and exhibited at Welcome Gallery in April 2018.
Jae Jae is our first featured 2018 artist in our third 7x7x7 Series, which asks 7 questions to 7 Charlottesville artists and published once a week for 7 weeks.
If you had a free afternoon in Charlottesville what would you do or where would you go?
One of three places:
Describe your artistic work in 7 words.
Outstandingly spontaneous inks thrown all around meticulously.
Who or what inspires your current work?
My main inspiration is my uncle Frank Walker's work. I believe we strive to accomplish the same intimacy and relationships with our portraits. I'm also inspired by Kehinde Wiley, every piece of work he does completely blows my mind.
Consider one piece you’re working on right now. Give us a snippet of your routine—from start to finish, what goes into making it?
I usually start and try to perfect my sketches on tracing paper before proceeding to do anything else. After I’m *mostly* happy with my final sketch I transfer it to 3m transparency film so I can clean it up and prep it to then be finally transferred to Bristol paper for the final phase. Sometimes it can be a lengthy process but I’d rather take the long route than to ruin the integrity of my Bristol paper with eraser marks and graphite smudges.
What have you learned about yourself as a person through the experience of making art?
People trust my vision! Growing up I held onto a lot of self doubt because I never believed I was good enough and that nobody loved what I did. I hear the complete opposite now even though I’m still learning about me and my craft.
What would you like to see happen in Charlottesville to better support artists in our community?
I’d love a platform for not only minorities but for less common mediums and styles. A lot of people know nothing about the types of markers that I use and always think that I paint although it’s an honor that they believe that. I would also love to have more of a focus on street art. With the current state of Charlottesville, I really believe it could become a staple in the city if used correctly. The mural on 5th St is a great start.
What is currently on your studio/work desk?
NOTHING! The worst part about using materials that originate in Japan is that if those materials aren’t available and in stock in the US then the next and only step is international shipping. The main color that I use in abundance in all of my sketches is a copic color named N0. That’s my base color which I recently ran out of so I ordered a refill a few weeks ago. Once it comes in I have an anniversary portrait and a design for a sorority portrait.
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.
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.
The opinions expressed in this interview are solely those of the artist and do not necessarily represent the policies or positions of NCAI.