Gary Johnson Watercolor Painting Master Coupe

GUEST ARTIST: “An Engineer Turned Artist” by Gary Johnson

My name is Gary Johnson and I currently live in Fayetteville, Arkansas, but I have lived in many other places prior to Fayetteville. I grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, graduated with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, and took my first professional engineering position in New Jersey. Then I transferred to Illinois for years.

Next, I moved to Arizona twice with a stop in the Los Angeles area for a while. Then, I moved to Georgia, Washington, and South Carolina. Following retirement from my Director of Engineering position, we moved to Fayetteville, to be near my daughter. Here, I have a home with a studio I designed into it so I can paint regularly between my other passion, golf.

Gary Johnson Watercolor Star Gazing
Star Gazing – Won an Excellence Award at the Watercolor USA Exhibition 2020.

About Myself And My Art

I’m a self taught artist who took up art as a dare, you might say, during the last 10 years of my working career. I always told my wife I could paint her the image she was looking at instead of her buying a piece of art or a print of art that we would hang in the house. She gave me that look of incredulity and then said “in my dreams”. That was it!!

Superior Storm 18x14 Stormy Sky Watercolor
Superior Storm

I’ve always loved the look of watercolor, so that became my art of choice when it came down to doing a painting. I took some initial watercolor classes for about six weeks and a few workshops from great instructors and professional artists.

Dubrovnik Street Corner 15.5x23.5 Watercolor by Gary Johnson
Dubrovnik Street Corner

I’ve continued to paint and became proficient with how water and paint worked together on paper to the point where I finally gained the confidence to show my work and start to enter juried exhibitions. I’m now a signature member of the Watercolor USA Honor Society (WHS), the South Carolina Watermedia Society (SCWS) and the Mid-Southern Watercolorists (MSW). Although I have won over my wife with my ability to paint, it took much longer than I anticipated.

I paint all different kinds of subjects: landscapes, portraits, florals, still life, and mostly non-representational abstract, my favorite along with things mechanical. I mostly like to find old mechanical systems that you no longer see in use; old tractors, steam engines, rusted old cars, etc. It’s an adventure to find these objects and it takes a lot of travel to locate some of them. That’s the fun part when you run across something that tells me “that’s a painting waiting to happen”.

Abandoned Watercolor by Gary Johnson

When it comes to selecting paint, I’ve tried them all and I now use mostly Daniel Smith and M. Graham paint. As for paper, because of my abstract paintings that I do, the only paper that stands up to the abuse I put it through is Arches 140lb cold press. It takes scraping, pulling tape off, and other scrubbing that I do to turn out an abstract.​

I use other papers for landscapes, portraits, etc. I really have come to like Canson Heritage and Artistico Fabriano for these types of paintings. As for brushes, I use a whole variety of manufacturers as long as they are of good quality.

Rocky Shoreline 15x20 Watercolor by Gary Johnson
Rocky Shoreline

In addition to painting, I also teach workshops on the approach I use to develop my nonobjective abstracts as well as teach beginning seniors who want to learn how to paint with watercolor. I also joined a local arts organization serving as the Watercolor Chair in bringing to Fayetteville, Arkansas artists of national acclaim to provide our local talent workshops that I hope they can enjoy and learn more about the medium.

Gary Johnson

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12 thoughts on “GUEST ARTIST: “An Engineer Turned Artist” by Gary Johnson

  1. You’re self-taught!?! No fair, Gary! The painting of the truck looks like a photograph!! Again, no fair! 😊 Your work is phenomenal. Yes, I am a little bitter that the Lord gave you so much talent naturally, but whatever. He and I are going to have a serious talk about this! haha 😊 I kid! I am totally kidding! How wonderful to be so talented! I am just trying to learn so I can color my rubber stamp images! haha haha Gorgeous paintings!

  2. Thank you for sharing such beauty! We went to Railway park in Jamestown just north of Yosemite and saw the most amazing assortment of machinery and tools. Your work took me straight back to the mystery of it all! So amazing, again thanks!

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