Studio Visits: Devin B Johnson


We stopped by the studio space of Devin B Johnson - Los Angeles native and artist who works with the traditional media of painting and sculpture, yet finding harmony with digital age of contemporary art. Take a closer look at his thought-provoking works and find out more about his process.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background? 

Sure! My name is Devin B. Johnson I'm an artist here in Los Angeles. I was born in rhodono beach on March 4th, 1992 (Pisces stand up!). I mean, we were always considered being a Huxtable type black family haha. My Parents held respectable career paths. My Dad in medicine and my Mom did hair. I get my strength from the morals my grandparents and parents set within my Brother and I. They allowed us to be us. 

Have you always lived in LA?

No, when I was 3 or so my family and I then moved to San Diego, where my brother Chase was born. Then moved back when I was 10. Nothing on San Diego, but I probably wouldn't be the person I am today.  

When did you first become interested in creating art? 

I've always been that kid. I did it as a thing to pass the time, I just so happened to better than the average kid at drawing. A big shout out to the OG Bob Ross. I followed along with my bucket of crayons and colored pencils. I had talent, my parents noticed and nurtured it. The funny thing is I did all this because it moved me. It was a hobby. I never once said I wanted to an artist, my parents encouraged it before I knew my true calling. I'm very grateful for them. 

Any artists or designers that have influenced your work?

When I was a small boy my late uncle Maurice E. Goens was my first instance of what an artist was to me. I continue his energy through the future success that I will have. He was a cool cat. He wore a black beret and made beautiful images of black scenes with rich contrasts. In school, I later learned of the work of the Romantic period and Baroque painters such as Caravaggio, I also dug some of the minimal line work of Sol Lewitt. Those two got me past my first couple of years in painting in art school. Of course there is Kerry James Marshall and Devin Troy Strother and others I dig as well. 

What's your creative process like when working on a new piece? 

I work with oil and other media in my work. The idea has to make sense to me. I'll write titles down first, then execute the strongest ones. I have to be geeked about the piece or it will move along slowly or most likely I won't finish it. It has to make sense as an extension to my voice and what I believe my practice is built upon. It's not only about making a beautiful image. You owe the people to give them something they can connect to and feel, even if the idea is foreign. 

Where do you draw your inspiration from? 

I draw inspiration from life and life as I know it. The landscape of the world will open up to you if you listen. It's either from books, a phrase, or an emotion I'm trying to convey.  

Tell us more about what you are currently working on!

Right now, I have several projects in the works. I'm working on two different series of work at the moment; My Melmdrawings which are my loose handed drawings on the subject matter of the Watermelon. The vessel is so loaded with negative connotations that were carried along with the thoughts of Jim Crow. I feel it necessary to put a P. Diddy remix on these old ideas and push those definitions further past transcendence. I'm working another idea that stems from the novel by Ralph Ellision, titled the Invisible Man. They will be still life paintings. I call them, Post Black Negro Nigga Still Lifes haha. I started making music with my friend and artist, Grandfather. We go by Brother. I count it as  an extension of my practice. It doesn't stop at painting, I'm also in brotherhood with a collective called The Scribble Room. It's our duty as creatives to present a different side of culture through the artistic medium we wield. Some of us are Filmmakers, Artists, writers, and stylists. We form like Voltron and serve as the opposition to evil doers that run the country. 

What do you hope for people to take away from your art? 

I want people to get a sense of who DBJ is through the work I present. The objective is to be drawn in at second glance and feel the emotion. I also want you to grow along with me in the life of creation.  

What's the future look like for you? 

The future is humbling and it can change for any one of us any minute. The year is new, the rain is coming back, new avenues are opening for me and I recently turned 25 a week ago. I feel energized! I just got accepted to attend Pratt Institute in the fall to study for my Master's degree in Fine Arts. The boy is moving on up to Brooklyn in the summer!  

Lastly, any advice for young artists out there? 

I often watch lectures of artists that I look up to and I look forward to hearing their words to other aspiring artists, now it my turn haha (that's cool). I want to give you all the before I leave, I would honestly say that fear is not a part of the work, you won't move in fear. Learn yourself first, know what makes you happy and sad. Know what makes you special in the crazy system of living. Keep doing the work you're doing, they'll catch on eventually. Once you know your own jewels, nobody can steer you away from your personal dream. Read more, read "The Alchemist," exercise more and open up past fears and live the life you want for yourself.  

Keep up with DBJ on Instagram! 

Devin B Johnson