There is nothing better than witnessing a talented artist selling their works at an art show. That was the case of Lisa Johnson, one of many artists who set up shop at the Art Exhibition and Sale that took place at Bon Echo Provincial Park last weekend. Johnson was busy attending to a customer when I visited her booth on Saturday afternoon. Mazinaw Lake cottage owner Christine Post was looking at a number of paintings and ended up purchasing one of Johnson's paintings titled "Rekr's Rock", which Post she said she can see from her cottage.
Johnson is no stranger to the magic of the landscape at Bon Echo. Her paintings are proof that the landscape is somehow in her blood and that might just be because she has been cottaging on Mazinaw Lake since was a wee one.
An honours graduate from the Ontario College of Art and Design in 1996, Johnson has been painting for 25 years. She returned to the Bon Echo show after a decade of absence, offering up an impressive selection of large and small oil landscapes that caught the eyes of both browsers and buyers at the show.
Johnson, who sells her work at a variety of galleries and shows in Toronto, London and Windsor, painted her Bon Echo inspired pieces en plein air (in the open air). She paints in the tradition of the Group of Seven artists who also painted this landscape decades ago. Included in her display was the paint-smeared box that accompanies her on hikes and on rides in her small motor boat where many of her creations are made.
“The en plein air process enables me to observe and capture what I see. It's a very observational way of working. Later, back in the studio I use these paintings or sketches to create larger, more abstract works that come more out of my head and have more to do with how I feel about the landscape, but that are also a direct result of that initial en plein air study process.” Her works capture both the majesty and the ever changing beauty of the landscape, which she describes as “powerful, spiritual and magical places that have been attracting artists here for centuries.”
Some of the works appear soft and flowing with layers of colour that are blended together seamlessly, like one large work of the famed Mazinaw rock painted in soft, subtly changing oranges and brown. Others of the same landscape are more hard edged and bold, painted with fat, textural and generous applications of paint that together make up the shapes that define the unique landscape. In many works Johnson is able to create a sense of movement, as in the clouds and sky in the painting "Rekr's Rock", which seem to swirl and move overhead. She said her former experience as a dancer is what informs the movement in her pieces, and which also underlies the fact she has experienced first hand for years how the landscape that surrounds her is always changing. “It's amazing how everything, the elements, the light and colour can change in an instant.”
Johnson feels very much “connected to the history of painters who came here to paint, from A.Y Jackson to Charles Comfort and Arthur Lismer.” Last year she hiked to the location where A.J. Casson painted one of his works. “ I like the idea of connecting with artists of the past but finding new ways to do it.” Johnson's aim, she said, is always to “capture the feeling of a place. Not so much the photographic image but the space, the light, the movement and the atmosphere.” Her work demonstrates the fact that it takes a talented and experienced painter to do justice to the landscape of Bon Echo and Johnson is one artist in a long line who have managed to do just that.
A selection of Johnson's work will be at the Colin Edwards Gallery located at Bon Echo Park in the latter half of August. Her work is also available at Quinn's of Tweed Fine Art Gallery. For more information visit www.lisajohnsonart.ca