THE ARTIST’S EYE is a magical journey into small town mid-century America as well as an intimate glimpse into the art and life of Vernon Johnson. Its scholarly foreword entice the artist, the loving and skillful story told by the artist’s daughter reward the reader, and the paintings themselves fill the eye and evoke fond memories of the 50s.
This is a beautifully written and illustrated book about Vernon Johnson’s watercolors and how they came to life, why they became so coveted, and why they are celebrated today, almost a half century after they were created. Janis Johnson, the artist’s daughter, masterfully weaves her research, experiences alongside her father’s easel, and her own artful writing to present a visual and written treat for historians, watercolor artists, and anyone who wants to inhale the culture of mid-century America.
There are many quotes from the artist on the technique and challenges of watercolor. “I love color. You make color work in light, light and shadows…In watercolor, it’s pretty hard to improve, revise or change…The quicker you paint the panting, the more successful it is…I love the challenge…” Johnson would frequently work from photographs but visit the site during different times of day to observe color and shadow. Or, he would paint on site and use photographs in his studio for checking detail. When painting Pitkin’s Corner, people saw him perched on an adjacent roof top, easel and brushes ready, waiting for the perfect light.
THE ARTIST’S EYE is also a visual documentary of architecture that ranged from Victorian mansions to mid-century ranch-style. His attention to architectural detail and his ability to capture the soul of a home made his paintings a must-have for many Mount Vernon families. Those paintings now grace the mantels of their children and grandchildren and hang on the walls of banks and museums.
Vernon Johnson’s daughter, Janis, applies her own art of storytelling to make THE ARTIST’S EYE a compelling read. It is a book to have off the bookshelf and onto a table where a person can stop, pause, and take the book in hand for a moment or for an hour. It will be time well spent.