Meet the Artist: Jennifer Johnston


"When you look a wild animal in the eye, it's like catching a glimpse into the soul of nature itself."  -Paul Oxton

Jennifer's medium is oil on canvas.  She was fortunate enough to have a high school teacher, Raymond Kanub, (who eventually became a full time gallery artist), who helped her learn to use and appreciate oils.  Oil is forgiving and with the richness of color and it has an enormous textural and layering range, all of which she can't achieve her objective with any other medium.  

Jennifer is also a photographer and she prefers to photograph all her painting references, especially her favorite subject, wildlife.  She has spent hours at a time, traveling and hiking to find the best subjects.  She enjoys photography because it provides instant gratification.  Paintings can take weeks or sometimes months.  It's nice to have a quick tool that can satisfy her artist-eye.

Jackson Hole Dreaming | Oil on Canvas 36x24"

Jennifer wanted to study art at the University of Kansas, but was talked into studying graphic design because she was told that it was impossible to make a living as an artist.  She continued to take art classes, like "life drawing", at the university and these classes helped form a solid art foundation.  Later in her career, she studied with an artist in Umbria, Italy and fell in love with oil painting all over again.  

"Mentorships have been the most important thing I have done as an artist.  Not only do you learn more about the process and working with your materials, but you also learn the ins and outs of the professional art business.  Those are things you can only learn from experience."

Jennifer's inspiration comes from a childhood spent in the National Parks.  Her father was a plant pathologist for the federal government and as a child, she traveled to most of the National Parks, camping and hiking during the summer months.  She traveled all over the country and from an early age, she felt most at home around nature and wildlife.  It was after studying with artist, Jay Moore, that she began to plein air paint.  She found her way back to her childhood roots and couldn't get enough of it.

Jennifer's Artistic Process

"My favorite piece is always the one I'm working on, but if I had to pick one particular piece, it would be be my Yellowstone National Park Grand Prismatic Springs series."

Jennifer finds inspiration in the environment around her.  She starts with an idea while out in the field and then proceeds with a combination of sketches and photographs to come up with a quick concept.  Back in the studio, she perfects the sketch, working with both original sketches and photographs.  Most of the time, if she's working on a National Park poster piece, she'll use one of the wildlife photos and incorporate wildlife into the composition.    

Yellowstone National Park has always been a huge inspiration for Jennifer. The Grand Prismatic Spring's colors are breathtaking with the rainbow of colors created by the spring's sensitive microbes. The different bacteria thrive in a variety of temperatures producing the variety of colors. The most interesting thing about the Prismatic Springs is the variety of wildlife, particularly the bison who linger at the springs all times of the year. Either in the winter to stay warm with the geothermal heat, or in the summer to keep the flies from biting. She never gets sick of painting this scene.

Bison of the Prismatic | Oil on Canvas 30x40"

"Besides painting with oils, I draw. Drawing is the key to any successful piece and is the foundation of my work. It is a necessity to figure out the ground work of composition and value. If the drawing doesn't work, the painting won't work either. I find drawing a challenging part of my process."

"I"m always trying to keep in mind: composition, balance, value, color harmony."

Many people do not know that Jennifer is dyslexic.  She's not hindered by this, but rather, this learning difference has helped her art.  She usually finishes a painting with it turned upside-down on her easel.  This way, she can see the shapes and values much differently and can often catch mistakes.

Jennifer has been a professional artist for over a decade and has won several awards for her work.  She has also been featured in several prominent publications in the art world.  For more information on Jennifer's achievements, see her artist bio.  Jennifer's hand-touched giclees are also available at Gallery Wild. 

View works from Jennifer's current collection.