Bruce Johnson, born in Allentown, Pennsylvania in 1944, began his training at the Baum School of Art, where his mother was a teacher. In high School he was guided and encouraged by Jim Musselman, an outstanding art teacher, who prepared him for the Philadelphia College of Art, which is now The University of the Arts. There he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree, while studying under Edna Andrade, Marvin Bileck, Will Barnett, and Boris Drucker. He then served three years as a U.S. Army Illustrator in Europe, where he received the Army Commendation Medal for outstanding design work with NATO. Following the Army, he was an art director for WITF-TV, and during his tenure there won many design and promotion awards from National Educational Television and National Association of Educational Broadcasters. From 1973 to 1979 he was Executive Art Director for Armstrong World Industries in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He was the recipient of many design awards; this time from the New York Art Directors Club, the Philadelphia Art Directors Club, and the Creativity Show. It was also during these years that he became very involved with watercolor and his whimsical pen and ink drawings. His interest in fine arts grew as his interest in advertising design lessened, and in 1979 he left advertising to pursue painting and drawing. Since that time he has become a member of the prestigious American Watercolor Society. In 1979 he and his wife Donna opened a gallery and frame shop in his home in Annville, Pennsylvania. In 1989 they built a 10,000 square foot Gallery in Hershey, Pennsylvania, called Chimney’s. In 1995 they opened a second gallery in Annville, Pennsylvania.
Bruce’s work has been seen in many group shows and one-man shows including 64 one-man shows in Europe. He enjoyed showing in many of the major outdoor shows such as Ann Arbor, Michigan, Annapolis, Maryland, Coconut Grove, Florida and State College, Pennsylvania where he could meet people and most importantly get a first-hand reaction to the work. He was also the co-founder of the Mt. Gretna Outdoor Art Show, which still is one of Pennsylvania’s major summer events. He has done illustrations for the State of Pennsylvania, State Farm Show, Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, Lancaster and Lebanon Hospitals and Valley Forge Bicentennial Celebration for President Ford.
Bruce Johnson is already recognized for his whimsical pen and ink “Statements”. These humorous, often outlandish, always penetrating statements about the human condition have quickly become prized possessions of collectors everywhere. At one time his “Statements” were available in over 2000 galleries in this country and abroad.
Each year since 1980 he has traveled abroad to paint. First to England, then Germany, Austria, Holland, China, former Yugoslavia, Provence, former Soviet Union, Indonesia , Eastern Europe and more. These trips provide a get-a-way; a chance to work outside, and actually become involved with people and villages. The color, light and feeling of each country is different, and he captures those nuances in his paintings. In England, for instance, the skies were captivating; in Holland, water and reflections became his main theme. The people and their way of life in the market place, and on the waterways, caught his attention in China.
While working abroad, the weather usually dictates the number of finished paintings he brings back. However, when he returns to his studio, he works from sketches and photographs as reference. Following each trip, he has had a one-man show with anywhere from 65 to 125 original paintings. These openings were in his Hershey gallery where as many as 4500 people would attend in a single afternoon. Bruce has also worked in silk screen, lithographs and bronze.
“Many people find it difficult to imagine that I work in different media; mostly watercolor and pen and ink . I believe art is most importantly a form of communication, matching the sofa is not my goal. These ideas come from many years of solving design problems in advertising and from one incredible teacher, Boris Drucker. Therefore, I will choose the media best suited to communicate my thoughts. My watercolors mostly deal with technique, color, design and an image that may not be there tomorrow. I begin with a very quick pencil sketch. A watercolor is very spontaneous and there is constant movement of color and water on paper. They can be very physical because of the speed at which you have to work. Decisions and corrections are constantly being made, and that creates intensity, involvement, and sometimes frustration. The versatility of watercolor allows you to be very free or very controlled. The technique itself can become more important than the subject.”
“My pen and inks, on the other hand, begin with a preconceived idea and the finished drawing is always as I have perceived it. I will spend hours combining pencil details which all come together to communicate a single thought. The ink stays exactly where I put it; no movement. The detailed drawings are tedious, but far more relaxing than a watercolor. I would compare a pen and ink to sewing or needlework.”
“After weeks of painting watercolors it is always good to come back to a pen and ink. In the past I have also done bronze sculpture which again is very different from any two dimensional art. With clay you can get your hands dirty and work with a form that is seen in the round. My sculptures were all humorous and followed the ideas of my “Statements” and I like to combine water and movement with my bronze.”
Bruce has been commissioned by many corporations to create special “Statements” relating to their products;
Hershey Foods, Mars,
Pfizer, General Electric,
Boy Scouts of America, Hershey Gardens,
Herco, and Pennsylvania Society of Architects. Bruce also recently completed 12 watercolors for the Hershey Trust Company.
In 2003 Stackpole published a book of his work called “It’s A Fine Line". Bruce has just recently completed illustrating a book called Candy Striped Lighthouse.
Bruce and Donna recently moved to Manchester-By-the-Sea, MA where they have opened a gallery on Bear Skin Neck in Rockport MA.
Please stop by the new location at 24 Bear Skin Neck, Rockport, MA. phone 978-870-6433