philosophy emerged after you'd been an artist for a while. When you look
back, what was the earliest glimmerings of the Animatic idea for you?
RL Johnson: At a certain point in
my development as a painter I discovered my most potent expressions were
the ones that I had not tried to create...the so called mistakes of color
and line and mixtures on the canvas. At first I tried to reduce them and
eliminate them by over-painting...but often I found myself mourning for
the little mistake that I had so professionally repainted. It slowly began
to dawn on me that the little mistakes were not mistakes at all but the
strength and power of the image and the truth of it...
And so I began the process of discovering how to make as many mistakes
as possible...to support them, to cherish them. In the process, I found
that I could just let go...and the images would come as if by magic onto
the canvas...and I discovered that my imagery of mistakes became a coherent
chaos and a creative force of nature, and a manifestation instead of a
picture...and that my role as artist was to raise my consciousness to
the level of a force of nature during the process of making an image...and
that I could best do this by ritual chanting and inner concentration and
commitment to becoming One with the creative force of the moment.
By opening myself to the moment I found that I was able to access a pool
of universal creative intelligence and allow it to express itself through
Describe how your current painting technique emerged?
RL Johnson: I began my vocation
as a painter as a water colorist. I loved the way the colors flowed and
merged and blended on the paper. I learned all the usual techniques for
manipulating the flows and effects of color, and then began experimenting
and developing new techniques. Over a four year period of fairly intense
interest I developed an intimate understanding of color and image creation.
When I moved to acrylic as my main medium, I found it was fairly similar
to watercolor, and I found that processes in watercolor were transferable
to the more permanent medium of acrylic on canvas...and that many of the
processes could be advanced and improved upon in the acrylic medium. It
also allowed me to begin painting larger images.
Over a period of time the process and techniques of my painting evolved
into the form of expression that you see today. This way of painting
is a way of seeing and a way of doing that is at the root of the animatic
creative philosophy I published later on.
In 1998, why did you decide to open
an art gallery?
RL Johnson: I had been painting for
8 years in relative obscurity and had developed a unique signature style
and a voice with a message. I had created a portfolio inventory of 350
paintings that no one had ever seen. I felt that it was time to show my
work to the community and that it was even very important that I did.
A calling and a sense of mission came over me, and I began to seek a
gallery that would show my works. I spent a few weeks going to gallery after
gallery and slowly it dawned on me that it was going to take a long time
to find a gallery with space and interest in showing my artworks. So I
thought, "I am ready now, so I will make my own gallery to show my
work, and bypass the whole corporate gallery system and its limitations."
And so the idea of Millennium began to grow.
As it grew in my imagination, it came to me that Millennium was the
perfect vehicle, not only for introducing the community to my artworks
and to some very important creative ideas that had been starting to crystalize
in my mind, but also to introduce many new artists that were finding
themselves in similar circumstance. I found a suitable retail premise,
drew up some designs for renovating the space, and spent several months
working with a small crew of tradesmen to construct the first Millennium
Art Gallery on Commercial Drive in Vancouver, Canada.
To what degree are you influenced and affected by the 'old masters',
and which ones specifically?
RL Johnson: In my teen years I spend
hours and hours looking at picture books of the masters. My mother had
begun collecting a monthly series of Random House Books called Art History,
that featured full page reproductions and write-ups about artists from
different periods, their lives and techniques. At one point I cut all
the images from the books and had my entire apartment wallpapered with
masterpieces from the past. I was particularly in awe of the impressionist
and surrealist painters, but all artists and periods from daVinci to
Duchamp, and from Monet to Pollock were equally fascinating to me.
I cannot say that any particular artist has been a major influence,
however, I can tell you that I often invoke and channel the creative spirit
of Picasso and sometimes DaVinci in certain stages of my painting process.
What is the animatic art and who are the animatic artists of today?
RL Johnson: Animatic artworks are
created with little or no intellectual contrivance from the artist. They
are spontaneous in nature yet are not expressionist or automatist, or
any attempt to replicate or reproduce movements or schools from art history
that have promoted the creation of artworks without preconception.
Animatic artworks are transpersonal and created by allowing full control
over the production of the image to what I call the "creative spiritual
force", which you might conceive as a supremely intelligent, concerned,
creative, egoless being, which when invoked will guide the hand and the
eye of the artist in the creation of a meaningful and powerful statement
in their particular art form.
Animatic artworks are, by their nature, embedded in the current gestalt
of the community in which they are created, and are keystones, by which
individual members of the community may be lifted into a new way of seeing
and understanding their connection and their purpose within the community
and the cosmos.
Artworks created in an Animatic process are very rare today. It is a
new vision and a new connection into the purpose and process of creating
meaningful and healing imagery for the community. The shaman artists
of our neolithic past are probably the closest relatives of the Animatic artists
of the present.
a world where every person is celebrated for their unique (and often raw)
creative gifts, what role would the highly studied, skilled and specialized
RL Johnson: In my understanding
of "art", its primary purpose is to provide the individual and
the community with insight into the fundamental nature of reality. And
through this to heal and reconnect the ego-isolated individual with their
community and with the foundation of their being in collective consciousness.
In my view, the creation of art is a sacred and spiritual act and the
artworks themselves can act as a bridge to reconciliation between the
individual and their community.
Of course, it is
necessary for the practicing artist to familiarize themselves with the
history, tools and methods of creative expression. However, with all respect
to those who have studied to become excellent draftsmen and practitioners
of a particular school or functional application of image creation, I
do not see a particularly important role to be played by their images
or by the preoccupation with creating these various types of contrived
There is a place for schooled imagery within the corporate and interior
design fields, and our popular culture is full of self aggrandizing and
niche validating images designed to impose corporate branding and identity
on the community. At best, this type of imagery is amusing and decorative.
At worst, it can be manipulative and dangerous to the well being of the
individual and the community.
All images are powerful. The vocational creators of images have a responsibility
to recognize that power and to use it for the well being of their community.
I would hope that all image makers and practicing artists would periodically
re-examine their purpose and their imagery to ensure that they are continuing
to respect and honor the source of their creative gift, and that they
are not inadvertently causing harm to their communities, or themselves,
through the images that they create.
In almost every facet of society there are polarities - in your opinion,
is creativity the bridging factor that would alleviate the disparities
between peoples? How would that happen?
RL Johnson: It is my view that the
single most important definition of a human being is "creative".
It is the commonality of our imaginations that creates the world, and
it is the idiosyncrasy of the individual that can weave new threads into
the collective creation that we call society.
It is good to remember that since ancient times our people have dreamed
of a future society where arts and culture and creative expression would
be paramount. Where the individual citizens of society would be freed
from the mundane, stifling and often brutal tasks of daily survival.
Our ancestors in various ways tried to make this a reality. But always
this freedom was based on the enslavement of other humans. A paradox that
inevitably resulted in the destruction of societies trying to leap into
the "Age of Creativity" before it's time.
Now the time is very near. Automation, computer, robotic, bio and nano
technologies are on the verge of ushering in the Golden Age of Creativity.
In this new era of enlightenment, all human beings will be freed to pursue
the path of the creative. We need to prepare for this change in values
and perspectives. Our creativity will become the new horizon of this
coming era, and provide the purpose, the aesthetic, the resource base
and the philosophical underpinnings to replace the current paradigm of
route behavior and manual labor.
I have a vision of a world were creative expression is not just encouraged
in our communities and in each individual, but is seen as a fundamental
unit of contribution and as a valued necessity. And where all individuals
will find worthy employment within the creative expression of their choice.
After four years, what is your vision now for Millennium Art Gallery?
Johnson: My vision remains the same as at inception. To support
and encourage creative appreciation and expression in all people. In this
regard there are some interesting new projects in development. One of
these initiatives, which is particularly exciting to me, is the creation
of a Canadian Artist Bursary (CAB) program, to be launched in the coming
It will be a collaboration between MAG, visual artists from across Canada
and the corporate community. In this MAG will administer a bursary program
with an annual value of $650,000, to be awarded in $500 increments to
artists across Canada, based on local population densities. Our projections
are that for every 30,000 in general population across Canada, one CAB
funding will be awarded. This will mean a total of 1200 bursaries will
be available each year.
The funding will provide the selected individuals with a MAG Portfolio,
national and international promotions, a limited edition printing of their
artwork, art sales management and a national community of peers to connect
with. One of the programs objective will be to create an annual snapshot
and mosaic of creative expression in the visual arts across Canada. Funding
will be provided by corporate and private sponsorship.
What is one thing you would like to say to people who encounter Millennium
Art Gallery for the first time?
RL Johnson: Come in! Make yourself
comfortable. We have a feast of new thoughts and images for you to enjoy.
Take some time to explore our unique site and online community. And please,
feel welcome to participate in our forums, chat rooms, art draws and by
making webzine contributions. Your creative expression will be honored
What is your vision of RL Johnson?
RL Johnson: I will be working to
further the development of MAG and also spending a greater amount of time
on painting and writing poetry. I will continue to live deeply and fully,
love deeply and fully and to share my gifts and appreciation with the