We had the good fortune of connecting with Jeffrey Johnson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jeffrey, why did you pursue a creative career?
In a way, we don’t choose the creative life – it chooses us. The art in our souls bubbles up from a deeper well of goodness and beauty that just can’t be covered up. We can try and ignore the desire to create, push it down, suppress it, crush it with practical business mindsets, block it with too many carbohydrates – and I’ve done all those things – but it still pushes to the surface one way or another.
But creative work is good work – important work. And it is something to embrace and not run from. I love the thrill on peoples’ faces when they purchase one of my paintings and hang it in their home. It brings me joy knowing that I’ve made someone’s life better with something I’ve created. Same with music. Seeing the way my music adds depth and emotion to a story that is being told on film – I love that. Or helping someone feel and process the difficulties of life through a piece of concert music I’ve written. Getting to make someone’s life better through music and art – that’s very motivating to me.
As artists we can create a new and better culture. We cultivate goodness in the world. We speak truth through our art. We imagine a brighter future. The world needs our creations – so we best get to work.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am unique in that I am both a professional artist and professional composer. I love being creative in these very different mediums. Let me tell you a bit about each one.
As a visual artist, my goal is to capture the beauty I see in the world around me. I create paintings in an impressionistic style, striking and dabbing the canvas with loads of paint to convey the wildness of the world around us. The sum of these strokes is an image that up-close may be hard to distinguish – but from a few feet away conveys a captivating scene. People describe my work as bold, joyous, awe-inspiring. I am inspired a lot by nature – the rugged beauty and danger of the natural world.
As a composer, I create the soundtrack for films and TV shows. My goal is to help the film creators tell the story they want to tell through the sub-text of the musical score. Just like with my art, my style is very unique – drawing on my own personal experiences to create a new listening experience.
The early stages of my career were rocky and filled with discouragement. When I first started pursuing a career in music and art in LA, people would say things to me like, “Art is frivolous.” “You plan on making any money doing that?” “You are selfish and dumb for pursuing a career in music.” “Art is impractical.” I was very discouraged by hearing these phrases so often from people in LA. So discouraged in fact that I quit music and art. I pursued other jobs in different fields for a time, thinking that I had to be a practically-minded person and leave art and music behind.
While I’m all for having a job outside of the field of the arts, I had allowed the voices in my head to convince me that my artistic dreams were silly and useless, and that I should abandon them altogether. Added to my discouragement was a whole host of chronic health issues that kept me bed-ridden and unable to produce for a very long time.
During this time I began to paint again, and compose again – but this time, just for myself – because it was what I loved doing. I committed myself to creating one new painting every week and composing one new piece of music. Gradually, I began to gain traction with my music and art. People starting purchasing my work. Eventually I was able to launch my own art business – while at the same time composing for different gigs. I started to find success with myself creatively because I decided to sit down every day and do the work of creating – not listening to the voices of discouragement in my head. Slowly, a new mental narrative began to motivate me – one that said my creativity is good and pleasing to God. I feel God’s pleasure when I compose and paint. Even that statement has taken me a long time to believe – and is a battle to believe sometimes.
For me, the desire to create is rooted very deeply in a place of wonder and awe at God’s created world. It is a call to build culture, and cultivate beauty. So whether its bringing brightness into someone’s home through one of my paintings, or creating an epic film score to bring an amazing story to life – the work of art-making and culture-making awaits – and bids that I participate. I hope you will join me.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
LA is unique from other cities because of its geography and culture. When my friends visit from out of town, I make sure to give them the best samplings of what LA has to offer.
Its no mystery that LA has exquisite restaurants and coffee shops. Every time my friends come to visit, they want to eat at Rutt’s Hawaiian Cafe in Culver City. The other Culver City spot I love is the Coffee Connection. It is the perfect coffee shop in my view: outdoor seating next to a plant-covered fountain, ambience, overhanging trees, friendly staff, great drinks and food. When I lived in Culver City I was over at the Coffee Connection all the time. Another cafe I love is Aroma Coffee and Tea Co in Studio City. Here also, the ambience, food and drinks are amazing.
Now for my favorite part of LA: geography. LA has a stunning coastline and epic mountain ranges. My friends love hiking at the Los Liones trail near the Pacific Palisades, as well as any hike in Malibu. In addition to the Santa Monica mountain range, the epic San Gabriel’s provide amazing hiking all year long. I love to ski, so trips to Big Bear or Mammoth are mandatory. My favorite place to hike is the Sierra Nevada mountains, which is a longer drive, but totally doable in a day.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Starting an art business and composing for film and TV are not easy endeavors. I am thankful for a few people in my life who have encouraged me to pursue my calling no matter what. My lovely girlfriend, my brother and sister-in-law, and my parents continually motivate and inspire me. Her love and support propels me. I am also thankful for my parents, who taught me excellence and have always encouraged my artistic endeavors. I am also thankful for my brother, Matt, and sister-in-law, Jody, who helped me launch my art business by buying my first paintings.
Josh Warner and Jeffrey Johnson