We had the good fortune of connecting with Johnna Slaby and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Johnna, why did you pursue a creative career?
I think about this question often, and I believe that a lot of artists can reply with a similar answer: I never intended to become an artist. While each person progresses in their careers differently, it all starts with an indescribable curiosity, a calling some would put it. For myself, I initially planned on becoming a musician. However, not being able to withstand the pressure of competitions and difficulty that comes with pursuing an instrument professionally, I decided to take a long break. During my hiatus, I came across a beautiful video of an older gentleman from New York drawing his breakfast bagel. The vibrant colors and deep lines of his sketch spoke to me, and a little voice inside my head said, “I think you can do that”. The very next day, I went out and bought watercolors and the rest is history. So if I alter the question a bit, there is a reason why I continue to pursue art each day. Creating a practice is a sobering and humbling act. It keeps you honest because you need to continue asking yourself deep questions. It gives you the chance to become best person you can be whilst leaving behind a trail of breadcrumbs for both yourself and others to see, continuing the loop to allow other people to become curious, feel alive again, and find their calling.
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
My story is a little bit of a roundabout one. Initially, I did not plan on becoming an artist, but a classical pianist. All that I ever knew about art was from my twin sister, who started off as a graphite pencil realism artist. I loved what she did, but I never gravitated towards that kind of art in the way she did. However, after going through the draining process of competitions and hours of mind-numbing practice, I decided to take a hiatus. During that time, I came across a video of an older gentleman from New York sketching his breakfast bagel. I immediately fell in love with his dark lines and vibrant colors. The thought ran through my head, “I think I can do that”, and I started putting the world around me to paper through urban sketching. My art went through a lot of transformations, starting from literal interpretations to abstract. However, the importance of the story always took precedence. When I create now, I always make it point to have a story that I can thread through the piece, a memory that I want to preserve, or a feeling that I want to evoke.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
In my hometown of Ikoma, Japan, there are a number of incredible sights. Located on the outskirts of Osaka, not only could you get into town easily, but you can feel separated from the hustle and bustle of the city. I would start by taking them to a local temple, one that is reminiscent of Ghibli movies. Even though it is one of the most serene areas I’ve ever visited, it is not as popularized as areas like Kyoto. With that, you can enjoy exploring the mountain side in peace. When I am there, I love to take hikes through the mountains. There are a number of hidden trails that you can run through and be by yourself in. In the mountains, there are also trendy shops and cafes that are hidden from the public eye. With each one having its own story and quirky owners, it would take days to hike and go through all of the different options.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Danny Gregory (Artist from the video)
Train Station Photo: Reylia Slaby