Steve Johannsen (US)

Steve Johannsen (US)

No need to tell really more than Grateful Dead, Allman Brothers Band and Gov't Mule to make you understand which kind of guy we are meeting today. Yeah, Steve is definitly a rock art artist, a true one, with great talent, and if you add to that a great sense of humor that allows him to take famous old posters or covers and make them new posters (Obey style or Family Dog logo for example) you surely have already understood I am a huge fan of his art !

Hello, of course as every Crewk interview, first question: what are we
listening to when we come to visit you? 
In my studio you might get silence...or selections from many different music genres. I get bored with most radio and playlists I've heard too many years, no matter how good the music was. Give me something new. Selected music might include stuff from...Grateful Dead, Allman Brothers Band, Gov't Mule, Widespread Panic, Wilco, Ruthie Foster, Steve Earle, Del McCoury, John Coltrane, Planet of the Abts, Giant Panda...

Can you tell us more about yourself, who are you, where are you from,
what do you do?

   I am Steve Johannsen, full time, versatile artist. I've loved experiences of trying many different creative media. From traditional art with pencil, colored pencil, pen and ink, watercolor oils to carving, scratchboard, woodburning and computer digital art.
  I've had my art business since 1974 in one form or another. Full time or on the side, I've worked extensively in commercial printing, with silk screeners on apparel and posters, with ad agencies, drafting firms, sign painters, photographers and other related fields.
  I grew up in a small town in NW Iowa before moving to Denver in late 1972 for art school and got my start in printing in 74. I moved to W. Colorado late in 1976, where I soon started up my own first art business and began a new family life. In 1987, we moved to Oregon, where I worked for a huge commercial printer while doing select art on the side. Following a layoff in 2002, I have been working at my art full time since.

  When did you start drawing?

  Must have started with childhood crayons and has never stopped since. I was getting more serious in Jr.High. I took some extra courses, portrait help from a local barber-artist, and was already hitting up the high school art teacher for help. Mr. Marlin Hansen was a major force in helping me believe that I could be able to do extraordinary things with my art if I kept at it.

Did you follow any course or did you improve by drawing in the margins
of your schoolbooks?

  Following high school, I moved to Denver where I attended the Rocky Mountain School of Art for 2 years. I studied under Phil Steele and Jim Valone. We did alot of life drawing and anatomy studies and I took more of the graphics courses because I naively believed that doing commercial art just meant you made money doing art. Exposure to all the other students was the best lesson for a small town kid. Different ages, backgrounds, regions of the country, ethnics and levels of creative passions was very enlightening and inspirational.
   I was also young and on my own for the first time, so might not have gotten out of art school what I should have. But for the most part, I've continually self-taught myself most of what I can do.

Today are you living from your art, or do you do something else for a living ?

  My art is my only job. It is a constant and insecure struggle to find and compete for projects. Some folks find me, others I have to dig up on my own. I had to learn to become my own salesman, copywriter, project coordinator, bookkeeper, gopher, janitor and still hope I get some fun time playing artist.
  I get to use all my life's and career experiences for part of my whole package to clients. From artist through coordinating final production on projects too.

Are you collaborating with magazines/fanzines, regularly?

I have in the past but haven't been actively pursuing any lately. 

Where does your influence come from? Is there any artists/graphists
you particularly like, what are your influences?

   My influences have come from every minute of my life...several generations of pop culture. Very young I admired the traditional art like Michaelangelo, daVinci and covers of action books. I enjoyed comic art, pinups, action illustrations on books and magazines of their time. Soon the art world connected to music grabbed solid hold on me. Psychedelic poster artists like Griffin, Mouse/Kelly and others blew my mind at how 'totally open and wild' their subject material could be.

What are the principal steps in your work?

   I need the client to 'feed my head' with their ideas, info, uses and any pertinent stuff about their project.
I kick thoughts around in my head for a while, maybe do some online reference research, then start sketching out by hand. I exchange email proofs and work together til everybody's happy. Then I finish final art and engineering for individual pieces to send to vendors to produce.

Do you do everything by hand or on computer?

  I still like doing my preliminary sketching  or master art by hand whenever possible, but now days, I bet 80% of my art is done through computers.

How long does it take you to do a poster?

  Average posters may take 2-4 days of hard work, long hours.

You have a very distinctive style, are you doing only what you feel
like or if tomorrow somebody asks you an oil painting with horses
running out of water with a sunset backdrop, is it a problem or are
you up for it ?

  Fortunately, I do like the challenges of trying different subjects, different art styles and media...just to shake things up and keep it interesting. I like looking at each project with open eyes and figure out what direction I can choose to follow on this one. I like bouncing between the drawing table or easel to the computer desk. So, with personal art...I enjoy portraits, landscapes, animals, buildings, historical stuff and more. I enjoy seeing what I can do to make someone else's vision a reality. It makes me try things I may not choose on my own.
   Same thing with graphics art for posters, T-shirts, logos, print design and more, too. There's endless possibilities.

For which bands have you already worked for?

   Grateful Dead, the Dead/Other Ones, Furthur, Phil Lesh &Friends, Bob Weir &Ratdog, Hot Tuna, Allman Brother Band, Gov't Mule, Warren Haynes Band, Leftover Salmon, Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers, Mark Karan &Jemimah Puddlleduck, Rose Hill Drive, Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad.

For which band would you love to work?

   There's plenty of bands and performers I'd love to get creative with...too long of a list. Call me!

Do you choose the artists yourself?

   Sometimes I choose who to go for. It does feel pretty darn cool when I get to do work for someone I do really like or have a long listening history with. I take the time to show and tell something I hope will really dazzle someone who will give me a shot. Other times a band or merchandiser may contact me about a possible project to submit for.

What is the most difficult part in designing a poster ?

   Finding that 'perfect' design for a piece can be very difficult. It can be an easy inspirational gift in a moment of thought...or a long frustrating process that may never meet your hopes. But when I do find something that I really's then become the best part. 
  Sometimes the process of drawing and engineering properly on the computer can become difficult, at times boring...but that's what it takes to get it done right and done well.

Do you think you are part of a "Graphic Scene", if so who else ?

Not really. I work alone in my home studio without much interaction with other artists these days.

A bit of self-promotion, take advantage of it, it's free, where can we
see your work , on the web or in real life?

  You can find my artwork and portfolios on my, on facebook at the Art of Steve Johannsen...through some other online poster sellers, galleries, or contact me at my studio.

The best praise you received lately?

  I recently did a scratchboard illustration for a screen printed poster for Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad. When Chris O'Brian, drummer, poster lover, received their first box of posters shipped he wrote me, "Amazing! I can't tell you how cool this is for me. I'm the coolest dude I know right now! THANK YOU SO MUCH STEVE!"

What can we wish you for the future?

  I want to do more posters and band merch, more festivals...explore some new rock portrait directions...paint more, sketch more. I'd like to connect with a couple more steady clients and am looking for possible places to license my designs for use manufactured on misc. products and merchandise.
  I just want to continue trying new things, having more fun with art and earn a better living doing what I love.

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