Kit Johns is a young Cornish artist who follows in the tradition of many artists before him, seduced by the beauty of the Cornish coast and other views found near his studio at The Lizard, the most Southerly point in England. As well as putting paint to canvas, Johns is also known to paint on found objects such as driftwood and antique maps, adding another dimension to the work, drawing out other areas for contemplation relating to the landscape, such as history, experience and geography. The Jackson’s Art Blog asked Kit Johns about his life as a Cornish painter.
Lisa: What is your artistic background?
Kit: I am a 23-year-old artist who has been painting full time and exhibiting since completing a fine art foundation at college. I am based near the most southerly point of England, on The Lizard, Cornwall. I live right by the sea and my artwork focuses around painting the Cornish Coastline. I love to create paintings that capture the energy & atmosphere of the moment, and it’s vital to me the artwork resonates with people. Fortunately the work has proved popular amongst visitors and locals alike, with work successfully selling out in several galleries last year.
Lisa: What made you want to try painting out of doors?
Kit: I’ve often used walks outdoors to draw inspiration and collect imagery, I also use driftwood collected from the coastline as the unique canvas for some of my paintings. Therefore to actually try painting outdoors seemed like a natural progression.
Lisa: Can you tell us a bit about the media you like to use in your work and why?
Kit: I like to use a combination of mixed media, including acrylics, inks, oils and spray paints. I try to push the technical boundaries of traditional landscape painting. Experimentation is a key aspect to my painting process, from the use of vintage maps and driftwood as the unique canvas for each painting, to the inclusion of beach sand into the paint while painting plein-air. This not only helps achieve the desired texture effect but also uniquely ties each individual painting to the Cornish coastline.
Lisa: What kind of qualities are you drawn to when selecting subject matter?
Kit: Obviously it is important that the subject matter works from a compositional and aesthetical aspect but I also feel it is vital the subject matter is initially inspiring and gives you the urge to want to get out your brushes and start to paint. If a subject matter is of interest to you it will come across in the painting.
Lisa: What are your top tips for preparing to paint out of doors?
Kit: I think it’s important to have a premeditated aim when you head outdoors however you shouldn’t worry about deviating from the plan and try not to worry about the outcome. When possible try and bring more materials then you think you’ll need, whether it is just additional brushes and a more variable colour palette or a totally different medium entirely. This will mean your creative process is always open to further experimentation and in turn you learn and develop new methods and hopefully achieve new and unique results.
Lisa: What is your preferred method for carrying your wet canvases back home?
Kit: My top tip would be to always save the boxes your canvases are delivered in, they can then be re-used to transport your wet canvases back home. Laid flat, they act as a sturdy stackable carrier that can be closed to the open-air elements and is already the perfect fit for each canvas with usually enough depth to allow the wet painting to be untouched and protected.
Lisa: Why is painting out of doors so important to you?
Kit: Painting outdoors encourages the mark making and texture within the painting to remain raw and full of energy. I love each painting to capture the atmosphere of a particular moment in time and I think painting outdoors helps achieve this. It is important to me as I feel it can add spontaneity when creating a body of work and when working towards an exhibition.
Lisa: How do you deal with dramatic changes in the light?
Kit: When starting a painting I tend to start by building up texture and compositionally I always start with the sky. The sky sets the tone and atmosphere of the whole piece and helps encapsulate the fleeting moment of time that I am trying to portray. This then hopefully acts as a base for the painting in terms of light and tone. Taking photographs even when painting on location can then also prove helpful as a reference point if the light or weather changes dramatically.
Lisa: Who are your favourite landscape painters and why?
Kit: I have many favourite landscape painters that act as inspiration, from Turner to Peter Lanyon and many inbetween. I am particularly drawn to historical painters that have also painted the Cornish landscape and the dramatic Cornish light. I feel other artists can play a role of creative inspiration and act as a tool of motivation to continue my own individual artistic practice.
Lisa: Where online or in the flesh can we view more of your work?
Kit: My artwork can be seen online at www.kitjohns.co.uk
A recent video of me painting in plein-air can be seen here… http://vimeo.com/57526529
New paintings can also been seen in the flesh in various exhibitions including an upcoming exhibition at
The Summerhouse Gallery
(Market Place, Marazion TR17 0AR) http://www.summerhousegallery.co.uk