About Dean

Dean Johnson is a full-time graphic artist and illustrator. He works with a variety of materials, including acrylics, charcoal and pen & ink. His original artwork has appeared on post cards, flyers and print ads, and his paintings and drawings appear in private collections across the United States.

The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg

Murakami signageThe title of my post, The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg, might be confusing at first. A little Dada prank, you might assume. When you consider the fact that octopi can regenerate lost limbs, then the self-eating octopus becomes a potent metaphor.Dean at Murakami show

She is the creator who grows strong branches only to prune herself back and start over. I can relate to the octopus, as I have reinvented myself and my art style many times. I had no idea Takashi Murakami had done the same thing until he chose to title his MCA exhibit after the resilient cephalopod.

Murakami big signI was very familiar with Murakami’s kawaii-inspired pop art, but I had no idea he explored several other art styles before developing his current brand. The exhibit takes the viewer through these styles in chronological order. There is no apparent connection between one style and the next. Once the octopus has cast off an arm, he seems to disavow any ownership of it.

It is important to start at the beginning of Murakami’s oeuvre, because each successive room is more impressive than the last. By the time I reached the final rooms, I was saying to myself, “I can’t believe this!” It was literally the most impressive art show I have ever seen.Tentacles in the MCA

Do yourself a favor and see this exhibit before it closes on September 24. It has my highest recommendation ever!

Painting Step by Step

Strawberry Boy, 2017

Strawberry Boy, 2017

I am thrilled to premiere my latest acrylic painting, Strawberry Boy (left). This was a really fun project that took my pop aesthetic to a whole new (and tastier) level.

My model and muse was a very creative and beautiful young man whom you can find on Instagram. I based this painting on a photo he shared with me.

I drew a grid on a black canvas and the same grid on the photo. I then went square by square, painting what I saw in “greenscale”.Strawberry Boy greenscale

From there, I built up the painting, layer by layer, using Ivory Black, Titanium White, and one version of each of the primaries. In this case, I chose Quinacridone Magenta, Cobalt Blue, and Cadmium Yellow Light.

At the last minute, I added Cadmium Red Medium to the strawberry to help differentiate it from the lips. This really did the trick!

Strawberry Boy with Dean finishedFor more photos showing the complete process step by step, see the video below — and subscribe to my YouTube channel for more helpful art demos!





Bear Run Road

Bear Run Road, 2017 - SOLD

Bear Run Road, 2017 – SOLD

My latest commission is a cutout collage that will hang in a family cabin in St. Germaine, Wisconsin, which is a city featured on the map I used. The clients asked me to include certain important details, such as their love of bears, their cabin’s location on Bear Run Rd., and the legacy of two grandfathers. I recreated one grandfather’s CPD badge and the other grandfather’s Board of Trade badge.

If you have ideas for your own cutout collage, please comment on this post or e-mail me at dean@deanjohnsonartstudio.com. They make excellent gifts and meaningful ways to represent your memories!