A quiet Saturday in Arctic Bay today. I made a new drawing, based off of Inuit legends surrounding the aurora borealis. Most stories I’ve heard across the Arctic say that the northern lights are spirits playing soccer with a walrus skull, but some – especially in Greenland – say that they are walrus spirits themselves, playing a ball game very much like soccer. There’s also a warning, given to children, never to whistle at the northern lights – as the spirits may come and collect your head for the game, instead.

Here’s a picture.

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No Whistling, Ink on Paper, 2018

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A new drawing, inspired by a photograph I took on my very first snowmobile ride in Arctic Bay, on a very dark and moonlit morning in November 2014.

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Where Do We Go From Here? Ink on paper, 2018.

Under the Surface: Drawing from Photographs

In my last days of preparation before traveling to Arctic Bay, I was struck with an overwhelming urge to print a selection of photos from the last time I was here. The process of selecting and printing them was long and tedious, keeping me up at night for days. I couldn’t justify it at the time, but had a feeling that the prints could lead to something.

Fast forward a week or so, and I found myself spreading the photos around in my room in Arctic Bay, seeing what scenes could fit together. I started making imaginary collages, and drawing from them, driven by some unexpected motivation that seemed to appear from nowhere. I’ve made two now, and am close to finishing a third.

under_the_surface_acacia_johnson.jpgUnder the Surface , 2018. Ink on paper.  (iPhone photo)

This is the first one I made, ink on paper, based loosely on a photograph I took of local hunter Tom Naqitarvik a few years ago, searching for seals on New Year’s Eve.

I’ve drawn pictures all my life, but it’s been years since I’ve attempted anything with a vague degree of seriousness. Suddenly I’m overflowing with ideas – it’s exciting to blend the reality of photographs with whatever strikes the imagination, and create composite scenes that are more layered with meaning than photographs often are.

Although I’m far from a pro, I’ve decided to create a series of drawings in addition to photographs and writing. When inspiration strikes, and time is available, I cannot resist the opportunity to produce artwork. This time in Arctic Bay is beginning to feel, at times, like a multifaceted artist residency, and every day I wake up excited to create something new. I’ll look forward to sharing more as time passes.

 

Spring Arrives: Pictures from the Everyday

While attending an incredibly demanding art school full-time, working three jobs during the week and extra ones on the weekends, trying to produce an incredibly meaningful and thoughtful body of work while competing for scholarships and trying desperately to secure summer plans that will magically help your artist’s career while earning money – life is stressful.  It can be hard to even remember what has happened, but thankfully, this is where camera phones come to the rescue.  Here’s an Instagram series from the past month or so to celebrate that, despite unfathomable levels of stress, life is actually full of wonderful things, all the time.  Enjoy!

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A bright, fun show at my favorite coffee shop on campus. 

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Figure drawing in class. 

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A page from a book I made. 

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A gluten-free cupcake!

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With my mom in Mexico!

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A very idyllic rooftop view in Loreto. 

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The antithesis of the world I usually inhabit. 

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I began thinking about books. 

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One day, for work as a TA, I went on a field trip to the zoo. 

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Odd zoo landscaping. 

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Flowers began to spring up everywhere!

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There was a fluffy rabbit present at a weekend shoot. 

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I made dramatic portrait collages. 

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I also made purposefully tacky “low art.”

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Weekly crit for “Works On Paper.”

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A line drawing from a damaged negative. 

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A surprise gift from a neighbor!

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My old work on the wall for a scholarship competition.  Didn’t look too bad!

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Suddenly there were daffodils everywhere and you could smell them as you walked by.

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Celebrating the stress of the scholarship thing being over. 

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Tom drinking a bourbon milkshake.  

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Alaskan mail, from my mom. 

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Charlotte’s cat. 

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The first of the photography department’s senior shows: Becoming Barbie.

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Everything was pink.

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The catering was extraordinary, and also all pink. 

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I hung out in Charlotte’s magical world. 

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I sliced some beets and marveled at their colors and patterns. 

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Glorious weekend oatmeal. 

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Daily smoothie. 

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But really, the whole time, I was just dreaming of the Arctic.