What Makes an Artist: Yianni Johns
Australian artist Yianni Johns is from Karratha, Western Australia. When he can’t paint, he draws. When he can’t draw, he makes short videos. “I don’t work to some preconceived idea of what art should be, I paint what makes me happy,” says Yianni.
As a child, when the world didn’t feel right, the only thing that brought meaning to him was drawing. “I always wanted to be an artist over and above any other future role,” admits Yianni.
However, he doesn’t remember the exact time he became an artist and, interestingly, he avoided the title for quite some time. He thought he was a strange misfit, describing himself as “that arty guy or that guy with his head in the clouds”. For Yianni art is his way of life. “Art to me is like oxygen, it’s what keeps me alive,” he explains.
Music is very important to his craft. He listens to everything from the Dead Kennedys to Mozart, depending on where he is with his work. “I like to get into the crazy and wild music early in the painting at the drawing on canvas stage,” says Yianni. He then puts his iPod on shuffle and lets it pick between the songs, hoping that the iPod will pick up on his mood. Sometimes when he is in what he calls the “unexciting middle stage” of artistic construction and it’s late at night, he will play a movie, not watching it, only listening. Occasionally a scene will attract him and he will pinch an idea to translate artistically in his work.
For example, his painting Smart Ed’s One Stop Shop Karratha (above), has influences from the movie Duel. The scene where the terrifying black truck is waiting for the man in the red car, we see in the tunnel two headlights, shining bright in darkness. This scene landed as the left garage in the painting, open far enough to see two menacing headlights. “I love the way it creates a question in the painting,” says Yianni.
His advice to aspiring artists is to create from your heart, as the honesty from such a creation will connect you to the viewer. He asks to kill the editor inside you and not let the comments of others affect your authentic production in any way. And of course to “practice, practice, practice” and “never, never, never give up”.