Illustrator Interview 9 – Zach Johnsen

Zach Johnsen Artwork

Illustrator Interview 9 – Zach Johnsen

1. How long have you been an illustrator?
Professionally?  For about 9 years now.

2. What inspires your work?
Man, all types of inspiration.  Nature.  Man’s interaction with and so called “dominance” over nature. Tabloid magazines and crappy TV programming.  Advertising, especially old ads from the 30’s – 50’s. Fantasy art and comics.. Books are a big one.. Other artists certainly inspire me.  The list goes on.
3. What media/software do you work in and why?
90% of all the illustration I do is all by hand.  My preferred media is pen & ink on watercolor on paper, although I also use pencil.  I love the texture of paper and how watercolor interacts with it.  The transparent quality of overlayed watercolor is really exciting me these days. But I also use acrylics and oils, especially when painting on wood and canvas.
4. How would you describe your style of artwork?
Let’s see.. I would describe it as shadow art. I like to bring out the energies and characters that aren’t generally seen with the naked eye.  I like to think of it as exposing the often unseen underbelly of a particular subject or theme… like bringing it out of the shadow where it can’t be seen and exposing it to the light of day.. does that make sense?
5. Do you do any initial sketching or planning before starting a new piece?
Indeed.  Normally I will spend some time sketching out a character or scene I want to produce.  I never create a really tight sketch, but more work out the idea on paper I’m trying to get across.
Sometimes, but not always, I’ll do some color mocks too.  More often than not, I’ll just have reference material to work from and jump right into the work.. to me, that is the most successful.. it keeps the final work fresher.
6. Which illustrator/designer/artist most inspires you?
As far as contemporary illustrators go, James Jean just blows my mind.  That dude is insane in everything he does.. he brings back a level of creativity and craftsmanship that in my opinion has been lacking for some time.
As far as painters, I really love the work of Neo Rauch, a German artist who’s work reminds me of the inside of one’s brain… like memories faded or changing.. he’s amazing in style and content.

7. How do you deal with the business inside of being an illustrator?

That’s pretty easy to handle.. I don’t do huge moves.. I keep everything small and manageable and under my own control.  I’m not the best in money matters, so it helps that I’m not making a ton of it.

8. What words of advice would you give to any aspiring artists out there?

Study, study, study, draw, draw, draw… then come out with guns blazin!
You can see more of Zach’s work at
Zach Johnsen Artwork
Zach Johnsen Artwork
Zach Johnsen ArtworkZach Johnsen ArtworkZach Johnsen Artwork
Zach Johnsen Artwork

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