Monday, 29 September 2014

Artist Feature: The Wonderful work of Victoria Johnson

Victoria Johnson is an English print designer living in Rome, Italy. Victoria creates colourful and fun imagery to 'wear, carry, eat from, sleep on, and live with.' I love the colour combinations that Victoria uses and her work has the ability to instill happiness in the viewer, with her cheerful characters and subject matter. In the busy and competitive world of print and pattern design, Victoria's work is dinstinct and her experience in this field is apparent when looking at stand alone imagery or her work as a whole, such as her stand at Surtex this year. This designer clearly has a lot of fun with her work, but also works hard around her family life, and is an inspiration to many designers out there.

1. How did your business come about (and when did you start)?

I started as Victoria Johnson Design about 2 1/2 years ago. My baby boy had just started morning daycare a few days a week and my daughter was at school full-time and that gave me the opportunity to start making plans. I decided I wanted to try and sell/license my work by myself and see how it went. I asked a friend to help me source and submit to clients and offered her a percentage of my sales revenue. She was very motivating and helped me enormously through the first year.
I've been a designer though for 18 years, working mainly as a fashion textile designer for womenswear, and in the past I owned a studio in New York and London, so I came to this new venture with quite a lot of experience.

2. Can you give a quick insight into your working method? (ideas, techniques, etc.)

Mainly I work digitally. Digital files are obviously the most editable type of artwork for commercial use so I've become pretty proficient at both Photoshop and Illustrator. I particularly love illustrator as it's so easy to change colours. But I'm seeing a shift in demand towards more hand-rendered looks and am planning to incorporate that into my collection this year - both painting and embroidery. I've wanted to go back to both for years but haven't explored the possibilities and now feel I have the time and confidence to do that.

3. What has been the hardest single obstacle to your life in design (apart from a shortage of time, which seems to be universal amongst creatives!)?

I think having my children was the single biggest spanner in the works regarding my career. I couldn't bear to leave them and wanted to be available as much as possible. I absolutely don't regret it and feel like I've had the best of both worlds, even if at times I felt frustrated and wondered if I'd ever get back on my feet.

4. How do you stay motivated? What inspires you?

Some days it's very hard to stay motivated but thanks to Lilla Rogers' MATS A course I now have a community of Facebook artist friends that I have come to rely on heavily for support and friendship throughout my working day. They are scattered all over the world but we chat almost everyday.
I'm inspired mainly by colour. I love strong but sophisticated palettes and bold imagery. I have colour co-ordinating obsessive compulsion. I can't have poor colour choices around me ANYWHERE.

5. What has been the icing on the cake for you as a artist/designer?

I think my experience at Surtex last year was probably one of the most exciting times for me - the realization that doing this is working and all my efforts are paying off. My decision to do this was validated in so many ways and at the end of the show I really felt I was riding the crest of a wave. I hope next year is as successful for me.

6. Who do you admire (other artists/designers; other people generally) and what/who are your biggest influences, past or present?

I admire any artist who has taken the leap of faith required to put themselves out in the world. Obviously those who have done it particularly successfully are inspiring to me but I'm reluctant to name names in case I leave someone important out! 
I think my most notable influences were my University lecturers (years ago) who really encouraged and supported everything I did, and the designers that I worked with in New York. We were so close for so long and we learnt so much from each other. I think my breadth of experience comes from that period in particular. My parents have also always supported me and my Mom's creativity and flair for design and colour definitely influenced me.

7. Describe your creative space

Ha ha ha - this is a bit of a joke. I have a huge room downstairs in my house that is my 'studio'. I decorated it and equipped it beautifully 2 years ago - and have hardly sat in it since. Now it's become a kind of storage space for all my stuff. I do 99.9% of my artwork on the island in my kitchen, dragging things I need up from down stairs then carting it back down again, or just sitting at my computer without a single piece of art equipment around me. I think I like working there because it's clean and uncluttered and not distracting and in the evening I'm in the same room as my children. 

8. What is the best piece of advice you've ever been given?

I'm a firm believer in one thing at a time (for me). My Dad once explained the concept of ratcheting - moving in one direction on a steep incline then plateauing before approaching the next steep incline. This works for me - I tackle one thing at a time and try not to lose focus and get distracted before I finish it. Then I take a breath and start the next. This approach controls my natural inclination to run around in circles panicking.

You can keep up to date with Victoria's work here...

(all above images are © Victoria Jane Johnson)