Artist Interview: Aaron Johnson

by Aaron Johnson
 On July 9, 2021

Tell us about yourself

Q What have been some of your favorite ADG projects?

A My favorites are usually ones that align with my personal interests or ones where I get to mimic a style of art that I am a fan of. One of my recent favorites was an art nouveau style poster commemorating the anniversary of The Doug Jeffords Co. I’ve always loved the work of Alphonse Mucha and I enjoyed trying to capture his style in a modern medium.


Last year I enjoyed working on a series of posters for the Legend of Runeterra online card game. I Iike fantasy art and video games so I was really thrilled when we got to work with them.

Q When you are not doing illustration work for clients, what kind of creative projects do you enjoy doing on your own? Do you have some examples of cool personal projects?

A On my own time I like making a variety of different things. For one I’ve always liked medieval fantasy art and I occasionally like to do digital paintings of some of my favorite characters and settings. Recently I’ve gotten into the Witcher series and I did a portrait of the main character. A few years ago an author commissioned me to do a cover for one of her books. I’d like to get back to doing more things like that actually. 


Most of the time though I’m just sketching. I had a wrist injury a few years back that made me want to start learning to use my left hand just in case. I started sketching for 10 minutes a day with my left hand and eventually it became more for fun than for any need. I’ve been doing it for over 5 years now and I’ve racked up quite a few drawings.  


Q Who are some of your creative heroes? What inspires you about their work?

A For one I really like the art of Alphonse Mucha, the father of Art Nouveau. His unique combination of realistic anatomy and his stylistic approach with orgnic flowing shapes really works for me. 


Secondly I’m a big fan of Kentaro Miura, who sadly passed away recently. He was a comic book author in Japan who is famous for his long running series Berserk. His artwork is kind of like Frank Frezetta except instead of shirtless barbarians it’s immaculately detailed armor and castles.

Lastly I’m a huge fan of the works of From Software. They are a video game company famous for games like Dark Souls and Bloodborne. Besides making great games they have a really talented in-house art team. They produce high quality concept art that has a good mix of medieval fantasy and Lovecraftian otherworldy horror. They release a big art book for each game and I have them all.

Q What advice do you have for aspiring digital artists and designers?

A I have 3 bits of advice here:

1 Don’t just focus on the fun stuff, or something niche that appeals to you. Definitely keep doing those things that you are passionate about, but also take time to focus on things you are weaker at. Doing art for hire is about problem solving, and the more tools you have the more jobs you can do. A lot of illustration students want to draw fun things like characters and hero elements, but neglect things like backgrounds, composition, typography and all the other parts that make a good illustration work. Go the extra mile!

2 Be sure to look at what professionals are doing. It’s easy to just compare yourself to what your peers are doing and get comfortable there. But once you get out of school you are competing for jobs with pros who might have 5+ years of experience. For that reason I always recommend internships for college students. I probably learned more in 3 months of interning than I did in 4 years of school.

3 Lastly I always recommend people try out the 90-10 rule. That means that in any given work that last 10% of the project, where you start focusing on all the little nit-picky details can end up taking 90% of the time if you let it. It’s usually stuff that no one else would notice anyway. I always try to stop when I get to the 90% point and move on to something else. You might struggle at first, knowing that you could make it that much better if you kept going. But what you will find is that you get a lot more work done and you learn to prioritize the important parts first. And that extra practice will make you improve to the point where 90% of your effort looks better than 100% of your effort from before…and it will get done a lot faster! That doesn’t mean you should never give it your all, but it doesn’t have to be your normal workflow.


To see more of Aaron’s work check out his portfolio here! 

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