From printer paper to canvas, local artist Christina Johnson is endlessly inspired by a blank page.
Christina Johnson’s paintings can be seen all over Edina—in shops like Foxwell Studio and Shoppe, and At Home & Co., in the lobby of Nolan Mains and in the homes of many residents. She regularly collaborates with interior designers on custom commissions for clients, and her work has even been purchased by overseas collectors, thanks to Instagram.
“I never took a painting class, but art is in my blood,” Johnson says. Her mother was an art professor and gallery director at Bethel University for nearly 20 years, exposing Johnson and her sister to fine art at young ages while also encouraging creativity at home. “We were never allowed to have coloring books, so we colored on computer paper,” Johnson says. “I loved having the blank page … I was always able to start over on a new piece of paper.”
Today, Johnson cites that creative freedom as part of her artistic foundation—though she also credits her biology degree from St. Olaf College and says studying cells, plants and organisms helped shape her interest in abstracts and floral prints.
We sat down with Johnson to learn more about the passion she has turned into a successful, full-time career.
How did you make the leap from biology to painting?
During college, I got sick. I needed something to do, even though I was nauseous and so fatigued. Art really became my escape, [and] painting became part of my recovery. I was painting things that brought me joy and took me out of where I was and brought me into this whole other colorful, happy, expressive world.
How did your business get its start?
My friends kept encouraging me to start sharing my paintings, so I brought some samples to social media. HGTV’s Should I Stay or Should I Go co-host and lead designer Heather Fox found me on Instagram. I thought it was an art scam when she called, asking to borrow some of my paintings for her TV show. She borrowed about seven, and then five out of seven ended up selling [to homeowners on the show].
How does your childhood influence the work you do today?
Having unlimited paper as a kid helps me just view all these [blank] canvases in the same way, where I could just come up with any idea … I think having that mindset of, “I have unlimited space to create whatever I want” really helps me explore new ideas and just be fearless when I attack the canvas with a new idea or a commission.
Tell us about your creative process.
Clients talk with me about the vision they have and the space they’re considering, and we create the work together. Sometimes, it’s something from a photo. Sometimes, it’s an abstract, landscape or florals. I work on a couple of pieces at a time. If it doesn’t look right, I paint over it. I might work on a few layers for a few hours on one piece, leave it to dry and switch to another piece. But I’m never painting the same thing twice. I absolutely love doing this work. It is such a blessing to do something that I can wake up in the morning and be excited about.