James Johnson is a fine artist and adjunct faculty at Brigham Young University-Idaho, where he graduated with a BFA in Illustration in 2008. He received his MFA from the Academy of Art University in 2012. He has studied with such accomplished painters as Leon and Del Parson, Walter Rane, and Morgan Weistling, among many others. A four-month research trip to Israel, Egypt, and Jordan in 2008 was spent gathering reference and inspiration for his Biblical paintings. James particularly enjoys bringing the scriptures to life through paint, and has completed several religious painting commissions, including scriptural narrative and interpretive works, as well as paintings of LDS temples. He resides in Rexburg, Idaho, with his wife (also a skilled oil painter), and two little girls.
Although personally rewarding in terms of testimony and growth, the aim of my religious artwork is ultimately to bring joy to those who view it. The writers of scripture hoped that future readers of their words would “look upon them that they may learn with joy” (Jacob 4:3). Particularly when well-executed, in keeping with the laws that the Savior used to create this earth, I believe visual art can do just that. The arts have helped me to look on God’s works and words, to really see and hear, and finally to learn something joyful. It’s not, however, enough for me to paint nice themes. I see art as a peculiar sort of language translation, and I want to translate God’s word into the rich and universal language of the visual as faithfully as possible. When I picture the stirring scenes of scripture, some words that come to mind include “glorious,” “powerful,” and “reverential,”—far more than merely “warm and fuzzy”. Powerful art has endowed my spirit with a sense of awe. Well thought-out form and composition, poetic gesture and color, combined with the Holy Ghost, can sow precious seeds within the soul—and yield precious fruit.
-James L. Johnson