Roger Hayden Johnson Artist Review
The Hyperrealism genre of painting started in the 1970s and is considered an advancement of the photorealism genre. In the 1960’s artists such as Chuck Close, Duane Hanson, and Audrey Flack began working from photographs to create paintings that appeared to be photographs. This off branch of the Pop Art Movement focused on the small mundane details of life and transforming them into works of art. Photorealism assimilated photography into the art world and inspired artists to create paintings and sculptures that looked as close to a photograph as possible.
Big Self- Portrait, 1967
Hyperrealism branched off of Photorealism and contrasted itself by being detailed beyond what a photograph presents. These more detailed and definitive renderings offered the viewer a narrative and emotive in it’s depictions. Hyperrealism put back the artist touch of creating works with complex focuses on living and tangible objects. In Hyperrealism works of art you will see clearer and more distinct textures, surfaces, lightening and shadow effects. This false reality that creates convincing illusions based on reality captivates viewers and pushes us to see the world differently. pushes us to see the world differently.
With roots in painting the American Southwest and old homesteads and pueblos, Roger Hayden Johnson departed from landscapes to painting simplified boat portraits. Roger’s boats personify the quality’s found in Hyperrealism. Roger takes away all extrinsic and nonessential distractions so the viewer has one clear image to view and get lost in. This simplified composition reflects the refinement Roger has crafted throughout his artistic career. Strong color use with constraining hues and bold contrasts in values heighten the reality in Roger’s boat portraits to beyond Photorealism. The clear and distinct texture, surfaces, and shadows make the viewer see something so beautiful it’s goes beyond reality and becomes Hyper realistic.
Principals of Art:
Space: Space plays an enormous roll in the composition of Roger’s paintings. The positive space, for instance the boat in Very Red Skiff, is the focal point that captures the viewer’s eye. The negative space, which presents as a smooth aquatic surface contrast strongly against the boat and leaves space with little visual interest. This use of negative space balances the strength of the boat and creates tranquility through simplification.
Color: Roger displays a strong and innate understanding of how colors relate each other. Often he uses colors that sit opposite against one another on the color wheel that make each other pop. Roger also uses analogous colors in some paintings, meaning colors that sit next to each other on the color wheel. This color use creates unity and provides a different feel than strong contrasting colors.
Shape: The shapes used in the positive space of the boats work together to create rhythm. In Very Red Skiff, notice how the shapes of the boat undulate downward just at the lines of the ropes do. Shape is also used to create directional lines for the eye to travel down and into the water then back to the boat.
Form: Circle is to shape as sphere is to form. A change in perspective is how Roger transforms the shapes of the boat into the form of the boat. Since the front of the boat in Very Red Skiff is receding, the shapes become smaller in proportion creating the illusion of dimension. Strong shadows and highlights also add dimension to the boat. Reflections play a roll in creating form as they reflect the dimensions of the boat in the smooth surface of the water and tie the negative space to the positive.
Value: Value relates to the tint/shade of a hue (color). Every color can be tinted by adding white or shaded by adding black. The purpose of considering value in a painting is to help create both dimension and a mood. Heightened contrast of shadows and highlights is a characteristic quality to hyperrealism and found in all of Roger’s boat portraits. Value is used to add dimension as well, notice the darkness at the front of the boat in Very Red Skiff and how that contrasts against the rear of the boat which is a washed in light.
Texture: Roger paints smoothly which adds to the serenity of his paintings. He does not lean on literal texture to add visual interest, instead he uses fine painterly skills to create the illusion of texture. The scuffed and rough surfaces of the boat can be seen and feel real to the viewer despite it’s smooth application.
Principals of Design:
Balance: Balance is key to Roger’s paintings, as they could easily fell off-balanced due to the simplified composition. Large swaths of openness in the water balances the details and colors of the boats. Placement is also integral to creating a balanced composition. Note how in Very Red Skiff, the brightest and most strongly emphasized portion sits in the upper right quadrant of the composition. The painting is balanced by the remaining three quarters of the composition with less vivid colors and larger portions of negative space which counterbalance the hyper realistic boat.
Unity: The unity of a piece is what creates a sense of completeness. Many different things unify Roger’s painting such as the color use, contrasting values, and reflective forms. What serves to provide the unique unity in Very Red Skiff is the water which encompasses the majority of the composition.
Variety: Variety is what adds interest into a work of art. There is a strong change in subject matter and style between the boat and the water. These two elements work together, but are also different enough to create visual variety.
Emphasis: Emphasis is what the artist uses to create a focal point. Focal points can vary viewer to viewer, but a truly successful composition will have one clear focal point that the eye is continually drawn to over and over again. Roger’s hyperrealistic boats are more often than not the focal point of his paintings. However at times Roger also likes to let the reflection serve as a focal point.
Movement: Movement implies motion is a snapshot of time. The movement in Roger’s paintings is subtle, as overall a sense of stillness is depicted. The viewer can find soft mentions of motion in the reflections, which show the movement in the water through slight distortions.
Pattern: Think of pattern as the visual skeleton that organizes the parts of a composition. This underlying structure uses consistent and regular repetition. You can have both natural and man made pattern. The manmade patterns of the boat are utilized by Roger to amplify and quiet the patterns of it’s form.
Perspective: Perspective is what creates a three dimensional painting vs a two dimensional painting. Very Red Skiff has a slight, but noticeable change in perspective as the form of the boat recedes from the viewer. The viewer also has a downward perspective of the boat, as if viewed form slightly above, allowing a look into the hull of the boat.
Roger paints with oils on canvas, a traditional favorite for hyperrealistic painters due to its availability for smooth application and bright vivid colors. Oil paints, which are oil based as the name suggests, have a long drying time. This is advantageous to artists who will work on a piece for an extended amount of time. Oil paints are thinned down with terpenoids which can take the paint from thick and heavy to thin and light. An artist who uses oil paints learns over time their own tricks to work in a way that makes the most sense for their composition. It takes time, patience and practice to master this difficult medium. Lastly, Roger adds a varnish once his paintings are completed and dry. The varnish will protect the oil paints to last hundreds of years.