"I Am An Artist" - An Article on the Painter Michael Jurogue Johnson
Michael Jurogue Johnson is a gifted contemporary naïve artist who was born with Down Syndrome. Michael paints watercolors, acrylics and oil paintings. He shares an art studio and he paints almost every day. After dinner Michael can often be found working at his mail order business: filling orders, writing letters, and packing his notecards, paintings, and catalogs to be shipped to his customers the next day.
In The Woods
Painting is Michael’s passion. On days when he cannot paint, Michael generally feels cranky and out of sorts. Michael works hard. He is so proud and happy when he sees his paintings framed and hanging on the wall. Sharing his gifts with others, one to one, or at gallery receptions and conferences has helped Michael to develop self-esteem. Michael works very slowly and carefully. Sometimes Michael paints flowers from still lifes and adds animals. Other times Michael paints things he has seen on his daily walks around his community and near the shores of Lake Michigan.
Some of the dogs and cats are ones he knows, that live in his neighborhood or belong to friends.Others come from Michael’s imagination, from pictures in his books, or from photographs that Michael’s fans and customers send to him. As a child, Michael enjoyed drawing pictures with markers and coloring with crayons. He played with scraps of colored glass on a light table in a stained glass studio. He has always been fascinated with color. At Park School in Evanston, Illinois, a public school for children with special needs, Michael enjoyed art classes and was able to take part in painting a community mural and to display his school art projects at an outdoor art fair and an art exhibit in a local bank.
Lilies1 (oil on canvas)
Garden Party 8 (aqua oil)
Michael was supposed to go into a sheltered workshop. The day after his graduation from Park School ( at the age of 21 ) Michael was given a scrap of watercolor paper and some paints just to keep him busy. Michael painted all day long and had to be coaxed to stop and eat lunch. Michael’s first watercolor was awesome!! When asked in utter amazement, "Michael, this is really good. Would you like to be an artist?" Michael replied, "I AM AN ARTIST." Michael exceeded everyone’s expectations when he was given the
opportunity to paint independently, at his own pace, in his own studio space. He learned how to paint by painting every day. After finishing twenty-four color field paintings in watercolor and acrylics, Michael announced, "I want to paint cats."
The transition from abstract art to figurative art required a shift in Michael’s thinking and perception. It was very difficult. It took Michael more than a year of painting long hours each day to learn how to control the paint flow, to learn how to manipulate his brushes and other tools and to learn how to fill the space. Sometimes Michael divided his paper into sections so that he could paint a small area at a time. (Some of these paintings have cats on patchwork quilts and Michael would paint one patch each day.) At the end of 1994, Michael had walls of beautiful cat paintings and a cat calendar to mark his achievements. And Michael finally
Leaf Bed (watercolor)
mastered the techniques and found the confidence to begin to paint the images that he so wanted to create. In 1995 Michael started drawing cats and dogs together. Michael says "In my paintings dogs and cats are friends." Now Michael enjoys painting in oils and acrylics on large wood panels and canvases with free and loose brushstrokes, and some of his paintings have become more like Impressionism. Michael’s sense of self has been developing as his style of painting has been evolving. Michael’s art gives him a lot of personal satisfaction and recognition within his community. People now accept Michael as a talented artist and as an exceptional human being.
Moonsong 8 (acrylics on contour canvas)
Michael’s Catalog has color pictures of 100 or more paintings that are for sale ( the prices start at
$30 ), color pictures of Michael’s notecards, and a handpainted coupon good for a 10% discount. The Catalog also has color pictures of Michael and information about Michael and his art. Michael’s Catalog is $50. Color brochures showing Michael’s Paintings under $100, and Notecards are available for $7. Handpainted gift certificates, each an original piece of Michael’s art and suitable for framing, can be ordered from the artist.
Please make your checks payable to Michael Johnson and send them to: P.O Box 6157, Evanston, IL 60204-6157. Orders generally take 2- 4 weeks. Michael loves to get mail, and he does answer his letters. He has a photo album that he is filling with pictures of customers, their children, and pets. Michael is planning to have additional notecards printed commercially ( like his "PEACE" notecard ) and will let you know when they are ready. Please send Michael a postcard if you want to be on Michael’s mailing list. Some of Michaels's acrylics and oil paintings are on display and for sale at The Adult Down Syndrome Center of Lutheran General Hospital, 1999 Dempster Street in Park Ridge, Illinois. Contact Ann Jonaitis at 847-318-2331.
All artwork and photographs on this site are copyrighted by the artist and may not be reproduced or used in any manner without the expressed written consent of the artist.