Get to Know: Johannah O'Donnell

Get to Know: Johannah O'Donnell

In anticipation of this week's print release with artist Johannah O'Donnell, we sat down with her to learn about her art, process and more.  Take a look below:

Where were you born and where are you now?

I was born in Miami, Florida, and grew up in Sarasota. I’ve lived here in Orlando for just over 20 years.

What are your first artistic memories?

I grew up in a family of artists, so I have always been around art and artmaking. Some of my earliest memories are of my dad making a series of tiger paper dolls for me. My favorite book as a kid was The Tyger Voyage. The illustrations in the book are beautiful. I was so amazed when he recreated those tigers so effortlessly.

How has your style changed over the years?  Have you always worked with the same subject matter?

My art has always been representational and has consistently incorporated pop culture references. Also, I’ve been depicting animals in my work since day one. But I was trained as a printmaker, so the art I made in college was mainly screen prints, and it was much more cartoony than what I do now. Even when I transitioned to painting after I graduated, I still incorporated a lot of cartoon imagery into my work. So I think that’s been the biggest change in my style, dropping the flatter 2-dimensional aspects of my earlier pieces.

Who/what are your current biggest inspirations for your artwork?

I am heavily influenced by '70s sci-fi artwork. It’s my absolute favorite. Also, the aesthetic of mid-century horror movies. The Kittening was largely informed by the old Hammer Movie posters - the oversaturated colors, the sense of impending doom, the overall pulpiness.

What is a normal day in the studio like for you?

My studio is attached to our house, which is both great and not so great. Great, because easy access to food. Not so great, as I’m sometimes distracted by all the other non-art stuff I have on my plate. On a typical studio day, I’ll walk the dog a few miles first thing in the morning and then handle whatever household tasks I need to complete. Getting those things off my plate first helps me focus on my work. Then I’ll put on an audiobook and start painting. Or, if I’m in the planning stage, I’ll throw on some music, and start piecing things together in Photoshop.

What's the most difficult part about creating?

Coming up with the ideas! Sometimes my head is full of things I’d like to get started on. Other times, I draw a total blank, the artist’s equivalent of “writer’s block”. That’s tough.

Could you tell us a bit about your release with us this week?

Sure! Like I said, the Kittening is influenced by the old Hammer Horror movie posters. It is also influenced by “The Dunwich Horror” (1970) and “The Wicker Man” (1973), films that featured stone circles/monuments and druid rituals. Another influence is the Dr. Who episode “The Stones of Blood” (1978), which absolutely terrified me as a kid. I’ve always been really interested in stone circles and the history behind them (probably because of that Dr. Who episode!). Contrasting that sense of impending doom with something as innocuous as an angry kitten seemed like a fun idea. I always try to incorporate a little humor into my work, and I love painting cats and kittens. Their faces have almost human proportions and they are so expressive. And everyone likes cats, or at least they should!

When you're not creating, what are you up to?

When I’m not painting, I’m spending time with my husband and our pets, and teaching beginning drawing/art theory at a college nearby. Oh, and I’m hanging out at Disneyworld, too, of course, because Orlando.

What's next for you in 2019?

I just finished a piece for a show at Mize Gallery in St. Pete. Also, I have two paintings currently hanging in Gristle Gallery’s “Cult of Meow III” show in Brooklyn, NY. Other than that, I am working on a bunch of pet portraits right now. I don’t often open my studio up for commissions, but the timing worked out and I’m having a great time with them. Making work that really touches people on a personal level is very rewarding.

"The Kittening" will be available in our shop on Thursday, September 12th at 1PM PST.

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