Gunnar Johnson


It’s not hard to tell that Gunnar has some chops. That level of skill didn’t just fall out of the sky, either; it takes years of hard work to be able to create like this. When we first saw his illustrations, it would have felt like a crime to not put his work up. Check him out, hire him, commission him, buy his work, buy him a sandwich, or just sit back and enjoy the art. But really though, a sandwich would be cool, at least.


How would you describe your creative process?

My studio practice follows a multiple sketch process, where I start with an initial rough to gather the gist of my ideas on to paper and leave room for edits to be made. Once I have the initial idea is locked down I begin to refine the drawing, where I clean up looser pencil marks and draw it to scale. After the refined sketch is done, it’s transferred onto illustration board and I start to apply acrylic paint, ink, and pen in different layers to get the grimy effect that I am trying to transmit.


What are you trying to communicate through your art?

The work that I create is about visual appeal and I want it to be applied towards commercial means, such as  posters, editorials, packaging, and surface design. The goal of my work is to capitalize on this creepy, outlandish style and make it applicable to a niche market in the illustration world that seeks out this genre. I want my work to find a balance between strange and whimsical, so the unsettling imagery that I have created can also be seen as playful and personal. My ultimate goal as an Illustrator is to show how wacky imagery can be employed in a manner to which a narrative can be told, a product can be sold, and how weirdness can be evocative to the imagination of others.


What influences your unique style of illustration?

My work has always been influenced by skateboarding. The grungy, misfit, sub-culture that it is, seemed to encapsulate a certain unique character to it and the various personalities that this activity brings together from all walks of life, always inspired me as a person. I have to give full credit to skateboarding for even peaking my later passion for the arts. Because much like the act of making art, it is process oriented in nature and often it’s considered more of an art form than a sport. Everyone approaches skateboarding differently with their form, style, trick selection, and even fashion. Even with the trial of attempting a trick, much like drawing or painting, there is a repetitive action of trying over and over again until you get it right and make it look the way you want it to. It has even affected  the way I look at the architecture that surrounds me. I can’t idly walk by a staircase, handrail, ledge, bench, picnic table, or sidewalk anymore without thinking about how I would approach the obstacle with a skateboard under my feet

This new found mode of thinking that skate culture brainwashed me with, stimulated my psyche to the core. But when I started to inspect the graphics on the boards that I was riding and realized that skaters drew these themselves, was when art found a place in my heart. Contemporaries like Ed Templeton and Jim Phillips, showed me how art could capture the attitude that skate culture conveyed. That’s what really motivated me about this hobby. That the art itself seemed to glorify the oddball and utilize weird and disgusting imagery as a means represent it.