Jay Johansen San Diego Fine Art Artist

Jay Johansen Artist

Celebrated portrait painter Jay Johansen approaches his work with an all encompassing enthusiasm that envelopes his subjects, his medium and the artistic process itself. The son of a respected figurative sculptor, Johansen grew up alongside the dedication, struggle and reward associated with the creation of fine art.  Armed with this first-hand knowledge, he viewed the arts with reverent trepidation and waited almost four decades before he began to explore his own artistic ability.  He began his re-approach cautiously, sketching landscapes as an escape from his career at the business he founded in the 1970s.  Soon, however, the observatory skills he had seen in his father began to broaden Johansen’s own perspective of the world around him and he was newly struck by the powerful narrative of humanity.  This revelation gave Johansen new purpose and inspiration and he began to produce the vibrant portraits that would become his trademark.

Part painter, part storyteller, Johansen plays with color, light, composition and technique until every element of his work becomes a participant in the tale he weaves about his subject.  His models range from icons of the entertainment world, to world leaders, to street people, but he approaches each with a powerful almost tangible curiosity.

Johansen seeks out the drama and experience of the human expression, recreating it through fearless experimentation with color, light, medium and texture.  At times saturated with color that seems to almost drip off the canvas, at others almost translucent in the delicate rendering of a skin tone, Johansen’s portraits boast a juxtaposition of bold and subtle elements.  Painting  from a single light source, he stretches the contrast between light and shadow for dramatic impact, creating portraits of concentrated expression alongside delicate and dexterous handling of physical detail.

In his relatively short artistic career Johansen’s work has already been recognized with several honors and prizes.  he has been awarded the Artdex International’s Gold Medal Award, the Best Portrait Award by the Society of Western Artists and his piece “Untitled #1 was named one of the top 50 prints by the U.S. Art Gallery. Additionally, he has been commissioned to create portraits of pianist Dave Brubeck; former South African President Nelson Mandela; football legend Jim Brown; former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown; former Secretary of State Colin Powell; and Reverend Jesse Jackson.


Recent Work:




                               “Colin Powell”
                 “President Nelson Mandela”

“Love Thyself”

An emphatic message of love and acceptance, done in natural tones emerging from darkness.


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