Sunday, December 4, 2011

(One of the 50) Best of 2011?!

The Woodcutter and The Most Beautiful Tree
Got some good news from the undeniably astute folks over at Woodcutter and The Most Beautiful Tree has been named to Kirkus Reviews' Best of 2011!  It's one of 50 or so independently published books to make the list, so that feels pretty good.

Damn.  I guess it's been about a year now since that pallet of 1000 books was delivered to my parents' house. I'm so happy to report that, thanks to my generous, supportive, and all-around kickass network of friends and family, and an incredibly supportive community in Rockford and Grand Rapids, I've exceeded all my expectations for this first printing.

To date, I have sold, given away, or lost track of 900+ copies of TWaTMBT (not the most flattering acronym, I know).  I still have some copies on hand for people I run into that are interested in picking one up; but, for the most part, I tend to recommend people get their books from the local shops.  These small operations in A2, GR, and Rockford have been so incredible in their support of such a small fish in such a big, terrifying pond.  A big thank you going out to:

Aunt Candy's Toy Company (Rockford)
Karen's Candy and Gifts (Rockford)
Hop Scotch Children's Store (GR)
Plaza Essentials Gift Shop - in the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel (GR)
Muddpuddles (A2)
Fun 4 All (A2)
Vault of Midnight (A2)
Crazy Wisdom (A2)
Tree Town Toys (A2)

Please check these places out!  And if you're wanting to get a copy of the book, they might have some to sell.  Or, you can get it on amazon.  And if you missed the Kirkus review, check 'er out HERE.

I'm still pretty bad at getting interviewed, further evidence of which can be seen HERE.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Couple of thangs.

1.)  You can now purchase copies of the The Woodcutter and The Most Beautiful Tree at Karen's Candy and Gifts in Rockford, MI.  Karen's a nice lady and she makes some neat stuff.  You can scope her website here: Karen's Candy and Gifts.

2.)  I'll be signing books in downtown Rockford at Aunt Candy's Toy Company this evening from 5ish - 9ish.  Stop by and get a signed copy of the book!

I guess...that's it?  New art coming soon, I promise. <3

Monday, November 7, 2011

'Tis (somehow...unbelievably, already) the Season

Last weekend I went back to GR where I had the good fortune to participate in the "Holiday Home Tour and Marketplace," a first-time event organized by the Northview Senior Citizens.  A young family had donated the use of their home for the event, so a bunch of local crafters and artists decorated the space with their wares.  I was stationed at their dining room table for 14 hours over two days, selling and signing copies of The Woodcutter and The Most Beautiful Tree.  It ended-up being a pretty successful experience for me, lots of books sold and lots of word gotten-out.  I got to see some familiar faces and briefly catch-up with some friends' mums.  Plus, I was surrounded by my key demographic: females 60+ years old.

There was one thing that kinda struck me as odd.  People would approach my little display and I'd invite them to take a postcard or flip through the book if they so wished.  Some would ask questions, most would pick up a book and check it out, and a handful would read the book cover to cover.  The thing that got me, was that some people would stand in front of me, read the entire book, say something like "Aww, what a sweet story," and then wander off.  To me that seemed...not overly classy.  Now, I go to the grocery store and try samples without buying things, I steal stuff from the farmer's market when the farmers aren't looking, as a kid I would read comics off the stand at the comic shop and not buy is this behavior any different?  Maybe I've been doing the same thing, but am only aware of it now because I'm on the other side of the table.  To quote Omar from "The Wire":

"It's all in the game."


Ps - I was kidding about the farmers market :)    

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Book signing in Rockford!

Tomorrow (Sunday, October 9th), I'll be in downtown Rockford at Aunt Candy's Toy Company!!  It's a totally sweet little shop with lots of stuff for kids.I'll be hanging out from noon until 3ish, so please stop by, say hi, and if you'd like, grab a signed, personalized copy of The Woodcutter and The Most Beautiful Tree.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


The title of this post is the Greek word for "Icon" (literally: "image").  Over the past year or so, I've really become fascinated with the themes and stylistic choices favored in classical religious icons.  I guess my first real attempt at this style was last year's painting "God's Bear" which I painted for the exhibition at Cafe Verde.  I've returned to that style a few times since then, this being the latest (and darkest):

 This was my first time painting with coffee.  It behaves a lot like...the absolute weakest watercolor paint on Earth.  Even the subtlest of tones here represent repeated washes and brushstrokes.  The ink is Sakura Pigma Micron 05, and the gold is from a Posca paint marker.

This piece will be in a group show at the Ugly Mug (Ypsi) in October.  Details to come.

(Sorry about the crappy photos...I couldn't decide which color I liked better vs. which was more true to life.  Also, it seems I can't focus my shots worth a d*mn). >.<

This is, far and away, the best-smelling painting I've ever done.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Who wants to win a book???

Let's try something!  Together!

This being the first year of publication for The Woodcutter and The Most Beautiful Tree, it's important for me to do as much as possible to market it as much as possible to get into the hands of as many people  as possible.  Next year she's gonna be old news, and I'll be trying to put more of my focus into other book ideas I've got kicking around.

So!  Here's where you can have a chance to get a copy of the book for free!!  Actually, howzzabout 3 of you wonderful people get a free book each??

The Skinny:

Everyone who writes and posts review for the The Woodcutter and The Most Beautiful Tree before midnight, September 25th will be entered into a drawing to win one of three signed, personalized copies of the book. 

I'll contact you 3 lucky ducks shortly after the deadline to discuss particulars (book signage, shipping address, etc.).  But just in case, be sure to check back here in the days following the deadline for updates and announcements.  For the winners, it could make a versatile Christmas gift (bath mat, cheese board, dietary supplement in the lean winter months [you would have to eat 30 bowls of Total to get the fiber found in just the first 3 pages of this book]).  But if you'd rather share it with some young ones in your life, I'd recommend this book for all children up until...4th grade or so.

Anyway, here's a link to the Amazon page for the book if you're interested.  Good luck!  And Thanks :-D


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Jamboree 2011

The inestimable Christina Mezuk and I reunited for another installment of collaborative art at this year's Michigan Roots Jamboree.  For those who are unfamiliar, the Jamboree is a two-day music festival in Riverside Park in downtown Ypsi.  Artists paint on a small stage while the bands perform, then the finished works are entered into  silent auction.  Artists get 80% of the sale price (so Cristina and I get 80% to share).

We met once during the week leading-up to the festival and hashed-out a game plan.  We met at Aut Bar (a fantastic bar/restaurant in Ann Arbor's Kerrytown district) and, over the course of some cocktails and a plate of Super Nachos, pretty much decided on exactly what we ended-up doing at the Jamboree.  Last year, we had made plans, but ended-up scrapping them at the last possible second and going in a completely different direction.

We used acrylics on an off-white gesso'd board, 4' x 4'.  About half way through our time, it started to RAIN.  After a few moments of initial panic, we realized that we were getting some really cool effects as some of the colors started to run and mix in rather serendipitous ways.  So we adapted our game plan and ended-up creating a piece that I think we were both fairly pleased with.  It ended-up selling for over double the value of last year's piece.  And after we finished painting, we got to see Frontier Ruckus play!  ACES.

Big thanks to Kayj and Community Rebirth for another opportunity to participate in our sweet art scene here in YpsiArbor.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Several weeks ago, I submitted my book to Kirkus Indie (the method by which a self-published work can be reviewed by Kirkus).  Well, Yesterday I got the review in my inbox and, after avoiding looking at it for an entire afternoon, I finally worked-up the guts to see what they made of my book.

As the seasons pass, a wise and beautiful tree must persuade a jolly woodcutter not to chop her down.
“Thwickety-THWACK! Thwickety-THWACK!” sings the woodcutter as he tromps through the forest, swinging his trusty axe and looking for a suitable tree to chop. When he comes upon a beautiful tree, he is at first delighted—until the tree asks him what he intends to do. The startled woodcutter declares that he will “CHOP-CHOP-CHOP” her “DOWN-DOWN-DOWN!” and the clever tree offers him her flowers instead. He agrees to take these home to his wife in lieu of cutting the tree down. Again and again, the woodcutter encounters the tree, and each time she offers him a gift to dissuade him from chopping her down. Come winter, however, the tree is despondent—her branches are bare and she no longer has anything to offer. To her surprise, the friendly woodcutter offers her a gift. The illustrations by debut author Johnston suit the titular characters well—the loud-mouthed woodcutter’s words burst onto the page alongside his gorgeous and whimsical surroundings. The author’s depiction of the tree is enchanting, with leaves and flowers blossoming onto the page in a colorful display that will captivate the eyes and minds of young readers. Johnston’s illustrations are so beautiful and intricate that they nearly overwhelm the narrative. Still, young readers and listeners are sure to enjoy the repetitive lyrics of the woodcutter’s song. Parents, librarians and schoolteachers may also enjoy belting out the woodcutter’s amusing dialogue. In the end, readers learn a touching lesson of friendship and giving as its own reward.
Gorgeous illustrations, humorous dialogue and a moving narrative make this a stunning debut.
Needless to say, I'm pretty happy.  AND!  They gave me a star :-D  Here's a link to the REVIEW.  

Believe in yourself, believe in your craft, believe in your works.  Others will follow.
The Kirkus Star: "Awarded to books of remarkable merit."  

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Locusts and Honey

The Gospel of St. Matthew Ch. 3:1-4

In Those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.  For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.  And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.

This is the most recent I've done in a sort of religious, icon-esque style.  Religion and mythology in and of themselves are such rich sources from which to draw inspiration, add to that the countless interpretations and styles developed by artists over the centuries...and I find I am helpless to avoid trying my own hand.  My style is still somewhat cartoon-y and lacks the bold character of so many works by others (maybe watercolor is not ideal?  Perhaps I need to refine my watercolor techniques?).  Still, I think I have some basic elements that are unique to my vision, and I am excited to continue growing within this genre.  

This particular piece was framed at Nelson Amos Studio in Ypsilanti, MI (They absolutely CRUSHED it...the matting and framing [not pictured] look gorgeous) and was a house-warming gift for my sister and her husband, married this past weekend.  Congratulations again, to Cam and Selina Breiden.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Leaving the cradle...

Today will be my first book event outside of my comfortable little bubble of West Michigan.  I'll be doing a reading/book signing at Tree Town Toys here in Ann Arbor at 11am (

I'm still having a blast with promoting and selling the book, but the fact that it consumes so much time that could otherwise be spent working on new creative pursuits is truly frustrating.  I'd say that has been the biggest pitfall to self-publishing: lack of time to do new stuff.  Aside from working on new book ideas, I'm also doing a large watercolor painting as a wedding gift for my sister and her soon-to-be husband.  I REEEEEALLY need to finish it this week so I can get it scanned and framed in time for the July 16th wedding.  I'm a counselor at a church camp all next week, so that puts an even bigger crunch on the whole project.

Oh well!  Time to get serious, I guess.  I'll paint for an hour before I have to start prepping for my event.  Here we go...  

Saturday, June 18, 2011

You can buy the book on Amazon now!

I recently joined Amazon Advantage, a system offered to independent publishers who would like to see their work sold on  Amazon.  Here's a link to The Woodcutter and The Most Beautiful Tree!

Advantage is a relatively easy system to sign-up for and use:

1.) Make an account
2.) Add an item (media)
3.) Amazon places orders
4.) Print shipping label
5.) Send to Amazon

Amazon will then either send you a check or deposit funds directly into your account each month as your items sell.  As an independently published author/illustrator, it's really nice to have access to a market as big as Amazon.  I've mostly stayed away from trying to get my book into the large chain stores (B&N, Borders) for a few reasons (poor sales outlook, books getting leafed-through and damaged), so it's so nice to have online distribution aside from my charming, but super-tiny, website.

So please, check it out on Amazon.  And if you're feeling super-generous and would like to write yourself into my heart forever and ever, please feel free to write a review (good, bad, or ugly...just let 'em know what you think :-)).

Friday, June 10, 2011

2 months since last update. I am sweeeeet!

Here is a piece I did for a friend.  She was involved in this year's West Michigan Conference of the United Methodist Church, and asked if I'd help out with some of the stage design.  She was on a committee and they were interested in having me incorporate my illuminated circles into the theme for the conference: "Take My Hand."  The vision was to have my design (on 16"x 20" watercolor paper) scanned and printed on four 4' x 20' banners featuring this image:
 So, I started with the background...
Added the hands and pen work...and finished!

Saturday, April 9, 2011


I'll be selling and signing copies of The Woodcutter and The Most Beautiful Tree in Grand Rapids and Rockford on Saturday, April 30th.

Minds in Motion (28th St. in Centerpointe  Mall)

Rockford Frame & Mat Shop (downtown on the corner of Courtland and Main)
*Also selling signed and numbered prints from the book, as well as original artwork

Should be some fun times.  Stop by and say hi!


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Boniface I

There is another Beksinski-inspired theme I've been working on for a few years now.  Here are some pics of the process (you can see some of the watercolor work as well as sketched outlines and masking fluid.  Masking fluid is great because it lets you work quickly without having to worry about getting paint where you'd rather not.  And when you're get to peel it off!):

Aaaaaand, here she is all finished and weird:

Boniface I
16" x 20" 140 lb. Watercolor block
Watercolor and Pigma Micron series

I'd never done such fine (as in "detailed") work with watercolor before.  I gotta say, I was surprised how well it went.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

It's springtime somewhere, I'm sure

A friend from high school just had a birthday and her husband asked me to paint a piece for her. He had a general idea of what he was looking for, and this is what I came up with.

The inspiration came from the Japanese tradition of Hanami, or “flower-viewing party”. Hanami is a springtime celebration in which families, friends, and co-workers gather in groups, large or small, and picnic beneath the sakura (cherry blossoms). It’s a time to enjoy food, drink, and good company all under the beautiful pink canopy of the cherry trees. During my time in Japan, I was fortunate to participate in two hanami seasons, during which I went to several parties.
One such party took place in one of the larger parks in Tokyo: Ueno. The trees were truly magnificent, which easily explains why the park was so incredibly crowded with hanami-goers. Every inch of soil even remotely near a cherry tree was occupied by a cluster of people enjoying the spring weather. It was really something to see.
I much preferred the hanami in Tsukuba: quieter and MUCH less crowded. I guess this painting is supposed to reflect this more intimate side of hanami. That is, reflecting on and enjoying the beauty of spring with someone(s) you love.
***Thoughts and prayers continuing to go out to people in Japan dealing with the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami, and the ongoing nuclear catastrophe.***

Sunday, March 27, 2011

End of March ALREADY?!

Where DOES the time go??  It seems like I have been too preoccupied with book related things(school visits, mailings, promotions, and the like) that I've had very little time to create anything new.  That changed last week when I sat down and wrote the rough (and I mean ROUGH) draft of a new story tentatively entitled "The Most Beautiful Tree Saves the Day."  I also just started painting a piece that I has been outlined and ready to go for, oh, let's say...5 weeks?  It feels so good to be working on a piece again.  

Over the past few weeks, I've had a few school visits and a book signing event.  Here's a picture from the latter:

Robb N. Johnston "The Woodcutter and The Most Wonderful Tree."  Fantastic!

Aaaaand, here's my favorite art teacher!  Mr. V, with his new book "Eye Can Find That!"!!  How crazy is it that I was signing books in the same store, at the same time, as my childhood mentor...?

VERY crazy.  :-D

Monday, March 7, 2011

First school visit

The pictures don't adequately convey the terror-sweat pouring out of my body.

"Woodcutter" drawing lesson!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Portraiture not a strong suit for me.  Nor is acrylic paint.  So, when these two elements are married on a piece of busted IKEA furniture, the results are exactly as you'd expect:

It's Elín!!!


Monday, February 7, 2011

Teeter Talk!

A couple weeks ago, I got in contact with Dave Askins of the Ann Arbor Chronicle to see if he'd be interested in doing some coverage for the book.  He was, and suggested a novel approach to our interview (all the more so because it was the first week of an extremely cold Michigan February).  He wanted us to take a ride on a teeter totter for our little chat.
I sat down on Dave's teeter-totter in A2 and we chatted for a bit on an exceptionally snowy morning last week.  You can read the full article in the Ann Arbor Chronicle.  And here's the transcription of our conversation (It seems I like to start responses with "yeah"):

TT with HD: Robb Johnston

[Ed. note: The book "The Woodcutter and The Most Beautiful Tree" can be purchased online, or at Vault of Midnight in downtown Ann Arbor, or Fun 4 All on Washtenaw Avenue. ]

HD: Welcome to the teeter totter.

RJ: Thank you so much.

HD: So, today is very much like the final scene of this book that you've written ...

RJ: ... yeah ...

HD: ... in terms of it's cold and it's snowy. But there's not a tree that's a part of the conversation, however.

RJ: [laugh]

HD: So this book you've written involves a talking tree.

RJ: Yep!

HD: And it is a female tree.

RJ: Yes.

HD: So that's one thing I wanted to ask you about -- was that a conscious choice? Because for example in German, the word for tree, der Baum, is grammatically a masculine noun.

RJ: Okay.

HD: So when I read the book, I said, Okay, this is a girl tree, maybe that's a conscious choice, or maybe that's just random.

RJ: Yeah, it most mostly unconscious, I guess, I mean it never even crossed my mind to make a male tree. From the get go, I had this woodcutter and I had this tree and I knew that the woodcutter was going to be this exploitative, very driven force from that perspective. And the tree, I knew was going to be more giving and nurturing. And I guess for whatever reason, how I was raised, societal influences, and all that, I guess I automatically associated that with a more female type character.

HD: So did you consider at all introducing other characters into the story? Because it's just the woodcutter and the tree, those are the only two characters, there's not even other little forest creatures involved.

RJ: No, and that's been a criticism and a suggestion that a lot of people have made to me ...

HD: ... well, I didn't mean it as a criticsm ...

RJ: ... where is everyone?

HD: Well, no, actually it didn't really occur to me as I read it through the first time. And the way I did that, by the way, I don't have kids, so I thought, Okay, what I will I will read it to wife as if she were a four-year-old.

RJ: There you go.

HD: So I didn't notice, Hey, there's nobody else in this story. But in trying to come up with something interesting to talk to you about, I thought, Oh, there's only two characters, that really simplifies things. It's some sort of I dunno, isn't that like Greek ...

RJ: ... like a fabel almost?

HD: Well, I dunno, but there's nothing else to distract you.

RJ: Exactly.

HD: And I didn't fine tooth it, but in the illustrations, there's no other characters either, right? I mean there's nuts and other objects. Just the tree and the woodcutter.

RJ: Yeah, that was definitely a conscious decision, I just wanted it to be this running dialogue between these two characters and the story they had to tell. If you look at some of the illustrations, with the intricate designs, I did hide some little creatures in there.

HD: Oh, so like some treats! Like some Easter eggs.

RJ: So maybe a kid who is really poring over the book might say, Hey, that looks like something! Maybe it was intentional, maybe it wasn't. There are a few of those.

abstract versus realistic portrayals in children's book illustrations

HD: So you mentioned the intricate designs, I'm thinking of these round sort of representations that equate to leaves.

RJ: Yep.

HD: I was struggling to find a word to describe them, to call them colored disks seems like somewhat of an understatement. But they're doily-like colorful things. Was that an intentional decision that you didn't want to make a natural, or realistic portrayal of a leaf, but rather to go with a more -- I'm looking for a word, you artists have words for this kind of thing ...

RJ: ... more abstract.

HD: Yes, there you go.

RJ: Yeah, that was definitely a conscious decision, I wanted an abstract representation to kind of challenge kids a little bit, to say, That's not a leaf but I kind of see maybe see where he's going with that. I really, I couldn't quite put a name on them, either.

HD: But it's a device you're fond of, I assume, because this it's the same kind of representation you used for the cover of the Art Prize guide.

RJ: Yeah, exactly.

HD: So it's the same kind of theme.

RJ: Yeah, I've been trying to find different ways to incorporate this into the world around. I used it for the Grand Rapids Press Prize cover. Also I've kind of toyed around with incorporating it into say like a cross section of meat like the the way that the fat marbles in a red slab of meat. I've been playing around with that a little bit. Some other places as well, it's been kind of fun. It's pretty versatile. But again, it's very abstract, you kind of have to switch your thinking a bit to make it work.

HD: You talked about how a kid might pause and look at your representation of a leaf and say, Is that really a leaf -- yeah, okay I guess I can see that. The other thing that I could imagine a kind maybe objecting to -- and I don't think I'm spoiling the ending or anything -- but this tree, which is not an evergreen, and it's not shaped like a Christmas tree at all, but in a sense, it becomes a Christmas tree.

RJ: Sure. [laugh]

HD: So I could imagine a four-year-old who has mastered the concept of Christmas and who understands what it's about saying, "But Mommy, that's not a Christmas tree!"

RJ: Yeah, I wouldn't know how to respond to that! Other than, you know, Yes, it is!

HD: Just a couple of quick nuts and bolts questions. This is available for sale where? I know people can order it directly from you through your website. Are there any local bookstores that are carrying it?

RJ: There are copies for sale on consignment at Vault of Midnight.

HD: So that's Main Street downtown Ann Arbor.

RJ: And then also Fun 4 All, a comic bookshop on on Washtenaw. And then I've been in contact with Borders and Barnes and Noble I donated a copy each to the Ypsi District Library on Whitaker and the Ann Arbor District Library downtown.

HD: So people can check it out at the library. How many copies was the first printing? On your blog you have this wonderful picture of a giant pallet.

RJ: Yeah, it's kind of a blessing and and hardship of self-publishing is that you have control over the stock but now you have a pallet of books in your garage!

HD: Yes, I am familiar with this concept -- not with books but with CDs.

RJ: Oh, okay. [laugh]

HD: At some point you say, Gosh, how do I liquidate the 800 out of the 1,000 I had manufactured? How many books did you have made?

RJ: I ordered 1,000. And 1,006 were shipped to my house. So they gave me six free copies!

HD: That's like a baker's dozen kind of thing or an extra baker's half dozen. Alright, so the goal is to sell through them all.

RJ: Yeah, I'd like to make as much of a dent as I can, leading up to say, August or so and then see where I am. Then, God willing, get another printing, do another round.

HD: So I mean in terms of marketing, it does conclude with a Christmas story, but I wouldn't describe it as a Christmas book.

RJ: Oh, I'm very happy to hear that. I don't like to have it pigeon-holed as that, and a lot of people do. Some people see it as kind of an any-kind-of-season-will-do sort of thing. Which is the intention.

HD: Well, it has all four seasons right in it! Let no one deny that it has four seasons! One last thing, there's a natural area preservation project, I think, at the base of our street. I was just curious to know if you were aware of that or if you had anything to do with the work that went on with that as a city employee?

RJ: That's one of the parks down there?

HD: I guess I don't know what category it is, I thought it was a NAP project. It used to be all overgrown and brushy, and some neighbors worked with folks made some inquiries at the city and developed a landscape plan, and they cleared out a bunch of stuff, planted native species, there's a little path through there, they basically spruced it up.

RJ: Oh, okay, no I'm not aware of it. I didn't do any work on it.

HD: Does that sound like the sort of thing you spend your time doing for NAP, though?

RJ: Exactly. Ecological restoration and that sort of stuff.

HD: And the book is aligned with the whole mission of preserving nature.

RJ: Yeah.

HD: Listen, thanks for coming to ride the teeter totter, especially on this cold and snowy day.

RJ: Oh, this was awesome, thank you so much.

Thanks to "Homeless Dave" for an awesome cup of coffee and a unique interview experience! :-D

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Nice article in today's GR Press.

You can read the mlive version HERE.  Thanks to Gina Gilligan for a fun interview and a great article.  I'm so fortunate to come from such a supportive community.  I <3 GR.  I'll be doing a book signing this coming weekend back home, so if you missed the Herman's Boy thing....this should be a fun time.

Check it:

Where: Reading Tree5300 Northland Drive NE Grand Rapids, Michigan 49525
When: Saturday, February 12th.  1-3pm
Who: Mr. Vidro (author/illustrator and my elementary school art teacher(!)) and me.  

Friday, January 28, 2011


A gift for a friend. Watercolor and oil pastel on 16 x 20 block.

I still hesitate to draw or paint from life or photograph. Working from imagination, with all the freedom and endless possibilities, just seems so much safer.

I'll try and get over that.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.6

Sunday, January 23, 2011

commission for Nora

This was a be-lated Christmas gift for Nora's girlfriend, Trish. Nora and Trish are two fine young ladies of whom I am extremely fond. Hopefully Elín and I can visit them in Seattle this summer.

About the piece: 16" x 20" watercolor block. The island is called Ometepe, and it consists of two volcanoes. It's in Nicaragua, where Trish lived for a time.
Published with Blogger-droid v1.6.5

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Elementary schools...

are kinda surreal when you enter them as an adult for the first time.

I did a school visit to promote/share The Woodcutter and The Most Beautiful Tree at Great Lakes Elementary in the West Ottawa School District.  It was a particularly January-y morning, and I slipped on the ice in the driveway and banged-up a knee and a palm.  I figured the tone had pretty much been set for the day.

I was so wrong.  The school visit was awesome.  The teachers were super-helpful and supportive, and the kids were just amazing.  They joined-in during the reading and asked some really good questions.  I talked a little bit about my process of writing, illustrating, and publishing; then, we did a mini PowerPoint presentation of some other art/illustration, and a little drawing exercise together.  It was a riot.  A BIG thanks to my sister, Ms. (Selina) Johnston for inviting me to her school and a shout-out to the teachers and kids (mostly 4th grade...maybe a 3rd grade class as well) at Great Lakes Elementary!!!  You guys were awesome guinea pigs.

I was pretty upbeat walking back to the car, only to find I'd left the headlights on.  Sooooo, I had to get a jump to get out of the school parking lot.  Awesome :-)

Pics from the day to follow.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Well...THAT was fun!

I want to say a big "THANK YOU!" to friends, family, and members of the West Michigan community that made it out on Saturday to Herman's Boy for the book signing.  I had a great time and even got to do a little reading for the folks hanging out in the store.

NOTE:  It behooves author/illustrators of children's books to show a little chest-flesh when signing books.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

So...THIS happened.

I was on a local TV station this morning talking about the book and the upcoming signing at Herman's Boy.  The program is called eightWest, and here I am with the two hosts: Matt Kirkwood and Rachel Ruiz.  It was a fun, nervous few minutes.

NOW, I'm gonna hit the cross country trails for some skiing.  It's a beautiful January day in Michigan: overcast, snowy, and still.  ...And soon to be filled with screams of terror and bitter cries of frustration (I'm not very good, yet).

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Death Star...I website, is fully operational.

Thanks solely to the efforts of one man, Mr. Andrew Blossom, you can now purchase The Woodcutter and The Most Beautiful Tree by Robb N. Johnston on the inter-tubes.  GO HERE(!)

YAY ANDREW! omgbbq

Saturday, January 1, 2011

!!First book signing!!

I'll be selling, signing, and reading copies of The Woodcutter and The Most Beautiful Tree.

The skinny:

Where?!:  Herman's Boy (220 Old Northland Dr. Rockford, MI 49341)
When?!:  Saturday, January 15th.  9am - noonish.  Reading at 11:30am or thereabouts.
Who?!:  YOU!!!  Please come out and scope the book, if you've not already.  Or just say hi and munch on a bageldog.

Hope to see you there!!!


-Robb N. Johnston