ARTIST FOCUS:  OLIVER JOHNSON - Football Finery

ARTIST FOCUS: OLIVER JOHNSON

Interview:  Oliver Johnson | Independent Football Artist | Hull City Fan.

 

A very warm welcome to the hugely talented independent football artist, Oliver Johnson.  We met Oli last year at a Retro Football Fair in Sheffield where we were both exhibiting.  We instantly fall in love with his fabulous range of contemporary and stylish handmade art prints.  We recently caught-up with him to discover more about his work, influences and love of the game.    

 

FF:  I suppose a good place to start is 'your team'.  Who do you support?

OJ:  Hull City! It’s been a struggle over the years with the odd, glorious moment watching them through financial difficulties and come close to dropping out the football league, that Dean Windass goal in the play-off final, an FA Cup final and an attempted name change by the previous owners.  But things are looking bright for the Tigers at the moment with an owner that has got the fans back into the stadium and the appointment of Liam Rosenior who I feel represents the club excellently both on and off the pitch.

 

FF:  What is your earliest football memory?

OJ:  That would have to be the Mexico 86 World Cup - in particular Gary Lineker’s hat-trick vs Poland. I remember me and my older brother stayed-up to watch way past bedtime - Lineker’s bandaged wrist, naively being convinced that England would go on to win the whole thing. It did not take long for me to experience my first memory of football heartache with Maradona’s infamous ‘Hand of God.’ From there on in, I was hooked. 

It wasn’t until about five years later, that I went to see my first match.  I’d have loved to have gone sooner, but my Dad had no interest in football and Mum was not keen on me attending matches for fear of trouble - not unreasonable given the games reputation in the 80’s.  It wasn’t a Hull City game unfortunately, but a league cup tie between Grimsby Town and Aston Villa at Blundall Park which ended nil nil.  A few months later I went to my first Hull game at Boothferry Park - a one nil win over West Brom in what was the old division three.  Happy days!

 

Oliver Johnson Digital Artwork - Boothferry Park

 

FF:  When did you get into footy art?  

OJ:  It was a few months before the covid pandemic when I was decorating the home office, I wanted some Hull City related art on the walls specifically of Boothferry Park and I was unable to find anything that really appealed to me. I studied art at collage, so decided to create some art myself. After some trial-and-error, I came up an illustration of ‘Fer Ark’ that I was happy to hang on the wall (our stadium became affectionately known as "Fer Ark" due to the lack of finances for maintenance which meant that only those letters were illuminated on the large "boothFERry pARK" signage).

My wife shared it with one of her friends who supports Burnley who immediately asked me if I could do one of Turf Moor. By the time I had completed my second piece of art the pandemic had hit so I had a bit of free time to draw some more stadiums.  I soon had enough finished artwork to set up a Etsy shop and started making regular sales. Since then, I have been adding more and more grounds to the collection.

 

FF:  Tell us a bit about your influences and how these direct your work?

OJ:  The biggest influence on work has probably been an artist and designer called Evan Hecox who is completely non-football related. He does these really cool illustrations of mundane urban scenes that I wanted to emulate it in my drawings of football stadiums. I also love modernist architecture posters which I try hard to give my illustrations this look.

 

Oliver Johnson Digital Artwork - The San Siro Stadium

 

FF:  A lot of your art incorporates football stadia.  What draws you to football architecture?

OJ:  I first became obsessed with football stadia when I became aware of the San Siro during Italia 90, it was like no other stadium I’d seen before and after that I started taking a lot more notice of football stadium architecture. I think I am drawn to them because they’re very imposing structures that hold huge community and cultural significance and dominate the landscape.

 

FF:  Can you tell us a little bit about the process for creating a piece?  

OJ:  I start off by going to a ground to take photos, ideally on a non-match day so I can get a clear shot.  I then use the photo as a reference for my drawings which I do on a graphics tablet using a digital pen. I often use Google maps too, mainly to zoom-in on detail I’ve not captured on the photo - I always try to include as much detail as possible.  After the drawing is finished I colour in the sky, the club colours then import it into some design software where I add graphics to make it into the finished article. 

  

FF:  We stock a some of your artwork, but where can people see more of your wonderful work?

OJ:  Yes, you guys kindly stock a bunch of my work (see Oli's work here).  You can also browse my work and buy through my website OR, if you’re based outside the UK, I have got an Etsy store too. I’ve covered over 70 grounds to date and I’m always adding to the collection.  

 

 

Oliver Johnson Digital Football Art - Aston Villa Holte End