Renee Johnson / Interior Design

Renee Johnson, Watkins College of Art

What’s your ritual to get prepared, or in the zone, to create?
I get distracted very easily. To get in the zone, I have to have a really clean environment so that I’m not tempted to touch stuff.  I also have to be in an area with a window. I like natural light, so the more light, the better. The last thing I have to have is music. It’s the most important thing out of the three. It can’t be different genres shuffled together either. I have to be in the mood to listen to it. If I’m not, it messes with my mood which hinders the outcome of creating something that I am content with.

Tell us about a time you failed.
I fail all the time. My failure impacts me more than anyone teaching about what not to do. One of my big fails happened when I had to present in front of the class a lighting project that I was working on. I had spent all night putting the presentation board together and making the board look really nice. I didn’t sleep at all that day. Because this was for a night class, I had to wait all day to present, which means I also had to find the energy to stay awake. When it was time for the class to start, my energy was gone. It was like my body crashed, and all I could think about was sleep. I was the last person to present for the class and while people were presenting I caught myself falling asleep through my classmates’ presentations. I realized at that point that I should have organized my time better, so that I could have gotten some sleep. When it became my turn to present, I was a hot mess. I was so scatterbrained and flustered that I couldn’t think of the proper words to say. During my presentation, I started seeing so many things wrong.  At that point, I was so frustrated and mad at myself that I just stopped talking during my presentation. My teacher could tell how upset I was about it that he let me stop and present at the next class. That night, I learned that I need to sleep the night before a presentation and manage my time better.

Experiment. You never know what you will get out of trying new things.

If you weren’t an artist, what would you want to do professionally?
I would probably be a teacher or counselor. When I was in kindergarten, I remember every morning my teacher having a playtime sign-up sheet outside the door. I would try and get to school early so that I could sign up for what I wanted to do. The first thing I usually picked was doing arts and crafts or playing with the building blocks. If those spots were full, I would pick playing classroom. I always liked playing the teacher. It was so fun, and I loved handing out papers and leading the class.

Favorite addiction or guilty pleasure that keeps you inspired?
I don’t know if this is an addiction or guilty pleasure but what keeps me inspired is looking at documentaries of successful people. I like hearing about how they arrived at the moment of where they are today. The latest documentary I watched was from a Netflix series called “Abstract.” It’s a series talking about the creative process of artists and designers; how they create an idea and turn it into reality. Each artist they selected to interview had this interesting way of thinking, breaking down a subject to dive into the true meaning of why it’s important for them to create the work for the world to see and experience.

What implement or tool in your “toolbox” as an artist do you love or depend on most?
For me, I depend on “feeling.” I like my work to create a feeling based on shapes and color. A room can always look nice, but what really impacts the design is the feeling that the room brings. It’s just like how art in a gallery creates a feeling in the space so the viewer can understand and experience what the artist is trying to relay to the viewer.

What do your parents think about your being an artist?
They love it. My mom is an accountant and my dad is into computers, and out of that they made an artist. It’s funny to me because it’s so different and I’m the only person in my family who actually took art seriously. They support me 100 percent and my mother loves that I can be her personal interior designer.

What does success look like to you?
Like accomplishing a dream that you start off with and then being able to tell others about the struggle and hard work you went through to get there, so that they can make it there with you.

What advice do you most often give yourself or other artists?
Experiment. You never know what you will get out of trying new things. Go to a new place or experience a new style of living. Just do it. Going a little bit out of your comfort zone can change a way you view an idea or even impact your life.