The Creative Life in Our Cities: A Conversation with Carl S. Johnson

We have many talented artists and creatives living and working in our Farmington/Farmington Hills community and our weekly interview series, sponsored by City Life Realty, will introduce you to some of them.

Today we feature graphic designer, art director, poet & writer Carl S. Johnson.

When did you first get started in the arts?

Probably around the time of middle school, when my friend and I would draw comic books together and create our own superhero universe. I also started writing poetry around the age of 17, and it’s something I continue to do to this day, mainly as an amateur (simply as a fan, inspired by music, and for the love of it).

Did you partake in formal training in art or design?

Yes, I went to the College for Creative Studies (CCS) in Detroit. I absolutely loved the creative atmosphere and being surrounded by so many talented artists really challenged and sharpened me. Walking around Detroit and soaking up the culture was very exciting and formative. I look back on that time with great fondness.

Who has been a mentor to you along the way?

Passionate people. People with substance, depth, originality, empathy and humility. Artists/thinkers/cultural shapers like Erwin McManus, Makoto Fujimura, Eugene Peterson, Bono, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Jon Foreman, I could go on.

Are you a member of any local or regional arts groups?

I’m a part of a local arts collective called “The Imagination.” It’s a group of six friends who encourage one another to create personal artworks and projects. In addition, we have lengthy, lively, and meaningful conversations about art, culture, and creativity on a regular basis.

Can you describe something you’ve created that is particularly meaningful to you?

My arts/faith/culture magazine called Greater Than comes to mind.  It was a perfect representation and amalgamation of everything that I’m interested in. Also, anytime I get a chance to do album artwork or packaging for musicians.

Can you share a favorite quote about art or life?

“I’m a hungry artist, not a starving artist.” – Carl S. Johnson, 2018

Also: “Alas for those that never sing, but die with all their music in them.” – Oliver Wendell Homes

What advice or suggestions do you have for younger artists?

Be yourself and be inspired. Enjoy the creative process, don’t focus on or worry about the marketing/promoting side of it. Surrender the outcomes and reception. John Mellencamp says that the art you make should surprise you (i.e. “Did I just create that? Where did that come from?). If it doesn’t surprise you, is it likely to surprise someone else? Also, think of your creativity/talent/skill as a gift, and that your art can therefore be a gift to the world.

Why is celebrating and promoting art healthy for a local community?

Well, there are lots of reasons. Art is communal. Art is healing. Art breaks down barriers. Art inspires more art. Art can communicate in ways beyond language. Art can resonate and speak directly to the soul. Art can move us, cause us to wonder, ponder, imagine. Art can evoke joy. Art can make us feel alive.

Learn more about Carl and his work at Saint Creative.

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