A big, bright splash of color

There are chickens, then there are pictures of chickens, then, there are Sonja Johnson’s colorful paintings of chickens.

She’s doesn’t hide her love of bright hues.

“I do love working with color,” she said Saturday during her Artists Talk at the Blanden Memorial Art Museum. “I hope that’s evident.”

Her paintings of chickens, along with pygmy goats, sheep, mules and dairy cattle will be on display through the end of May. Called “Impulse and Remembrance,” the collection numbers about 20 paintings.

Johnson,who grew up in the area, is no stranger to farm life and the animals found on them. She said she grew up on a dairy farm and until recently, her studio was located upstairs in a veterinary practice in Gowrie.

She said she often works from photographs then roughs in the animals with light washes of paint. Heavier coats of paint and the final touches come later.

“I don’t intend anything to be photo real, ” she said. “I concentrate more on just the idea.”

As an example, in a painting of several geese, Johnson chose not to paint individual feathers.

She also finds that working with music helps her creative process.

She is currently working her way through the works of Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg.

“I can’t get enough of it,” she said.

One of the questions that Johnson is often asked by those viewing her work is how long it took her to paint the piece. She doesn’t keep exact track of time but instead explains that the process varies by piece, some as short as a few days, some can take months. She said they are all a product of what came before.

“I should answer my whole life plus three weeks,”Johnson said.

She said her painting style is inspired by the French Impressionists such as Claude Monet.

“I love the illusion of light,” she said.

Museum director Margaret Skove introduced Johnson to the nearly 100 guests who attended the talk.

“I’ve watched her work and always been impressed with her oils,” she said.

Skove said that the works go beyond merely being paintings of animals but instead catch their personality, quirks and perhaps even feelings.

“These animals have a real presence,” she said.

She also praised Johnson’s use of color.

“It so attracts your eye,” Skove said. “You can’t let go of it.”

Janet Wilkens, of Gowrie, came to see and listen.

She offered one of the ultimate endorsement of the work.

“I have one in my home,” she said.

Johnson also had a young aspiring painter in the audience.

Katie Delaney, 8, of Fort Dodge is already working with her own brushes.

“I do like to paint cats,” she said.

Her favorite part of the paintings, she liked the sheep and how one of them was in the shade and Johnson’s palette.

“I like that she uses very bright colors.” she said.