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Johanna Goodman on hard work, challenging gender stereotypes and why it's important to keep evolving


Based in New York, Johanna Goodman is an internationally exhibited artist whose principal medium is collage. She studied at the Parsons School of Design in New York, and in addition to her art practice is a widely published illustrator. Her portfolio is bursting with exciting projects for the likes of The Museum of Natural History, Harper Collins, Airbnb, The New York Times, National Geographic, The Wall Street Journal, Rolling Stone, Cosmopolitan, and The New Republic among many others.

Johanna’s work has also been featured in numerous publications including The Observer/Guardian, Marie Claire Maison and Le Courier International in France. We caught up with Johanna to talk about her life and work, and the things she’s most passionate about.

Going back to the beginning of your career, how did you get started? Did you always know what you wanted to do?
I pretty much always knew I wanted to be an artist, at least since I hit the age of five when kids at school started commissioning* me to make drawings for them (*Unpaid. We were five). So I guess that was the very beginning of my lucrative career.

How did you find your style? How has it evolved?
I hate to think I’ve found my style. I love the idea of the never-ending search or grope, if you will. I like to think that style is a by-product of a necessity of communicate based on a vocabulary that has aggregated over the course of a career. I would love it to just keep changing. I try not to become complacent or formulaic. I would like to keep surprising myself.  But I suppose I have landed on something in the past few years. I painted for years and years before moving onto collage. Oils and ink. Lots of giant, unwieldy paintings. I began collaging as an antidote to that and got hooked. My evolution through collage has involved getting better at managing all the detritus around the studio. Paper everywhere. I haven’t evolved that far yet.

Talk about your process
I start most pieces by researching and combing through tons of images. I usually end-up finding an entirely different set of images than I set-out to, which suits me fine.

What inspires you and your work?
I get inspired by looking at other artist’s work. It’s nourishment. I need to feed myself with fresh ideas and unexpected juxtapositions. I also get very inspired by taking breaks from working, or from even thinking about art. Otherwise I get tunnel vision and really do fall into the vortex of working and lose touch with a certain flexibility or freedom of the mind.

We love your Imaginary Beings series. A lot of them centre around female portraits, what is it about them that you are drawn to?
Everything. I happen to be a female so the female experience holds much interest to me. While there are images of women everywhere I feel like most of those images aren’t that interesting. I personally am hungry to see images of women that are complicated and fascinating, unusual and alternative. Not just beautiful or hot. I feel like I have so much to say (visually) about women and my experience as a woman. And I suspect that as long as I am here I will always have something more to say.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt throughout your career so far?
Being an artist making art everyday without another day job for so many years has been a constant practice in persistence, optimism and denial.

What advice would you give to other artists?
Nothing can replace a good work ethic. Work hard. Work like crazy. Work like your life, or at least your livelihood depends on it! I’m so lucky I get to do this for a living, I don’t want to let me guard down long enough to lose it.

If you weren’t an artist, what do you think you’d be doing?
I shudder to think!

You can see more of Johanna’s work on her website and Instagram.

All images © Johanna Goodman, From the Catalogue of Imaginary Beings 

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