Vernon P. Johnson was an accomplished watercolor artist who moved to Mount Vernon after World War II as a graphic designer with Shellmar Productions Corporation. In and around the 1950s he painted about 100 watercolors of Knox County scenes — from historical buildings, Main Street, the Square and the Knox County Fair to homes, New Gambier Road landscapes and Kenyon College landmarks.
Bio: Vernon P. Johnson (1918-2005) was born in New London, Ohio, and graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Art and Case Western Reserve University in 1940. His painting, Tamozunchales, L.D., was an invited work in the Art Institute of Chicago’s Twentieth International Exhibition for a “representative” group of American watercolorists in 1941, and his works were also displayed in juried exhibits, including the May Show of the Cleveland Museum of Art and numerous shows in the Midwest and in Richmond, Virginia. After World War II, he settled in Mount Vernon, Ohio, where he began a career as a package designer in the burgeoning post-war consumer products industry. Vernon Johnson’s more than 100 watercolors during the 1950s documented the history and developing story of the life and values of small town America. Upon his retirement in Richmond, Virginia, he returned to ﬁne art and established his business, Watercolors Unlimited.
In partnership with the Knox County Historical Society, The Artist’s Eye: Vernon P. Johnson’s Watercolors of 1950s Small Town America collects many of the artist’s most important works of this era and documents the enduring legacy of this transitional decade for communities across the U.S.
Author Janis Johnson, the artist’s daughter who was born in Mount Vernon and became a journalist and writer, takes us back to the 1950s using extensive family memorabilia and her father’s paintings, drawings, journals and writings. She returned to interview people who knew her family and to recapture the 1950s for Baby Boomers and their children and grandchildren.
Bio: Janis Johnson, the artist’s daughter, is a Baby Boomer who was born in Mount Vernon, Ohio. She has chronicled people and places in magazines such as Smithsonian and Humanities, and as a staff writer for The Washington Post and correspondent for USA Today, MiamiHerald, Philadelphia Inquirer, Boston Globe and International Herald Tribune. Her insider’s view uses original and historical material to document changing communities, landscapes and cultures, from the Irish Immigration and Willa Cather to Miami Beach Art Deco, school desegregation in Virginia and the byways of France and Italy. In the Introduction to Hollin Hills: Community of Vision in 2000, she described the enduring character of the award-winning 1950s-era neighborhood in Alexandria, Virginia. Janis Johnson is a consultant and writer in the San Francisco Bay Area and owner/principal of Johnson Consulting/Strategic Communications – www.jjohnsoncommunication.com.