Monday, September 27, 2010

“The Artist’s Eye: Vernon P. Johnson’s Watercolors of 1950s Small Town America"

In the 1980s, when I was a radio talk host in Philadelphia, I interviewed journalist Janis Johnson on perhaps two or three occasions; at the time, she was writing for The Philadelphia Inquirer. During her years as a journalist Johnson was also on the staff of The Washington Post, was a correspondent for USA Today, and wrote for other major U.S. newspapers.

Last year, I came upon her website, and dropped her a note. She’s now a communications consultant, based in California. As her website indicates, her clients include “small and emerging businesses,” and she works often with non-profit organizations, such as colleges/universities (see the Johnson Consulting website:

In August, Johnson published a book, which (as one whose own book is a mixture of family history, and cultural history) looks to me to be very interesting.

The book, The Artist’s Eye, pays tribute to the 1950s artwork of her father, Vernon P. Johnson—and addresses, too, the American period the artwork depicts.

From the book’s website/blog:

The Artist’s Eye: Vernon P. Johnson’s Watercolors of 1950s Small Town America uses Mount Vernon, Ohio as the setting to document the enduring legacy of this transitional decade in which the first generation of Baby Boomers was born.

“In the 1950s, Mount Vernon in Knox County in central Ohio was an iconic example of small town America, animated by the tug between tradition and progress. Johnson was an accomplished watercolor artist and Ohio native who studied under influential artists of the popular ‘Cleveland School’ in the late 1930s and after serving in World War II, became a graphic design innovator in the burgeoning flexible packaging industry. He had a particular vision for small town America, which he illustrated in his paintings of Knox County.

“In a volume that is part memoir, author Janis Johnson, the artist’s daughter and a published 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 her hometown of Mount Vernon, Ohio to capture the voices of those who knew the artist and own his works. In partnership with the Knox County Historical Society, ‘The Artist’s Eye’ translates the story of one community into the larger and more far-reaching story of the 1950s across America.”

For additional information about the book:

An e-mail address is provided on the website, to inquire about purchasing the book. The book is also available through the Knox County Historical Society, in Ohio:

Update, February 15, 2012:

The Artist’s Eye: Vernon P. Johnson’s Watercolors of 1950s Small Town America is now available on  Here is the link: