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Check Out Sophia Johnson’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sophia Johnson.

Hi Sophia, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
My art journey is a little different. Like most kids in elementary school, I enjoyed drawing my favorite cartoon characters on scrap paper lying around the house but my interests quickly shifted once I hit middle school and hardly drew after that point, plus I was never a creative child. With both of my parents being teachers, there was always an emphasis on academics in my household. It wasn’t until it came time for me to decide on a college major that my mom suggested, “Why don’t you try studying art? You loved drawing cartoons as a kid.” I always dismissed the notion since I hadn’t drawn since I was a child and had very little interest in doing art up until that point. I was young, dumb, and couldn’t decide on anything else I wanted to study, so I thought, why not?

Long story short, I ended up applying to the art program at Cal State Fullerton and ended up absolutely falling in love with art. I decided to go with a concentration in Illustration program where I could draw and paint as much as I wanted. In the three years, it took me to complete the program, I mostly worked on studying and experimenting with rendering techniques and basically how to handle a pencil and paintbrush. I did a lot of figure drawing and a lot of illustrations. In my final semester, I was fortunate enough to intern under the wonderful people at King Studio, founded by Zach King. I learned about the pipeline and was able to try a bit of everything, from keyframe painting to children’s book illustrations and painting assets for an AR app.

Upon graduating in 2018, I figured I’d take some classes at (CDA) Concept Design Academy and CGMA (Computer Graphics Master Academy) until I could find work in the entertainment industry. However, after getting my portfolio review I was advised to start off with learning my fundamentals first. It was such a blow because it meant I needed to start from square one, but it was also the most valuable review I’d ever gotten. If not for that, I wouldn’t have realized how little I actually knew about art or taken the classes necessary to be the artist I am today. So right then, I signed up for a couple of foundational courses and went from there.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
No, definitely not. After my first year of starting to study my fundamentals in 2018 and going into 2019, I was burnt out and subsequently fell into depression for the first time in my life. I didn’t draw or paint unless I had to for homework, and even then, I didn’t always do my assignments. I forgot the reason I even enjoyed making art in the first place and contemplated going into a completely different field. Every time I picked up my pencil, it felt as though my hand was being weighed down, or every time I started something, I would get frustrated and give up after ten or fifteen minutes.

It wasn’t until December of 2019, I happened upon the costume illustrations for Black Panther. I didn’t know what costume illustration was at the time but immediately thought, “Whatever this is, I want to do it.” I signed up for a Costume Design course at CGMA and those couple months before class started, I had friends pose for me and I would design and illustrate costumes on them. Suddenly I went from not painting at all to painting and researching every waking hour of the day. You know the feeling you get when you’ve met someone for the first time, but it seems as though you’ve known them your whole life? That’s how I felt about costumes.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I’ve always enjoyed fashion and creating outfits for fun as a teenager, and once I started drawing 5 or 6 years ago, art became my number one passion. Looking back, it feels as though these two passions of mine have intertwined which makes it that much more meaningful for me. With costumes I design for personal projects, I like to inject my own personal experiences or messages I want to express into them. I want to push the boundaries and norms of what’s to be expected, and I think costumes are a vehicle in which I am able to do so.

Can you share something surprising about yourself?
I do a lot of photography! I picked it up in 2019 and doing street photography really helped pull me out of the rut I was in. I always had my camera with me and was always taking pictures so even though I didn’t do a whole lot of drawing and painting during that period, I was able to train my eye to recognize shapes and create compositions which is important as an artist.

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