Local artist John Johnson is being celebrated for his inspiring life and creative work that captured the look, feel, and lifestyle of Santa Cruz.
John was a well-known graphic designer who passed away in January, 2017. His spirit lives on through his highly recognizable art, which has become synonymous with many of the businesses, events, and organizations in the vibrant Santa Cruz community. In honor of John’s life and work, local coffee shop, Coffeetopia, will be hosting an exhibit showcasing some of his many designs – on display soon for a limited time in the cafe’s Vault Gallery.
John grew up in San Jose to parents who were both artists and educators. After graduating from San Jose State University with a B.A. in fine arts, John worked as a cartoonist and graphic designer. In 1967, he established Teapot Graphics, an art studio located on the 3rd floor bellfry of a former church in downtown Los Gatos. Over the years, he became renowned for his laid-back, humorous cartoon imagery that worked well with the popular emerging style of late 60s graphic design.
Every design that came out of his Teapot Graphics studio demonstrated his distinct, original style. Each character or image he created reflected his diverse clients in imaginative, colourful, zany ways. His personal approach with his work earned him a wide range of clients, including KPIG Radio, Wharf-to-Wharf, Pizza-My-Heart, Begonia Festival, City of Capitola, Intel Corp., Buffalo Springfield, CBS Publishing, KOME Radio, Addison-Wesley Publishing, and OConnor Hospital.
Some of his designs, like the iconic KPIG Radio “pig” logo, not only symbolized one well-known local organization, but also represented the cultural scene, and fun, funky nature of the Santa Cruz community overall. His unmistakably playful style became the look for many posters, album covers, posters, textbooks, calendars, advertising materials, magazine articles and books.
As a longtime resident of Capitola, John lived in a historic house in the Depot Hill neighbourhood, and was known to have many interests and hobbies that reflected his creative, adventurous, and friendly nature. He loved model building and created his own molds when models were not available. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of cars and auto racing which he turned into an international model car business. He developed so many friendships that a large social group known as “Depot Hill” developed around him. In addition to rafting trips, sports events, and endless parties, the group built award-winning Begonia Festival floats which John designed.
Don’t miss seeing a collection of John’s graphic designs at Coffeetopia – the art show opens with First Friday this November, 2017.
The Art of John Johnson
November 3 – December 15, 2017
Coffeetopia Vault Gallery
3701 Portola Drive, Santa Cruz
If it weren’t for Williams’ reviews I wouldn’t know where to start weeding out the fluffy entertainment from the relevant cultural events in Santa Cruz; from foundational art & cultural producers like Michelangelo Art Studio, dedicating over two decades to providing live-work studios for fine artists, to up and coming innovators like Idea Fab Lab Santa Cruz; making industry-grade equipment available to any emerging or established artist or designer looking to test the limits of cutting edge technology. Thank you Fleur Williams for your reportage!