The war sketches of Richard Johnson

I have long been admiring the indigo blue pencil sketches of Richard Johnson, firstly because he is a master draughtsman but mostly because there aren’t many contemporary drawings that cut straight to the heart like Rich’s war portraits. He’s a news illustrator at the Washington Post and he posts often on Flickr, but it was a special treat today to hear him talk about his work on a TedXCalgary talk. If you have a few minutes, it is well worth the time to see how he approaches the location drawing experience in Afghanistan.

It’s embarrassing to post my own drawing of a barista at Starbucks after looking at Rich’s touching portraits, but here you have it. Another day, another drawing.


12 Comments on “The war sketches of Richard Johnson”

  1. I totally understand your sentiment. Richard inspires me to look more closely and go for details. He is amazing. You are too — I look at your images every time you post and learn from the watercolors. My husband follows you too, for the cool pictures.


    • I imagine there are many people who feel as we do, that his drawings are amazing. I had no idea he was Scottish until I watched this. I thought he was Canadian since he was working at the National Post.


  2. Diana Jackson says:

    I followed all his on-location sketches from Afghanstan, amazing! First of all, his drawing skill is outstanding, but then, to draw under the conditions he described … Outstandingly unbelievable, or, just. WOW! Thanks for the TED infor. I will watch now.


  3. Mark Payton says:

    I love his work. It reminds me of the fact that I had enlisted back in 85 to eventually get into the US Army art corp. Never made it since I got down sized out but I still do a lot of work for the Army and for vets. Have tried to contact Richard on a couple of ocassions and have gotten no reply.


  4. Andrea says:

    I will have to check out Richards drawings, I am not familiar. But this pic also stood out to me because anything that is moving is difficult to work with and your style of it is great!! So no need to compare yourself to anyone else because there is no one that can draw like you and there never will be. Our uniqueness is what keeps life and art interesting:).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Andrea. I think I didn’t explain why I felt my own work was trite in comparison to Rich’s. It wasn’t at all my drawing ability. It was the subject matter. I was drinking a $3.00 coffee and drawing a guy serve $3.00 coffees while Rich was drawing soldiers, wounded, at rest, in pain, etc. That’s what made me say that. I hope you had a chance to check out his work.


  5. It’s great…makes me want to go get a coffee right now.


  6. Lee Kline says:

    Richard is also a contributor to the Face Book page Artists’ Journal Workshop. He has developed a strong following quickly. I wish someone in Washington would see his stuff (and be moved.)


    • Hi Lee, I read this on Richard’s site:
      “Richard’s work, from the Iraq invasion and the war in Afghanistan is now held by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, in Washington, D.C.”


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