On The Corner
Get To Know Artist Ian Johnson, Who Created The 2017-18 Season Artwork

Get To Know Artist Ian Johnson, Who Created The 2017-18 Season Artwork

Get To Know Artist Ian Johnson, Who Created The 2017-18 Season Artwork

As we launch the SFJAZZ 2017-18 Season, and its 330+ shows over 9 months starting in September, we took a moment to catch up with San Francisco-based artist Ian Johnson, who created the artwork for the Season catalog.

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A lot of your artwork is jazz-inspired. Is there a particular moment, or recording that hooked you to jazz?

A couple of moments stick out. The first one is a bit vague – when I little was little my grandfather used to listen to this radio program called "Sounds of Jazz with Leo Rayhill." It was in the background and I didn't play super close attention to it, but that was probably the first time I heard the music. The second one was, shortly after I moved to SF I went to the premiere of this skateboard video from Stereo Skateboards, "A Visual Sound." The whole soundtrack was jazz and it got me hooked as a young adult. I was primed to like the music from samples in hip hop albums that i liked as well.

Ian Johnson

You seem drawn to the faces of jazz artists. Why is that?

I always liked drawing faces. I think that is a pretty common thing. I got into drawing musicians because of an assignment I had a school to draw a person with all straight lines. I choose to draw based on an Eric Dolphy photo. A year or 2 later, when we started Western Edition Skateboards, that drawing became the first graphic for the company, and it all kind of grew out of that.

Drawing by Ian Johnson

Your use of lines and color is consistent in most of your work. How do you use these elements?

I use those elements to allude to song structure and forms, radiations of ideas, chords, connections to thoughts, time, people – all kinds of things.

You love skateboarding as well. How does skating influence your art? What connections do you see between jazz and skateboarding?

I got into the music through skating, so it's a huge influence in that sense. They're similar in a lot of ways. Solo, improvisational expressions using the framework of chords or modes in music is akin to doing the same thing on a skateboard, but on the street using ledges, traffic, stairs and other obstacles.

Skate deck artwork by Ian Johnson

What should people know about your cover art for the SFJAZZ 2017-18 Season? What can you tell us about process and inspiration behind it?

SFJAZZ had a bunch of ideas initially, so it was pretty open at first. I did a couple sketches, then we met up and they had the idea of having the audience be more of element of the piece, because the experience of being at the Center is aural and physically special and unique. One of the references they gave me was of the 50th Anniversary of A Love Supreme Concert, which is really amazing. I hope it gets released and more people get to see that soon. We based the illustration off of a still from that concert, which has Marcus Gilmore on drums and Nicholas Payton on trumpet in front of the crowd. I did a couple other versions, but this was the one we ended up going with.

SFJAZZ 2017-18 Season artwork by Ian Johnson