By Joe Jin
Charles “Chuck” Johnson is a great artist working in Gateway Arts studios since 2019. Someday in 2019, Chuck was walking on the street in Boston, and he found himself seeing if he can get something from Gateway. Some artists really impressed him, and he began his journey at Gateway. Before talking with Chuck, I felt great resonance with him just by looking at his artworks. The rich anime-style tastes from his artwork triggered my instinct which told me that we must have some similarities, and that’s the reason I chose Chuck as my interviewee.
My first impression of Chuck was that he’s such an easy-going person to talk with. Through the conversation, I knew that Chuck’s artwork and his style were inspired by many subcultures. The first one that Chuck has a great interest in is
Japanese anime from the 1960s to the late 1990s, especially the ones from the 1980s.
“1980s are more unique and special and more stylish,” Chuck explained, “but for me, drawing anime character is an interest, but not something that I try to promote.” Chuck also shows his preference for Disney movies. “My favorite one is Mulan and it’s a very interesting and incredible movie,” Chuck says, “since Disney movies are always about princesses, and I get sick of seeing princesses as being princesses, but Mulan is a warrior.” With his interest in anime from different cultures, Chuck creates his unique style of artworks.
Chuck has his own taste of anime-style drawings. He usually draws fan art, but prefers originals better, in which instead of modifying characters directly from anime, Chuck creates his own characters from the inspiration of anime, video games, and heavy metal music. In terms of video games, Chuck is most influenced by fighting games, which brings the genre of combat to his drawings, and one of his goals is to promote the video games he likes through his artworks. Chuck also brought some opinions about CGI (Computer-Generated Imagery) to our interview. “I hope [to see] more hand drawing animation than CGI,” Chuck began. Then he explained, “I’m kind of sick of CGI, feel like computerization is greater for video games, but animations should be more like hand drawing. But hand drawing takes more effort, and makes the audience pay more attention and understand the artist.” Chuck’s tenet of his artworks is to start small, but want to be big.
When it comes to heavy metal music, Chuck’s eyes shine and become excited. “I like 1980s heavy metal music, from the early ’90s, Kiss, White Zombie, ACDC, Guns and Roses, Aerosmith, Queen…” Chuck said, “I have an old soul, sometimes I don’t feel like a modern, but 1980s music triggers some feelings, especially rock, and heavy metal music.” When creating artwork, Chuck sometimes has a feeling like a bad 1970s-80s heavy metal rock and roll cover album. Other than that, Chuck is also inspired more by vintage things, such as 1900s film, 1950s architecture, 1950s-60s futurism, ’80s anime, as well as American comic books, children’s comic books, science fiction, music videos, and Disney.
On a different theme, Chuck has his own opinion about Covid-19. “It is the worst thing that happened,” Chuck said, “but the good thing is that I can focus on my artwork at home, and do more stuff about art at home.” Chuck thinks Covid-19 is more horrifying than a horror movie, but it does inspire him in his artworks and allow him to think about the arts by himself more.
Living a life as an artist, Chuck told me that “it’s like on and off sometimes. Sometimes I just want to make comics, with something with a big story, something that means well.” On his website profile picture, I noticed a Spongebob sculpture, and Chuck explained that when he heard the creator of Spongebob passed away, he felt like he had to make it, “it is self [redeeming to the modern days.” Chuck left a meaningful look.
In the end, Chuck wants to bring a message to everyone at Gateway Arts. “At first, I didn’t come here to make friends but came here to make art. Then I found everyone around me is treating me well and caring for me well. I treat everyone with respect as well, and I hope everyone does well for the better.”