Interviews

Egg, 1976
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Today I am quite excited to feature another series of remarkable image works by American photographer Lynn Lennon (Johnson). Back in May many of you admired her rich documentary coverage of the State Fair of Texas from the 1980s. It was a very popular post. Since that time Lynn and I have been in email correspondence regularly. She is 82 years young and is very vivacious and creative with a keen sense of humor. In the process of our email exchanges she shared a few lovely bits from an extensive self portrait series she shot beginning in 1976. I immediately wished to see more. Lynn’s Fantasy Self Portrait series has been exhibited across the States plus Europe—this black and white collection is clever, conceptual and often times poignant or playful. The photos above and below represent less than half of the works, there are thirty total photographs in the series. A portion of these surreal works were created utilizing multiple negatives, specifically from two to nine negatives.

I asked Lynn if I might feature these exquisite images on AQ-V and interview her as well. Really pleased she agreed. So without further ado let’s learn more about Lynn and her portrait series…

[ All images © Lynn Lennon Johnson. All rights reserved ]

As a Work of Art, 1978
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Q: Who is Lynn Lennon?

A: I was born in Dallas in 1927 and have lived here all my life. I graduated from Baylor University with a degree in Art and English. I married during my junior year and after graduation we had two children, a boy and a girl. For a number of years I painted in oils. My work was represented by the 2719 Gallery in Dallas and Limited Editions in New York.

In 1969 I became seriously interested in black and white photography. Eventually I had shows in galleries and museums across the country and in Dublin, Paris and London. I was asked to make a documentary on the Sugar Cane Industry in Louisiana for the Riverside Museum in Baton Rouge and one on the Cowboy of the Southwest for the American Beef Association. I was sent to Africa to do a documentary on Rob Glen, the sculptor, at his studio in Kenya, while he was working on a huge equestrian piece destined for a public square near Dallas in Irving.

My favorite thing to do is travel and I have been fortunate to have many wonderful and exciting trips. I have bicycled through China, ridden elephants in India and camels in Egypt. I have spent a week living and traveling in a Gypsy horse drawn wagon with my children in Ireland and the three of us lived on a boat and traveled on the canals of Holland. I have ridden the Orient Express and have traveled with my son on a small boat navigating the length of the Thames River and back to London. I don’t intend to stop now. I spent time in Italy last November and I’m hoping to make at least one more trip before I throw in the towel.

Now I am making jewelry. My most recent interest is collecting and using antique Victorian carved meerschaum pipes in my pieces. (See samples of Lynn’s jewelry toward the end of this post.)

Swan, 1977

Above the City, 1979
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Q: How did you first become interested in photography?

A: My father had photography as one of his interests. He had served in WWII and told stories of how he smuggled his camera aboard the troop ship carrying his unit to Europe and talked his buddies into concealing his film in their packs. He developed film in the trenches in the dark of night using his helmet and mess kit as vessels.

When I was nine he gave me a viewfinder from an old Speed Graphic camera. It was about 1”x 1 ½” with crosshairs and a small metal piece attached by a spring that I could push down and release with a click. I carried it with me everywhere. I can remember at recess when we played baseball, standing out in the field composing imaginary pictures through the lens and clicking it instead of watching for the ball.

I asked for a camera for the next Christmas and received a Baby Brownie. I usually had it with me and photographed mostly dogs that I encountered on the street. My father rigged up a very elementary darkroom in an unused room and together we developed my film and made contact prints. It was absolute magic to see that image gradually emerge in the developing tray. I was hooked.

Coney Island at Dawn, 1978

Pulling My Own Strings, 1979
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Q: Tell us about your Fantasy Self Portrait series.

A: The idea for the Fantasy Self Portrait series began in 1976. The Allen Street Gallery was putting together a show titled Coming Out—a formal introduction to the women photographers of Dallas. Each of the nineteen photographers was asked to do a self-portrait as a way of identifying ourselves. I set about to make a self portrait and explored a number of different ideas. In one attempt I put on a long gauze dress which I had but had never worn. I put the camera on a tripod and hung a white sheet over a large window in my bedroom to form a background I found the dress fun to move in—very fluid. The light shown through it in interesting ways. The dress was quite simple and it occurred to me that it could serve as an evening gown, a nightgown, a shroud, an angle’s robe, or any of many guises. I began to think of situations where the dress could be used as a prop in a picture. I used one of the ideas in the Allen Street show but I kept thinking of new ways to use the dress. In the beginning the series was almost more about the dress than about me. I was just inventing ways the dress could be visually interesting or symbolic.

My parents were both not well and I had brought them to live with me. I needed to be home much of the time. I could work on this project and stay at home. The first things were done using a tripod, a 20 foot cable release and the 10 second timer. Later on when the ideas were more complicated I sometimes needed a helper.

The rules I decided on were:

The dress would be used in all photographs.
I would be barefoot and wear nothing but the dress.
I would take the pictures by myself whenever possible.

Later when the ideas involved going to other locations I always wanted a friend to go with me. I felt too conspicuous in public barefoot and in the flowing gown. The presence of another person and a camera and tripod seemed to make anything acceptable.

Stealing the Horns, 1976

Fire, 1979
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Q: What inspires you? Who/what influenced your work?

A: I grew up looking at the wonderful reportage in Life magazine by some of the best photographers of their day. My art classes in college, although we didn’t touch on photography, helped develop my eye and sense of composition.

Bird at the Window, 1978

At Sea, 1977
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Lynn’s commentary in response to someone who had inquired about this photograph:

This raft and umbrella picture was taken in the Gulf of Mexico. I was visiting an artist friend of mine who lived near the beach in Port Aransas. I was there for a week while we were helping each other with projects. While walking on the beach one evening we came across what was left of a small homemade raft, probably put together by children. Right then I had an idea for a fantasy picture that I wanted to do if my friend was willing to help. The next morning Roy brought a hammer and nails and rope and I brought my camera and umbrella.  He repaired and strengthened the raft. He sat on the raft while I viewed through the lens and decided on the distance I wanted. Then Roy nailed the rope to the raft and tied the other end around his waist so that the distance from raft to lens would be consistent. I set the lens for that distance. We dragged the raft into the water for quite a distance until the water was to our waists and I climbed on and opened the umbrella. Roy kept walking out into the gulf until the water was up to his chest. He held the camera high over his head to keep it dry and tried to point it at me. He was having a great deal of trouble keeping his footing against the pull of the water and the weight of the raft. I kept my eye on the camera and whenever I could see straight into the lens I would say “Now” and he would click the shutter. I kept count and when we had taken thirty six exposures Roy towed us back to shore. Exhausting but fun (for me) and all 36 exposures were usable. I only had to choose my favorite.

Bell Tower, 1977

Floating Away, 1979
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Q: How would you like to be remembered?

A: If we are speaking of my work, even thought I have worked in a lot of different mediums I think I would most like to be remembered as a photographer. I spent twenty five years happily consumed by my work in that medium. Those years were mostly between my two marriages when my children were in high school or on their own so I was free to spend most of my waking hours either thinking about photography, taking pictures or in the darkroom.

Coney Island Bathing Beauties, 1978
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Q: Might you have any words of advice to young art photographers?

A: Soon after I started in photography I joined a Dallas co-op gallery, the Allen Street Gallery, which grew quite large in membership and through the gallery I made so many wonderful friends. Seven of us formed a critique group that met once a month. We all brought new work to be looked at and we were very honest and tough in our evaluations. I think I learned more from this experience than through any other. If you are lucky to find a group like that, jump at it or start one of your own.

Lynn’s jewelry incorporates Victorian carved meerschaum pipes
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A huge thank you to Lynn for graciously sharing her work, history, expertise and time! And of course I look forward to keeping in touch.

[ All images © Lynn Lennon Johnson. All rights reserved. ]

Disengage (music cover) | collage & mixed media
Original artwork included in the Society of Illustrators and Institutional show in NYC this spring.
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As promised, I am back with a terrific interview with nationally award-winning illustrator and designer Wayne Brezinka who is based in Nashville, Tennessee. Via our interview I learned that Wayne has only being doing commercial illustration for largely the past 2 years which is quite impressive considering both the depth of his work and his client roster. Prior he worked as a graphic designer and art director.

Read/look on and enjoy. And as before I encourage you to follow the “see more” links to his blog where he documents his works and working process, frequently revealing his initial thought process and sketches.

Shop at David’s. Not Goliath’s. (Washington Post) | collage & mixed media | see more
Editorial illustration for an article on the death of small business.
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Q: Who is Wayne Brezinka?

A: I was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota and later moved to central Minnesota. I have one sister who is 2 years older, so there were just the four of us (Mom, Dad, my sister and me). We lived out in farm country on a dirt road. We had to drive about 25 minutes to the nearest town to do all of our shopping and what not. I had 39 kids in my high school graduating class. I’m a coffee and music snob and I’ve always been creative from an early age and remember feeling odd, different and not understood by my peers at school for being so.

I enjoy antique and junk stores, yard sales, anything old, worn and used as I’m always looking for what I might be able to make out of it or how I might use it within a collage or project. I started out as a designer way back when and have worked for several agencies, design houses and was an art director for EMI records for about 4½ years. I’ve been on my own and doing my art for about 8 years or so. I’m married and have three children, My daughter is 12, my oldest son is 8 and my youngest son is 3.

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How best to get to know your neighbors? May we suggest a sleepover?
(American Way magazine) | collage & mixed media

An editorial assignment created for American Way magazine. Stemming from a book by author Peter Lovenheim’s In the Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street, One Sleepover at a Time. The article is entitled “How best to get to know your neighbors? May we suggest a sleepover?”

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Q: What was your first illustration job?

A: I think it was when I was 24 or so, and a recent transplant to Nashville… and if I’m not mistaken, it was to create marker renderings for a T-shirt or something… I was not that proud of it so I think I must have blocked it out! My first real professional illustration gig was with the Los Angeles Times right around the Obama, McCain campaign for presidency. I’ve really only been marketing my illustration to various AD’s and editorial publications in the last 2 years.

How best to get to know your neighbors? May we suggest a sleepover? (illo detail)
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How best to get to know your neighbors? May we suggest a sleepover? (sketches)
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Q: Your work is visually rich with layers and textures making it quite tactile as well. And it is also conceptually driven. Tell us about how you developed this style. And what does your work process looks like?

A: Early in my design career, I was ribbed quite a bit by my peers because I was always experimenting with the scanner. Old nails, wood, vintage papers, and even water and sand at one point!  They all ended up on the glass to see how they might scan and render! I also love paper and would run paper bags, canvas, acetate and many other things through the color copy machine. I do not recommend that however. It’s an expensive machine and God forbid something might jam it up or melt to the drum. YIKES! I would find some way to work all of this into the project I was working on at the time! It wasn’t until I began creating editorial images for clients such as The Los Angeles Times, Neiman Marcus and The Washington Post in the last couple of years that I began working on visual concepts and the message within my illustrations. My current goal is to work on creating smarter, simpler editorial images that communicate quickly and make people think. I believe the illustrator’s job is equally as important as the editor’s and find it a great honor and challenge to create the best image to accompany the article.

Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum | collage & mixed media | see more

Several weeks ago, I received a call from the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. They were nearing the end of compiling their latest, 2nd floor exhibit featuring all new artifacts, videos and music spanning several decades… from 1965–present. Their creative team thought I might be a good fit for this campaign and commissioned me to create 3 illustrations. A billboard, an illustrated version of their existing logo and a vertical and horizontal print ad were rendered. It was a hit upon delivery and continues to be successful campaign for them.

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Music (Illustration Friday) | collage & mixed media
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Q: What inspires you? And what/who has influenced your work?

A: I’m inspired by many things. God, coffee, beer, reading, honesty (this includes being honest with myself), passion in others, my children, my spiritual journey, the kindness of my wife, creative folks and of course other illustrators. One of my favorite collage artists is Romare Bearden. The first time I saw his work I couldn’t get enough! So rich, visually stimulating and creative. I believe it was on the cover of an album. I’m also influenced by some more contemporary illustrators such as Brian Stauffer, Katherine Streeter, Carin Berger (AQ-V interview with Carin ↑) and David Plunkert. I’m a huge music fan… artists like Nick Drake, U2, Miles Davis, Ray LaMontagne, The Black Keys and The Swell Season and often find my ears bending towards NPR programs such as All Things Considered and Fresh Air.

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Q: Curious to learn what fills your shelves, nooks and crannys?

A: Old vinyl LP’s (in particular, jazz icons such as Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, John Coltrane) tons of vintage papers, old books, yarn, sewing patterns, photographs of my family, artwork that my kids have made over the years, an original Mr. Potato Head that I’ve had for 10+ years or so, an original Etch A Sketch, anything vintage baby! I’m telling you, they don’t make things like they used to… toys, cars, homes, food packaging, it was all so cool way back when!

BarlowGirl project (cover detail) | collage & mixed media |  see more

16 page booklet, digipak on uncoated paper stock. The entire book will be filled with artwork, vintage photos (some, never before seen) of their past 10 years in the business.

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Q: What are you currently working on? And upcoming projects in the queue?

A: I’m working on an editorial illustration for The Society for News Design and just finished an image for American Way/American Airlines magazine. I’m also working on 4 CD package(s)/covers. One for Los Angles based band A Cursive Memory, and another CD project which will be a 16 page booklet, digipak printed on uncoated paper stock. The entire book will be filled with collage artwork, vintage photos, and other random, cool things related.  I have a few fine art pieces in Bennett Gallery and am working on finding additional homes around the country/world for more of my original collage work.

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Otter (children’s illustration) | collage & mixed media | see more
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Q: What type of project haven’t you done yet that you would like the opportunity to?

A: I have many dream clients such as Starbucks, Rolling Stone, The Guardian, Target, The Atlantic, TIME, Newsweek, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and so many others! The world of print is changing so quickly due to the internet and little by little I’m seeing how these and other companies are still utilizing and commissioning illustrators for their online business(s). It gives me hope.

FINGERPRINT No. 2: The Evolution of Handmade Elements in Graphic Design

Four Five of my illustrations (those above + the further above Death of Small Business editorial illo) have been selected for the upcoming Fingerprint 2 book compiled by Chen Design in San Francisco and published by HOW books. This has a tentative Spring 2011 street date. It is now available for pre-orders.

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Q: You have had such a terrific career to date which is very inspiring along with the wonderful nature of your work. What bits of advice might you offer to new illustrators who are just starting out in the field?

A: Create. Always create. Continue to move towards your dream. Figure out what it is exactly that you want and do something everyday to move toward it. You will get a lot of “no’s” and static buzz along the way but every now and then a “yes” will come in and that is how you grow your portfolio. Build on all of those “yes” opportunities and those open doors. Once a door is open and you are allowed in—push it down and blow ‘em out of the water by giving 110%. Always return your phone calls and try to return every e-mail and correspondence. You never know who you might be working for one day!
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Thank you Wayne for sharing your remarkable work, background, inspirations, advice and generous time! I look forward to keeping up with your upcoming projects.
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Wayne Brezinka is Brezinka Design Co., a multi-disciplined, nationally award-winning, independent illustration and design studio specializing in the arts and entertainment industries.

Clients include The Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Neiman Marcus, PASTE magazine, Robert Plant, Alison Krauss, John Carter Cash, Downtown Records, Lost Highway, Warner Brothers, Columbia Records and more.

See much more of Wayne’s work on his website + blog

[ All work & images © Wayne Brezinka ]
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