Charter Oak High School

Muralist Patrick Henry Johnson: beautifying the streets of Los Angeles

Spiritual and humble artist Patrick Henry Johnson has taken to the streets of Los Angeles for over 20 years to build his career as a muralist. While painting murals is his life’s work, Johnson loves what he does so much that he doesn’t consider it a job.

“I don’t work. I play all day. I get to make people smile all day. I get to play, laugh, run around like I’m a nine-year-old kid… and I’ll be 52 in October,” he said with a smile.

Johnson first began painting murals when he answered an ad in the L.A. Times newspaper in 1993 that read, “Artists Wanted.” He was unaware that the ad was specifically in search of muralists, but when he responded to the ad, he ended up going through an internship process and learned the skills of how to paint a mural. He learned those skills from a man named Carlos, who is now his friend and works with Johnson in his studio.

To choose where he paints, Johnson searches for a good location and an empty wall, then proposes the idea of painting a mural to whoever owns the property. He plans on painting one in Santa Monica soon.

Painting a mural differs from painting on a canvas especially when you are dealing with the elements.

“Earlier today I was out painting and it got so hot… over 100 degrees…”, Johnson said. “I had to leave,” explaining that being out on the concrete is just too hot to withstand.

Johnson believes that being an artist is not as hard as some people make it out to be.

“I think that most people, especially artists, have bought into the idea that being an artist is very, very difficult. With that mindset… when you start with that premise.. everything after that has to be difficult because you’ve set yourself up for difficulty,” he explained. Rather than that mindset, Johnson goes about his work with simultaneous confidence, enthusiasm and a laid-back attitude.

Johnson has been influenced by Salvador Dali, Leonardo da Vinci, and simply, “beautiful, powerful work that is arresting… that it’s right in your face… it’s so beautiful and powerful that you gotta find room to walk up on it carefully to see it. It can repel you because of the power of it, and then it draws you in because of the beauty of it.”

22 years later, Johnson is a successful muralist with many projects on the way. With the common message “we are just much more expansive than we are lead to believe.” his murals can be found all over L.A. His most recent (and current favorite), “Penta-Loom: Ode to Soldiers,” can be found on 51st Street and Central Avenue.