Michael Louis Johnson: TWO TRAINS RUNNING

Michael L. Johnson is a prolific painter: he works on landscapes and portraits simultaneously. This past  January,  Johnson  exhibited his recent work  at the Bowery Gallery, NYC in a show entitled, Two Trains Running.   

Of his working method he says, “My landscapes are a progression, just like my portraits. I find something compelling. I make one. I make another…  ( Johnson’s title refers to two trains of thought, i.e. landscapes and self-portraits)

Johnson lives in Northern Manhattan. He describes the terrain as a place with hills and valleys.  It is a study in contrasts:  lively urban streets bordering the high escarpments of Fort Tryon Park. And up there….. expansive vistas which overlook the Hudson River.



The Flats, April/May 2016, 20″ x 28″, Pigment Stick on Canvas

Johnson’s evocative landscapes capture the beauty and uniqueness of the neighborhood. He says, “I search out local images that catch my interest: Bennett Avenue with its particular quirky style, and the back corners of Fort Tryon Park,  where a certain ….wildness insinuates itself into the scene”.

Forsythia, 2015, 16_ x 25_, pigment stick on canvas

Forsythia, March 2015, 16″ x 25″, Pigment Stick on Canvas

 “Really, at the heart of my landscapes is the fact that I have a dog, a seven year old collie-shepherd mix, a rescue. His name is Jax and he has to go out walking three times a day, rain or shine. He  prompts me to observe and revisit places that suggest possible new paintings. There’s no escaping it. It’s part of my life” .


Borderline, 2015, 16_ x 25_, Pigment Stick on Canvas

Borderline, February 2015, 16″ x 25″, Pigment Stick on Canvas

Johnson continues, “I see myself as an expressionist painter. I’m always looking to inject some drama into the scene or possibly pull the drama out … I want to paint startling light, or a startling scene. I want the viewer to have second thoughts about what he or she is looking at. I want at times to try to paint atmosphere, the air between the objects …”

The Sons 16_ x 25_, pigment stick on canvas, 2015

The Sons, February 2015,16″ x 25″, Pigment Stick on Canvas


Of his self- portraits Johnson says, “My portraits are painted life studies that give themselves over at times to suggestions of age or joy or terror or youth. I work on these first thing in the morning…..before anything else happens. In some, I look almost like a boxer, in others a clown. My main concern initially is assembling the elements of my face as it looks when hit by the early morning sun, in hope of revealing through color, shape and line something about life ….now.


Self Portrait # 47, April/May 2016, 20″ x 13″, Pigment Stick on Canvas

Self Portrait #35, 14_ x 9_, 2015, Pigment Stick on Canvas

Self Portrait # 35, February 2015, 13″ x 9″ , Pigment Stick on Canvas



Paris Attack Self Portrait, November 2015, 13″ x 9″, Pigment Stick on Canvas

Johnson states: “As the series has progressed there has been an urge to develop more clarity, more expression, …. simply put, to become a better painter.”


To see more artwork by Michael Johnson please visit his website:



Johnson will be participating in a Plein Air Painting Showcase  in Fort Tryon Park  the first week-end in June. The New York City Department of Parks & Recreation has invited Johnson and five other plein air painters to paint on site duringJune 5-6.   Bowery artists Tony Serio, and Diane Drescher  will, also,  participate.  For more details, go to the Parks Dept web site.


*The title “TWO TRAINS RUNNING” is taken from the blues song, “Still a Fool” by Muddy Waters, first recorded in the late 1940’s/ early 1950’s.

To contact artists by e-mail: info@bowerygallery.org

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Bowery Gallery

 530 West 25th street, 4th floor,


 Gallery hours: Tues-Sat 11-6pm. For more information, call 646-230-6655.



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