Module 2, Chapter 7: Jasper Johns



I went back to the smaller, square sketchbook for this chapter, and I’ve scanned the pages in, and I think they are fairly self-explanatory. I spent too long researching Jasper Johns… I got a bit obsessed with his work…

Jasper Johns 1 (2)Jasper Johns 2 (2)Jasper Johns 3 (2)

Here’s a picture of him (I like to know what artists look like):


Jasper Johns 4 (2)


Jasper Johns 5 (2)Jasper Johns 6 (2)Jasper Johns 7x (2)Jasper Johns 8x (2)

I looked at his work really carefully to try and work out how he did it. And, since this involves acrylics, and I always mess up with them, and I’ve never tried using really thick, textured paint, I had a practice:

Jasper Johns 9 (2)

Jasper Johns 10 (2)Jasper Johns 11a (2)

Jasper Johns 12

Jasper Johns 13 (2)

Still looking at his work… Anything to put off the moment when I have to start painting…

Jasper Johns 15 (2)

OK. Here we go. My version of Jasper Johns. I decided to do my initials, and I only did two letters. Pages in my sketchbook are roughly eight inches square, and I’ve covered a page, which is probably all that can be said for this C.

Jasper Johns 16 (2)

It’s fair to say I struggled with this, but the H is a bit better I think:

Jasper Johns 17 (2)

Comments on my efforts:

Jasper Johns 18 (2)

And another little play to see if I could introduce more texture (I couldn’t):

Jasper Johns 19 (2)

But despite my failure (there’s no way I can replicate his style) I remain fascinated by his work, especially the way he reworked his themes using different mediums and techniques.

Jasper Johns 21 (2)Jasper Johns 22 (2)Jasper Johns 23 (2)

Personal Evaluation

I started off not liking Jasper Johns, but the more I found out about him the more interested I got, in his work, and what he said about it. I’m not sure I would want one of his pictures hanging on my wall, but he kind of got inside my head. I especially liked the way he took a subject (like the numbers) and re-worked it, using different mediums and techniques. And I loved his maps, and the flags, and some of later work, with collage and found objects, and the beer can sculpture. However, I think I spent too long on the research (which I enjoyed, but one thing led to another, because I kept looking up references to things and people, like abstract expressionism, Dadaists, Neo-Dadaists, Modernism, Marcel Duchamp etc).

And I had great difficulty trying to paint letters in the same style, which was the main point of this activity. I always struggle with acrylic paints, and I couldn’t get the texture or the balance of colour right. I used the paint straight from the tube, with a stiffidh brush, and an old credit card, and a children’s model-making tool, The paint on and around the letters is just too random, and I don’t think the results are very successful – I would go so far as to say I hate this piece of work, and I wouldn’t want to do it again.

But I would like to know how I could improve it! I suspect a more positive attitude might help when it comes to working with acrylic paints – I cannot get to grips with them at all, and I always make a mess, and somehow I expect to fail, and then I do. I love texture, and I’m much braver with colour than I used to be, but this process was way outside my comfort zone, and seemed alien to anything I enjoy or understand – I much prefer a slightly more structured approach to pattern and colour, and I’d rather work with paper, fabric, threads, printing etc. I guess different techniques suit different people.

What I’d really like to do is to try out some of those other techniques – layering letters on top of each other perhaps, or some monoprints.

Health & Safety

  • Electrical Equipment: I used the hair dryer to try and dry the paint more quickly, because it took ages. I switched it off, unplugged it, and kept it safely out of the way while it wasn’t in use, so I couldn’t trip over the wire, knock the hair dryer off the work surface, or spill water over it.



About chrisharding53

I'm a former journalist and sub-editor who loves needlework, reading and writing, and is still searching for the Meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything. Until I find the answer I'm volunteering at an Oxfam Book Shop and learning about Creative Sketchbooks!

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