Artist Spotlight Series: Virginia Johnson

I am excited to introduce you to a talent that is headed south for a visit this week. 

Virginia Johnson will be in Charlotte at Capitol on Wednesday for an inspiring talk about French life, culture and style.

Be sure to join if you can, in the meantime enjoy getting to know

Virginia Johnson

Toronto, Canada

What is your training?

I studied Art History in University, which gave me a visual language and an appreciate for great artists. Then I studied Fashion Design & Construction at Parsons.  It wasn’t until my late 20s, though, that I took a weekend course in silk-screening that I realized I could put illustration & clothing design together and create my own textiles!

What inspires you and your designs?

I love travelling, looking at paintings of artists I love, visiting warm climates, particularly southern California and the South of France. Gardens and flowers inspire me a lot.  I was in Nice recently and visited the gardens at the Monastery in Cimiez, which overlooks the towns, and saw the roses and sculptural trees and it just makes me want to paint.  And the Matisse Museum there has so many gorgeous paintings that I spent hours in the art store trying to replicate his palette.

What is your favorite piece?

My favourite piece is a landscape I did in Venice, California. I was there with my family, and I needed to think of things to do to keep my two young kids busy.  So I took my 4-year-old daughter out and we found patches of grass in our residential neighbourhood and drew weeds or houses or whatever was in front of us. I love the colours in this one and I like the mix of flat areas of colour mixed with decorative pattern.

How has your area influenced your work?

I live in Toronto, Canada, where we only have 3 months of summer, and about 5 months of winter. So I escape when I can!  My inspiration on trips carries me through.

What is your favorite restaurant in Toronto?

I have a favourite restaurant called Terroni, which is Southern-Italian, and serves the same delicious food it did ten years ago. They famously do not do any substitions, you get what you get!  In my case I order a Nizzarda salad (basically a salade Nicoise) and a Spaghetti al Limone.  In the summer you can sit on the patio under a gigantic shade tree.

What is your favorite cocktail?

I have a favourite cocktail at the Greek restaurant down the street, Mamakas. It’s called the Aphrodite: Blanco Tequilla, Geranium Grenadine, Apricot, Lime, Cocoa Salt.

How do you balance personal life and work?

It was almost impossible to balance life and work when my kids were young, but now they are 7 and 9, and I try to arrange my day so I can be there for them after school, walk home together, do homework, eat supper. I work from home now and don’t have a staff anymore, which means much more flexibility.  I often think that I can do work at night but am usually way too tired!  If I have a particularly heavy workload my husband will step in and I’ll work straight through.  Also we are very lucky that we live downtown and don’t have any commute. 

Dream trip?

While I love to visit new places, I have come to acknowledge that I also love what I love, and keep returning to the same places. I could go to the South of France every year.  And Paris.  And I do get to go pretty regularly, especially while I was writing my book, so I’m happy about that. 

Dream commission?

I’ve been thrilled the last year to paint landscapes of California for Peter Dunham’s shop, Hollywood at Home, and now landscapes of Charlotte for Laura Vinroot Poole’s shop in Charlotte, Capitol. I admire both of these people so much for their great eye and sense of beauty and also because they are such nice people.  I am learning portraiture (very slowly) so one day I hope to paint portraits of people.

Your favorite host / hostess gift to give?

I make wool scarves with my designs on them that I sell on my website – I almost always give those!

Who is your style icon?

I adore Tilda Swinton’s look and her bravery.She plays around with form and colour and approaches dressing as one approaches creating a piece of art.  She is a true artist.

What is your most treasured possession?

My most treasured possession at the moment is my new lipstick by Bobbi Brown called Coral Pop. The days here are starting to get bleaker and this has made me happy every morning.

What are you reading?

Two books: Villa Air-Bel, about artists hiding in a house in Marseille, France during WW2 (a stunning true story)

and I’m re-reading my mother’s memoir, They Left Us Everything, which brings to life my grandparents and the house I spent my summers in.

What are your favorite blogs / publications?

I love House and Garden UK,

World of Interiors

and Vogue.


Take a look at Virginia’s beautiful work via

Follow Virginia on her website and be sure to get her book

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