Where Better to Start

When I started painting I decided I would start with portraiture. Although many artists find portraits difficult and find it hard to paint people’s faces, I decided that this was a true sign of whether I would be any good at art or not.

Whatever I do in life I like to express myself through it whether it was playing football, writing or oil painting.

I am not the type of person who could do art as a genial hobby. If I do art, I want to be good enough at it in order to express my creativity as fully as I can. I wouldn’t play percussion if I couldn’t keep a beat.

Initially I painted myself and my wife Emma. I decided that if I could not get a likeness of my wife or myself then I was not going to be a portrait painter, at least.

When I was sketching out the painting of me, “Himself” below, I was struck by how much my skull shape was the same as my grandfather Harry. I had not noticed any physical similarities between my maternal grandfather and I before, only to realize we had the same skull!!

I suddenly realized the anatomy of my and my wife’s head and face.

We don’t really look too deeply at people, probably as it is viewed as rude or intrusive. You can, however, really find out about a person from painting their face and head.

You can see their inner self to a large extent and their personality expressed in the lines of their face.

I unearthed an inner attractiveness in some that I had not seen originally.

I now feel I know all the models I have painted much more than I did before.

I also have a strange attachment to those I have painted.  I think this is not only due to getting to know them via their features but also because, as was the case with Renaissance art, an artist has to love a work into being if it is to resemble the person and in resembling the person it has to recreate their essence, illuminate their soul.










Still Alive

I started painting pretty much from scratch.

I did not have any O levels or A levels in Art. My Art teacher did not like me much and wasn’t very encouraging.

I had done wood etchings as a child by my own devices, carving rabbits.

My mother liked drawing and her and my sister drew fashion models.

My artistic bent was expressed mainly through photography and a love of film and cinematography which seemed to combine painting composition and photographic. I also loved the movement of film.

I think my paintings all have movement, even they are still life paintings, see below.

I want my paintings to have this sense movement, vibrancy, life.

I often look at wonderfully detailed and executed Fine Art and find it strangely dead and funereal, destined for a resting home in a museum.

I always want my work to be alive.


The Smudged Window



Hiding in Plain Sight



This Must Be The Place I Have Always Been Looking For

This Must Be The Place I Have Always Been Looking For


I was encouraged, over many years by my wife Emma, a professional artist, to paint. I resisted for years too.

I have always had this fear of not succeeding, a fear of making mistakes. I couldn’t start as I was already paralyzed by the prospect of future imperfection.

Until I started doing EMDR therapy for my complex PTSD, I had not idea where this fear of making mistakes came from.

As part of my therapy we retraced my growing up in Northern Ireland and the various characters who I had known.

One day after 5 months of intensive EMDR treatment, I felt very relaxed enough this one day to just start painting.

My wife immediately thought I had some talent for it. I started painting, partly as therapy, partly as source material to paint (mainly from Facebook), people from my past in Northern Ireland.

The first couple were fairly basic but within a few weeks I had started to get the hang of it. I include some below

The EMDR treatment allowed me to move on for the past’s impediments to my creativity. I started painted and haven’t stopped since!


– all can be purchased here – https://www.artfinder.com/james-henry-johnston#/



As Way Of Introduction


Hi, I am an Irish, Swansea-based painter and photographer.

I love oil paint, the viscosity of it, the sensual feel of it and how one can almost “sculpt” paintings with this medium.

This in someways is what I attempt to do with my work; to chisel out the character, the essence, of my subjects. I often work with my fingers as well as my brush.
I also love the interplay of light and shadow on faces.
My favourite artists include, among many,  Harold Gilman and Max Beckman.


James Henry Johnston


Max Beckman




Harold Gilman