Damon Johnson at Zazzy’s

We caught up with Damon Johnson as he painted his latest mural for Fall 2021 at Zazzy’s in LES. A seasoned artist in the NYC area, he talked about his start, his inspiration, and what it means to be FRANK. Check out more of his interview and photos of the mural below.

FRANK151: Where are you from?

Damon: I grew up in New York. Originally Lower East Side. Moved to Westchester with my Mom and Step Dad. My Dad lived in East Village so I had the best of both worlds.

FRANK151: How long have you been painting?

Damon: I have been making art since the very beginning. My Mom was an illustrator so I guess a lot of it was genetics. Only child syndrome, just drawing a lot. Got into graffiti at around 12 or 13. I actually never painted a canvas until my sophomore year of college.

FRANK151: How would you describe your style?

Damon: I’d almost describe my style as Urban Folk Art. I may not be the most gifted painter but it’s distinctive. It’s a blend or clusterfuck of Graffiti, street art, comic book art, video games, Hip hop, cartoons, and tattoo art. It’s a conglomerate of things I found inspiration from and still do.

[smartslider3 slider=47]

FRANK151: What artists are you feeling?

Damon: That’s a tough question. I haven’t really been going to too many art shows since Covid and I think Instagram is kind of a horrible way to look at art. There are too many people to list that are great and if I left one of my friends off the list I would never hear the end of it. LOL. Love how New York got so bombed out in Covid. I walk past a lot of great murals. Still like going to museums and staring at abstract expressionist work. I kind of became obsessed with Edward Hopper in the pandemic. The paintings had a certain loneliness and emptiness that made a lot of sense.

FRANK151: What inspires you to paint?

Damon: Honestly I am probably mentally ill. I think anyone that does this pretty much is. All I know is when I take a break or I am burnt out and take an art break I fall into sort of abyss of depression and poor decisions. I just have to do it. It’s not really an option. I am inspired by everything. Just the energy of the world that surrounds me. Sounds cliché as fuck. But it’s all vibes. I wish I could articulate this better. Sure I would love a fuck ton of money and fame, but from the first time I caught a tag to the first time the brush hit a canvas it was just the way it had to be. If all those extras come God Bless, but Art is just something I have to do.

[smartslider3 slider=46]

FRANK151: Do you listen to music when you work? If so what’s on your playlist?

Damon: I can listen to anything, but facts are facts. I am a Hip Hop head. People have joked I have Hip Hop Tourette Syndrome because I always have a quote for any situation from some song. I was trying to battle dudes on stage in 90s making my little demos. I was ok at best haha. I wanted to be a rapper more than an artist. Shit, I was rocking the bleach blond hair before Eminem. That was the golden era to me. I try to listen to a lot more instrumental beats when I paint, really like this guy Twit one and Apollo Brown makes classics. For instance if I start blaring Sean Price “Onion Heads” in the studio I’ll get too amped. Haha. I try and keep it chill. Listen to a lot proper reggae. If it’s sunny out and breezy then its classic reggae all day. Been on a soul tip lately listening to a lot The Spinners, Aretha Franklin, O’Jays…but when I am not in the studio it’s pretty much East coast hip hop forever.

“I always say if you act right New Yorkers are the friendliest people you can find. It’s home, and I still think it’s the capital of the world.”

FRANK151: How do you feel about NYC right now?

Damon: Confused. I was away for 5 years living in Portland, OR. Another confusing place in its own right. I was always coming back to NY in those 5 years for art shows or murals or to see family. I moved back right before Covid hit so it has been a unique time period. One thing constant about New York is it is always changing. For the most part my favorite places are long gone or have changed into places I no longer want to frequent. I’m still trying to figure out cool places to go or good spots to eat. The cost of living is absurd and the amount of space, but energy is always there. I guess I am still trying to find my way. There are less Timbs and more Crocs these days. It has always been love and hate. New York is just that crazy ex that you know is horrible for you but you always go back hoping it works out. I live in Bushwick and I broke my foot and wasn’t mobile for months. I’d just sit on my bench and people walking by always asked how I was doing. My neighbors checked in on me. The bodega guys grabbed whatever I needed. I always say if you act right New Yorkers are the friendliest people you can find. It’s home, and I still think it’s the capital of the world.

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.