Jalyn Johnson is a painter and textile designer based in Savannah, who got her start in art at 15 by attending a sip-and-paint event with her mom.
“All the other ladies were painting a wine bottle, but I was just in the corner doing my own thing. I posted a picture of what I painted on Instagram, and all my friends were like ‘wow’,” Johnson explained. “Looking back, it’s not a great painting,” she laughed.
From that humble beginning, Johnson feels she has grown into a meritable artist, working with acrylics, charcoal, canvas, and a variety of fabrics and dyes as her mediums.
Looking at her work immediately invokes an inviting, fantastical feeling, with her bold use of vibrant colors and floral motifs. Duly, she considers her artistic style to be fantasy expressionism.
“Most of my work is portraits, but it’s kind of whimsical in a way, the way that the portrait interacts with nature. I use that to tell stories.”
Various flora and fauna are present in her work, and inherent within these images is a lot of symbolism. “The monarch butterfly is in almost all of my pieces, but to me it represents an ancestor, or an angel or a spirit guide, guiding me through whatever I’m experiencing in every chapter of life,” she remarked.
In another example, she used sunflowers in her latest self-portrait.
“Sunflowers in a spiritual [sense] mean that you are opening to the sun. You’re opening to God, you’re in a new space of enlightenment,” she explained.
As an artist of color, Johnson often represents people of color in her work. She feels a certain responsibility to provide people of color with an important opportunity to view themselves in a positive light.
“I was exploring my blackness and my identity in college, and one thing that I took away from my research was that our stories have kind of gone missing, or weren’t written, or weren’t written in a way that we would want to pass down to our future generations.” She continued, “I discovered how important it is to know my own responsibility as an artist, so depicting people of color in spaces that I imagine and dream of is my way . . . of rewriting what I’ve been told all of my life about people of color and how they’re depicted through the media.”
Johnson says she draws inspiration for her artwork primarily from her own life. She takes an introspective approach to her art and uses symbolism to express how she experiences others, Mother nature, and herself.
She does, however, credit Frida Kahlo as one of her main influences.
“I just love how she showed up in the world, and I think that’s within all artists. This energy of ‘I know who I am, I’m going to be what I’m going to be. And I’m going to paint whatever I want to paint because it’s my work’, kind of attitude.”
She also draws a lot of inspiration from music.
An alumna of the Savannah College of Art and Design, Johnson credits the school for providing her with the resources she needed to accelerate her career.
Having always had an interest in fashion, she learned of the textile printing and digital printing that SCAD offered.
“I started exploring with printing my artwork on fabric and also painting by hand. That really allowed me to open up a new pathway into my art — it going from canvas, to fabric, to installation, and to fashion. I was able to expand where my art could live, where it could be and exist.” Fabrics are currently among her favorite things to create. She enjoys being able to have her artwork live on a surface other than a wall.
Johnson hopes to inspire others with her art.
“I had a huge epiphany as of late. I had to remind myself why I started, and that’s to make an impact.”
She’s been working with children in Columbia, SC, using portraiture to teach resilience and character strengths.
“I was painting their portraits, and every color of paint was assigned to a different character strength. So we discussed their character strengths and positive things about them, and they filled in their portraits with the colors of their character strengths.”
She received a lot of positive feedback from teachers, and hopes to bring a similar project to local schools here in Savannah.
“Teaching and being able to just be a light and create a safe space for people who don’t have that, through my art — finding ways to use my art to make a difference in my community . . . that’s the whole reason why I started,” said Johnson.
For her, the ability to inspire and uplift others is the most rewarding thing about being an artist. It’s what gives her that boost of motivation when she’s feeling uninspired.
“It’s really rewarding when I receive messages from people who speak so positively of their experience with my art and how much it’s moved or healed them,” she expressed. “I want to be able to inspire other people to be who they are and embrace their own uniqueness and story,” she added.
Currently, Johnson is in the beginning stages of planning an art show. She’s also working on new clothing designs, as she releases a new collection once a year.
In the meantime, you can find her work at thejaedaisy.bigcartel.com, or on Instagram @thejaedaisy.