Arts & Entertainment

Makers of Park City: Robert J. Johnson

PARK CITY, Utah — Robert Johnson lives in the heart of Park City and is known for his watercolor paintings of local sites, aspens, and mountains. It would be a mistake to try to pigeonhole Robert Johnson though. While he started painting forty years ago, he managed to cramp at least four careers into his life before he discovered his passion for the “Artist’s Life”.

His two degrees in geography from Southern Illinois University led him to teach Jr. High and High School for ten years. He also worked as an electronics technician and a bulldozer operator before he decided to strike out on his own by buying a Baskin Robbins franchise. This job included having to create personalized ice cream cakes. Once a customer asked him what he did with all the cakes that he made mistakes on. Robert answered: “I don’t make mistakes.” Robert was an artist long before he took his first watercolor class in 1982 at the Springfield Art Association. He just started with an unusual medium. It did give him plenty of chances for experimentation and learning techniques to adjust his designs, so the result matched his vision.

Once Robert discovered watercolors, he took his fascination with buildings and Lincoln and painted about every historical building in Illinois that had a connection to Lincoln before expanding to other buildings. Having observed Robert for several weeks, I have discovered a very deliberate side to his actions. At this stage of his life, Robert Johnson has found what makes him happy: hiking with his wife, visiting their children and grandchildren, and exploring new subjects with his painting. Teaching elementary school children in his granddaughter’s class about watercolor, led him to explore new ways of painting animals.

You may be used to seeing pale watercolor paintings, but Robert Johnson’s paintings capture all the brightness of the fall colors of aspens. His images of fall leaves are so realistic, people approach them thinking they are photographs. Yet he embraces the challenge of painting Park City’s famous white Osguthorpe barn in winter and captures all its details in shades of grey. When I interviewed Robert, he was learning about shells and turtles to create images for his son’s place in Florida. All of his passions seem to organically join to let him expand his style. You can contact him at and see more of his work on Facebook.

Article and Photos by Kirsten Kohlwey. Courtesy of Neighbors of Park City.

Robert J. Johnson at work.
Robert J. Johnson at work. Photo: Courtesy of Neighbors of Park City

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