By Molly Richmond / Photography by Craig Stocks
When you first meet Camron Johnson the first thought that comes to mind is, “here is a young man that epitomizes your typical boy next door.” What I quickly learned was that his artistic ability is the farthest thing from typical; in fact, his pen and ink drawings are nothing short of spectacular.
Camron is currently enrolled as an art major at Illinois Central College which is right down the road from where he grew up in Washington, Illinois. After graduation, he plans to further his education and secure his art degree at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia this fall.
As we entered one of the art rooms he directed us to a table that was filled with illustrations done in pen and ink. Off to the side was a mask that he designed for the main character featured in his first comic book series. As I marveled at the extraordinary detail of his drawings I asked him when he started drawing and if he came from an artistic family. “I remember drawing with my friends in grade school, but I’m the first artist in my family. I don’t think that anyone in my family could even draw a stick person,” he joked.
In his sophomore year of high school he took his first art class, but it wasn’t until his senior year that he fell in love with black and white drawings and using ink. That same year was when he achieved the DaVinci Art Award that is given only to area seniors. Camron submitted his art portfolio which contained a variety of different art forms, but his main focus was his pen and ink drawings. His family and friends were thrilled with his accomplishment.
As I glanced through his work I asked, “If you do all the artwork, who does your writing for the characters?” Cameron replied, “My grade school friend, Jordan Wilson, is an English major at the University of Illinois and I send him my pictures and tell him what I want to convey in the message and he puts the words together. The comic book is called ‘Thy Neighbor’ and the characters don’t have names. They are a group of ex-military, black op, guys for hire that can be rough and violent, but not evil. They work against the establishment because it’s corrupt and they work for hire like a hitman, but in a good way.”
I walked over to where he had some illustrations framed and was amazed at the level of detail. “I would really like to illustrate children’s books and maybe do other book covers or magazines,” he stated as his eyes lit up just thinking of the possibilities. Camron picked up one of his framed pieces, “This specific one was awarded ‘Best Illustration’ at the ICC Juried Exposition last year,” he said.
I told Camron that artists really fascinate me and I’ve always wondered how they do what they do and he explained, “I’ve always liked sci-fi, action and horror things which is what has probably rotted my brain, but I like to draw what most people don’t see. It gets their attention. Some of my pictures depict the creepy people or situations I’ve experienced throughout my life.”
Afterwards we all sat down and Camron was asked, “When you start a project do you know what it is that you’re drawing?” Camron took a contemplative moment then responded, “With the comic book, yes because I knew what I wanted it to be, but with other drawings I just start drawing and my pen just flows. The illustrations tell you what they want to be.” And I believe Camron, himself, is a testament to the very work he has mastered. Just as the stroke of the ink is placed permanently on the sheet, Camron Johnson has found his artistic niche and without a doubt will make a lasting impression for years to come.
You can see Camron’s work from May 7-17 at the ICC Student Gallery located in the lower level. Camron received an honorable mention for page 22 of his comic, and won Best Of Show in the illustration category for a piece called “Swagger Jacker.” Camron also produced a live-action trailer for the comic that is available on YouTube.
Contact Camron at Cammyj006@yahoo.com and view his digital gallery at Camronjohnson.blogspot.com.