During the first lockdown in March 2020 I began drawing from old master paintings. It’s something I’d always meant to do – as other artists before me (Turner, Picasso, Goya) did in their turn. The older I get, the more I am drawn back to the magic of these works.I draw from paintings that I know well by Rembrandt, Velazquez and Chardin. The longer I have known the original the better the drawing turns out. Some are paintings I have seen many times in books, exhibitions and galleries around the world over the past forty years. I feel I have a relationship with them, I saw them as an art student and now I look at them as an artist approaching sixty.

When I draw from existing works, I am trying to capture the connection I feel with the work, the historical nexus between me and the painting. The colour and graphic marks I use to frame the drawing with come from my own history and love of 1970’s record covers and graphic design by artists such as Barney Bubbles and Caroline Coon. The titles of the paintings are important and reflect what I know and feel about the subject from my own research. Using contemporary language and ‘buzzwords’ from social media; gamer, influencer and migrant for example, I am imagining these characters as if they were alive today, wondering what they would be doing and how they might be perceived by contemporary society. In this way, as with all my work, I am looking for connections from our historical past and life today.

Alexander Johnson