We had the good fortune of connecting with Paulina M. Johnson and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Paulina M., we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking

There is a saying that goes something like ‘what you want is just on the other side of fear’. It’s so true! I believe fear can be paralyzing but on the flip side it can also be a powerful catalyst to action. I think fear can reside within the things we care about most and that is why when we take the risk to push beyond, we are able to find our own personal treasures.

I have always been a maker. As a little kid I loved drawing and painting and making things with my hands. As an undergraduate graphic design student I got the chance to study various forms of art but commercial design quickly became my life. I practiced it, in many capacities, for years. And although I enjoyed it to an extent, there was always a creative void that was unfulfilled. Leaving graphic design seemed impossible. It felt like it was the only thing I could ever do professionally and I’ll confess, I felt trapped. Then, I went back to school. My graduate experience was incredible. I was able to play with materials and enjoy art again. I was granted the space to see past the mental box I had put myself in, encouraging me to approach art as I did when I was a kid, without fear or hesitation.

Just after graduation I left graphic design for good. I began creating paper art in the way in which I’d discovered in graduate school and loved it. I got a studio space wholly dedicated to my new work and began trying to figure out how to become an exhibiting artist. I renamed my business to reflect my new creative direction and redesigned my website to place focus on my paper art. My professional trajectory since has been amazing. I’ve become a partner in a local fine art gallery and have had the opportunity to exhibit in various group shows around the country. I often make meaningful connections with the people that gravitate towards my work and feel humbled and honored when they choose to bring it into their own homes. What I do now as a paper artist is fulfilling and empowering, and so much fun. I will always be grateful for those who supported and encouraged me to take the risk and change professional lanes. It’s been one of the best decisions of my life.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?

As a paper artist, my work is rooted in a minimalist design aesthetic and a genuine love of paper. I am inspired by nature and strive to capture its complexity and beauty with the simplest of elements—such as circles and lines. The lines I work with define form in a composition and are made with strips of paper that are glued on their sides. In this way my work is sculptural. The shadows that the standing strips of paper make fascinate me. I love the way a piece of art can change depending on the light in its environment and on the perspective from which it is viewed. Every piece I create is a learning opportunity which prompts new questions and ideas to ponder on the next.
In my studio, I am a maker. Working with my hands has always brought my mind a sense of ease and my body a feeling of purpose. I work with paper because I truly believe in its magic. Until recently, paper single-handedly held and carried most of our history as human beings. It is incredibly versatile and unassuming. Most importantly, it is natural. Much of what I do is fueled by a curiosity to listen as it interacts with its environment when pushed beyond the flat surface and out into the three-dimensional world of light and shadow.

Last, I keep busy running my business. Being an artist requires the ability to not only make art, but also manage every aspect beyond, including tracking inventory, budgeting for and purchasing materials, applying to open calls, marketing, and so much more. For me the process as a whole is fulfilling and every day I am grateful for what I do for a living.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Steamboat is a great town to visit. Depending on the time of year there’s always great things to do, especially outside. Within a week I’d take my friends skiing in the winter or wake surfing in the summer. Cruising the core trail to enjoy the many great restaurants downtown would also be a must. Hikes are awesome all year, especially if I can bring my dog Murray. And if there’s live music, we’re going dancing!

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
A huge shoutout first and foremost to:

My mom and dad. They’re all love.
My husband. He is my anchor.
My two boys. They are the very best thing in the entire universe that has happened in my life.
The Vermont College of Fine Arts. They were a guiding in light in a time of confusion. They taught me how to find my own way in the darkness, which will always be invaluable.
My family and friends who have consistently shown up at my shows and have bought my artwork, making it possible for me to continue on my artistic path.
Last and not least
Pine Moon Fine Art. A place that opened its doors and its heart to my work. Thank you!

Website: https://paulinamjohnson.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/paulinamjohnson/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/paulina-m-johnson-08a36041/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/paperartbypaulinamjohnson

Image Credits
Headshot by Brooke Welch

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutColorado is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.