Erik Johansson is a Swedish Photographer and Retouch Artist with a real knack with Photoshop. Having studied Computer Engineering at Chalmers University of Technology, he’s since had clients such as Microsoft and IKEA. With a lack of any formal training, but a distinct eye for a great image, his photographs are viral fodder for a pic hungry internet nation. With a pinch of Dali, a dab of Escher and a sprinkling of Magritte, Johansson creates images that push the very limits of the world as we know it as he effortlessly bends reality this way and that.
His photo art nearly always exploits realism, and he often puts a surrealist spin on a familiar concept: a building site becomes a digger playing tic-tac-toe, a spilt coffee cup becomes a liquid world map, a chicane in the road becomes a fabric sheet pulled by human hands. His images are engaging, his concepts neat, and his execution near flawless. Playful, insightful and imaginative, his art shows a unique perspective, and makes the impossible seem closer than ever.
We spoke to Johansson about art in the digital age and how he got started:
Can you tell me about yourself?
My name is Erik Johansson, I was born in 1985 outside a small town called Götene in the middle of Sweden. I grew up on a farm with my parents and two younger sisters. For as long as I can remember I have liked drawing. Probably because of my grandmother who was a painter. Early I also got interested in computers, escaping to other worlds in computer games. At the age of 15 I got my first digital camera which opened up a new world. Being used to drawing, it felt quite strange to be done after capturing a photo, it wasn’t the process of creating something in the same way. Having an interest in computers made it a quite natural step to start playing around with the photos and creating something that you couldn’t capture with a camera. It was a great way of learning, learning by trying. But I didn’t consider it as a profession until years later.
How did you get started with Photoshop?
I am self-taught in both photography and retouch. I discovered that it was fun to change and modify photos for fun in the year 2000 when I got my first digital camera. I’ve always been drawing for as long as I can remember, and when I got the camera I felt like I wanted to do something more with the photos. I started playing around with the photos on the computer and discovered photo manipulation. For me the realism has always been very important and it’s a challenge to make a sketch come to life in a photo. When you learn the tools it’s just the imagination that sets the limits.
What tips would you give to beginners?
Don’t wait for the perfect idea, just go out and shoot. I still learn something new for every project I do and the only way to become good is to spend a lot of time doing what you want to become good at. Learning by trying is not always the fastest way but at least you really learn how the tools work.
How do you promote your work?
I mostly post it on photo and art communities to get feedback on my work, I then put the images on my website. I do sell some prints, www.inprnt.com/gallery/erikjohansson, but I haven’t really made any larger exhibitions. I always focus on the next image.
What motivates you?
To inspire others, just like I get inspired. If my work can make people think, then I’m happy! My personal work is a way to challenge myself to become even better, as a perfectionist I always try to move forward.
What books and films influence your pieces?
Here are some artists that inspire me: Salvador Dali – Spanish surrealist painter M.C. Escher – Dutch graphic artist, René Magritte – Belgian surrealist artist, Rob Gonsalves – Canadian painter, Jacek Yerka – Polish painter, Shaun Tan – Australian illustrator, Mattias Adolfsson – Swedish illustrator, Sven Nordqvist – Swedish illustrator/author. I love children books, but I can get inspired by almost anything.
Do you have surreal dreams?
Not really more than others I think, it’s just the way I chose to look at the world, questioning the very logic of life everyday.
What projects do you have coming up in future?
I am working on a few new personal projects at the moment and another behind the scenes move similar to drifting away; www.youtube.com/watch?v=DHVroXo_K50, I also have some commissioned work coming up but I hope to have more time for personal work next year.
Do you think print magazines will last?
Yes, I love printed media. Although I’m a digital artist I always like seeing my work printed a lot more. It’s just a different feeling and I think people appreciate the feeling of holding something other than a digital device.
Do you still think traditional art has value in a digital age?
Yes, it’s a craft and a lot of work behind it and that doesn’t become obsolete just because we live in a digital era. But the way you distribute and spread your work have changed a lot, to me it’s always been very important to be visible online. Most people see my work on Facebook or on blogs, and almost all the commissioned work I get is because people have seen my personal work online. Today I have about 5500 followers on Twitter and about 62,000 on Facebook. Those channels are very important to notify people that I have just posted some new work on my website. I think we live in a very interesting time.