Albert Lea father, son showcase woodwork, paintings in new exhibition

Published 4:01 pm Tuesday, June 11, 2024

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By Ayanna Eckblad

Two local artists will display their work at the Albert Lea Art Center this summer. The artists are Clayton Johnson and his son Magnus Johnson. Both use their art, wood carving and painting respectively, to relax and express themselves.

Clayton works as a soil scientist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. He became known locally for wood carving when he completed his most involved project, a miniature replica of the Vasa, a Swedish warship from the 17th century. The Vasa is the only intact 17th century warship in the world, and Clayton used existing documents to make the exact 1/50 scale model. This included making hundreds of small carvings. The process took a total of seven years.

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Following the success of the Vasa project, Clayton decided to invest more time into his woodworking hobby. He made carved furniture and small scale wood sculptures and learned pyrography.

“I like the relaxing aspect of it, it’s nice for de-stressing,” Clayton said about his art.

He made many of his pieces for his home, which currently houses about 900 of his woodworking projects. His most recent home project was a carved bar in the basement of his house where he can serve his homemade wine, another one of his hobbies.

“Our house is full of this kind of thing,” he said.

When choosing what pieces he wanted to include in the exhibit, he said it mainly came down to size and mobility. He also wanted there to be a good representation of his work available for people to look at.

Clayton said seeing a project go from being a design to taking shape is his favorite part of the process. When he gets an idea, the next step is to make a scale drawing from it. After that, he has the design printed to the size he wants the project to be. The printed design is transferred to the wood and cut out with a jigsaw. It is then carved with chisels, gouges and other manual tools. Clayton said there is also a lot of gluing involved, especially when he uses basswood, which does not come in large pieces.

Even though Clayton said his house is running out of space for more of his creations, he wants to continue with this work. He has been hired to do carvings for house remodels and to make furniture. He has also begun carving customized urn boxes where people can put the ashes of their loved ones after they have passed away.

“I do want to do more. I’ll be doing small carvings in various mediums, and I’ll continue my pyrography,” Clayton said.

Clayton has passed this creative nature on to his son Magnus, who is 11. Magnus is a painter, mainly of landscapes and other outdoor scenes.

“I get the idea, and then I get everything ready to make it, and then I go, step by step to paint the sky, ground and everything else that I want in it,” Magnus said.

He also said he hopes to learn more about different art styles like floral, abstract and portrait painting. He has sold one painting and has six pieces in the exhibit at the Art Center.

The Johnson exhibit will be displayed at the Albert Lea Art Center from today to July 20. There will be an artist reception held from 5 to 7 p.m. on June 21.