Exclusive interview with a 3D sculptor James Johnson

Intuition © James Johnson

Can you tell our readers about your childhood, family, and the environment you grew up in? Were you an artistic child?

Growing up in southern Wisconsin, I was exposed and influenced at a young age by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and Georgia O’Keeffe. I was a creative child. Frequently, able to make and see connections between ideas that were not always so obvious. We lived on a lake so there was lots of swimming in the Summer and ice staking in the Winter.  Also, there was lots of amazing food especially on my Italian side.

What inspired you to become a sculptor?

It was a search for more creative freedom that lead me to sculpture. Working as an architect is amazing. However, the forces informing architectural originality are many; government regulation, citizen review boards, underwriting requirements, material availability, and labor force expertise. Sculpture is more spontaneous and unmediated.

Deject © James Johnson

Were there any significant events during your art career that influenced your artistic development?

I maybe guilty of an Upper Midwest naivety.  So occasionally, I discover things are not always what I believe or feel they are.  Sculpture helps reconcile those outer and inner worlds for such happenings.

And it is OK to ask for help. After all, Albert Einstein needed help with math from Marcel Grossman.


What challenges did you have to overcome in your art career?

There will always be some forward friction. It is a constant. Finding time to work is the most recurrent challenge. I tell myself that just for today, I will not worry about whatever is in my path and remember it is a privilege not a necessity to share my work.

How do you come up with innovative art ideas?

Ideas seem to find me. Sometimes I feel as the thinnest spot between what is and what is not. There are always several ideas floating around. The opportunity is to sort and select what is more powerful and needed.

Mothman and Bear © James Johnson

Which sculpture are you most proud of?

 My next one. When you juxtapose the mundane and the unique you will always elicit some type of response.

What materials do you use to create your sculptures, which are your favorite, and why?

I’m very enthusiastic about creating figurative sculpture in various media although bronze is my favorite. Creating an original in wax or clay is rich and textually indescribable then the work is realized in metal like bronze or pewter.  In 2014, the building my downtown studio was in was sold and converted into offices.  I decided to work at home. I needed a cleaner creative process since my daughter was still young and we live in a neighborhood with a HOA.  Melting metal in the garage or yard was not a safe or realistic option. This is when I discovered the world of 3D scanning and 3D printing as a creative process and means of production. In time, I came to own a 3D scanner, FFF printer and SLA printer. Work is realized in resin with a bronze metal finish similar to cold casting.


There are so many artists today creating amazing art in a vast array of mediums and styles, do you feel the pressure of competition?

For me, art is not a competition. The more artist creating amazing art the better off we all are. Society needs artists. There is always sufficient opportunities. The challenge is discovering them.

Rejoice © James Johnson

What makes your sculptures unique? 

It is the beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete, the antithesis of the notion of beauty as something perfect, enduring, and monumental. Perfection is the enemy of good. It is a search for the essential elements of our common humanity and the compassion it calls for.

What is the primary skill set one must possess to be a good sculptor?

How to imagine in three dimensions. Here is an activity to help improve the formation of ideas or imagining in three dimensions. First, select an object that fits in the palm of your hand. Take five minutes to look at it. Notice the shape, texture, color, weight, and any patterns.  Now, close your eyes.  See the object in your imagination. Rotate the form in your mind. Also, move it closer and further away. Maybe try these imagination games when waiting or when your phone battery is low or can’t get a strong signal.


What sacrifices did you have to make to become a successful sculptor?

Creating sculpture is not an all consuming need or source of ego identification for me so I never feel anything was or is sacrificed. By prioritizing creative time and resources, there are no sacrifices. It’s a balance between friends and family then sculpture.

Joseph and Child © James Johnson

What advice would you give to new artists that wish to become professional sculptors?

Make a plan. Discover how to have cash flow from your art, work, or investments. Revisit your plan every year and make adjustments. Believe in yourself and your vision. Whether you say you can or can’t, you are absolutely correct.

Outside of sculpting, what types of art do you like to surround yourself with?

I enjoy paintings and lithographs. One of the wonderful effects of living a life in the arts is meeting amazingly creative people who share their art. It is a joy to have original work at home from friends and acquaintances. Also, I have my hands into painting too. I get bored easily and need to create. Here is a site with my 2D work;


Are sculptures currently in demand and what is the state of this market from your perspective?

I am not overly concerned about the market. It may move up or down. What does concern me is creating intellectual property then seeking outlets to lease, sell, trade, or license the work.  Solvency is always the first rule to apply.  

Reclaim © James Johnson

How long did it take for you to achieve financial success as a sculptor?

It took a number of years before the hundredth monkey effect kicked in. Or some say, you’ve put in 10,000 hours to reach a certain threshold. Financial success follows creativity. It is all too easy to keep producing work that generates cash flow to the sacrifice of discovering new fresh explorations.

How do you sell your art?

I enjoy selling directly to clients when the opportunity is available.  It is a wonderful time to listen and learn from them. Like most things these days, the internet is the main tool used to connect with clients. My work is available online at


Which sculptures sell better, larger or smaller?

I have found smaller pieces sell more frequently.  

I offer larger sizes by request. A sculpture can be scaled up or down to be in proportion with it’s setting.

Rain © James Johnson

Do you have to look for clients or do they find you?

I work at discovering ways to contact potential client. Marketing is part of any business. Clients discover my work and me also.

My sculpture is sold mainly to private collectors from the US, Asia, and the EU.


How do you deliver your sculptures to clients?

Specialized carrier with expertise in handling sculpture. Hiring those who do art delivery everyday helps reduce risk.

Do NFTs interest you as an artist?

I find new ideas always interesting. I have four NFT’s available. NFT’s are another opportunity to share my work. You can experience my NFT’s at

Diana © James Johnson

How has COVID impacted your business and what changes, if any, did you have to make?

I was already working from home when COVID began. Remember, my downtown studio was converted into offices. There was not a huge adjustment. In a way, I was quarantined in my studio!


What is your overall outlook on how the art market is changing and developing?

Exposure to images and references to artwork is more open and accessible through our phones, computers and tablets today. Artist may connect directly with clients. I do feel traditional gate keepers will always be important but there are other pathways to exposure and advancement.

Who are your favorite sculptors and why?

Michelangelo and Auguste Rodin, they both capture powerful aspects of what it is to be human.

River © James Johnson

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