“Off the books” with Johan Bohman


Tell us a little about you self, where did you grow up, what were your interests as a kid?

I grew up on the west coast of Sweden in a small town close to the ocean called Onsala, twenty minutes from Gothenburg. I have always had an interest in painting and drawing things ever since I went to kindergarten, or so I have been told by parents and teachers. I guess I was like most other kids, played a lot of football, collected pokemon and hockey cards and played a lot of videogames and other games. As a kid I remember that I used to send in drawings that I had made to drawing competitions in different magazines. My drawings were actually selected a few times, around six times to be exact, they were published in a Swedish magazine called Club Nintendo and another magazine called Shonen Jump, a manga magazine. That was a really nice feeling I remembered, getting some kind of proof and recognition of my talent, I found that really motivating. But I have always painted and sketched because I think its super fun and also stimulating.


What made you start painting, and what keeps you motivated to make that next painting?

The person that really made me start painting was my grandma. She introduced water colors to me when I was ten years old and taught me about the different colors and tools.  When I was young I used to de-picture images I found in magazines, books or from the internet. So basically I made a new picture every time I found an image that caught my interest and looked cool. In that way I learnt how to draw different drawing styles and how to build up a drawing. The pictures I depictured was often pretty small and I was mostly often drawing on a A4 canvas, this made me good in proportions because I always had to draw in a bigger scale. Nowadays I get my motivation from different things. Walking in the nature or the city I see things that I think can become a good painting, it can be a whole scene or just a texture from a tree or a rusty barrel. Other talented people keep me motivated and inspired as well. When I see a nice picture painted by someone I think to myself, “am I capable of doing something similar and how did the person made the painting, which techniques was used?” Then I try it out myself and of course most of the time I can’t reach the same level but every time I get a little better.

Do you only paint digitally?

No, I started panting digitally four years ago or so, and before that I painted with water colors, acrylic and other traditionally methods. I still paint with other mediums and would like to try out even more different ways of making art.


Who are your role model artists and why?

When it comes to role models I have one artist that I have liked for a long time and he is a Swedish water color artist, Lars Lerin. I have been to two of his exhibitions and he is extraordinary in making realistic water color paintings with such a high level of detailing. His pictures are always interesting to watch and he uses a color palette that really is in my taste.

What are the advantages of digital painting compared to doing it by hand?

The main advantage is of course that you are allowed to make mistakes without any consequences, you always have ctrl + z at hand. You can also work faster and cheat more. With that I mean that you don’t have to draw everything if you don’t want to. Using images as an underlay to establish the color palette and general mood or atmosphere are something that a lot of the professionals do. Adding photos as textures in a painting is also something that is common and can help a picture pop.

Could you do the same as hand sketches or does digital allow you to do things you otherwise couldn’t?

All the tools in Photoshop, the program I use when doing the paintings, gives you  endless possibilities in creating something that would have been hard to do by hand, for example smoke or light effects. If you are really skilled you can do a lot by hand of course. But digitally tools allow talented people to reach a higher level in shorter time I would say.

red desert

What do you do with a painting when it is finished? (e.g. do you sell them, give them away as gifts etc..what?)

When I started making digital paintings I was very active on a lot of forums regarding digital painting and concept art. The later is a form of illustrations used to convey an idea for use in films, video games, animation, or comic books before it is put into the final product. People who work with this as an profession are called concept artists. So after doing a painting I used to post them online to get some feedback from more experienced people. Now I haven’t posted anything for two years. I have a web based portfolio where I have my industrial design work and where I also plan to put some of my digital paintings.  Sometimes I receive some illustration jobs from friends and in those cases I give them away or sell them.



(Street art from Kongens nytorv, Copenhagen.  Artist – Tore Rørbæk )

Do you have a favorite color palette you like to use? (if yes- what and why..?)

I found my color palette when I painted watercolors and have been left since then. My favorite color is Paynes grey, a dark cold grey with a lot of blue tones. The rest of the palette consists of earthy colors like moss green, sand and blood red. The awesome street art painting on one of the construction walls at Kongens nytorv, by Tore Rørbæk represents my color palette really good.

woodsHow do you choose your subject/motif?

It’s often very much based on the inspiration I get when looking at stuff from different forums. I see something that I really appreciated and then I try to figure out why the painting has that made me feel that way. Sometimes it’s based on the colors, the sky or the general mood. I enjoy painting landscapes a lot. My motifs are most of the time based on what I feel like painting at the moment. Some artists start with choosing a theme and then makes a collection of pictures, but that is something that I never have tried, but I would like to try.  

When is your most productive time, and how do you get yourself in the zone?

Usually on weekends when I have more time. I am most productive during the later hours so maybe from 21:00-00:00. It’s pretty common that I start painting a picture and then take a break from it and finish it off a day or two after. To get myself in the “zone” I usually watch some nice drawings or tutorial before starting and during I paint, music keeps me in the zone.

 mosse How do your painting skills benefit your design skills and vice versa?

The fundamentals like perspective and shadows and everything that are key to establish some kind of picture with a motif I’ve learnt from my design studies. Of course I had some kind of basic knowledge about it before starting studying design, but I didn’t think about bounce light and core shadows before. I have done some spaceship drawings and when developing them my design thinking came to use. My sketching style, when doing design sketches, are influenced a bit by the style people use when drawing concept art. I have also learnt a lot of different techniques and styles that I can use in my design sketching and visualization from scanning a lot of concept art. When doing an action shot or a render of a product, the cinematic aspects from the digital painting also helps me creating a more interesting composition.


Is there anything you find particularly difficult to paint?

People are always hard to draw. I usually use photos of people or do rougher silhouettes in my paintings.

How much context is there to your paintings? Do you imagine a whole story that the painting is a scene from?

It can help to think in that way but I usually don’t do that. It happens sometimes afterwards or during I paint. Some of my pictures are inspired by movies or games and then holds strong references to the story in that particularly movie or game.

Your paintings have a very cinematic quality to them – what kind of movies do you watch? Any favourite director or genre?

I’m a fan of both Lord of the rings and Star Wars. I also watch quite a lot of anime and have seen almost all of the studio Ghibli movies.


If you had the time and the money what dream painting  would you create, and how would you go about it?

Tough question! I think my dream painting would be a mix of traditional drawing techniques and digitally ones. I would also paint it in a bigger scale. Maybe some kind of street art where I projected digitally elements I had drawn, so more of an art installation.

You can follow Johan’s portfolio here.

Johan Bohman Sep. 2014

Off the Books” is a blog based series of articles where we aim to dig deep into interesting projects by people that are driven to realise their dreams during their free time,© Attention Group 2014.

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