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Q&A with Marc Johns

Artist from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Hello! How are you? My name is Marc Johns, and I’m an artist living in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, with my wife Kristen (who’s an artist too) and two sons. I’ve been drawing since I was very little, and I never really stopped. Now I support my family with it.

Software / tools

Sakura Micron pens, watercolours and watercolour paper are my weapons of choice. Although lately I’ve also been revisiting acrylic paint.

I carry a small handmade notebook with me at all times to capture ideas.

I scan my drawings with a Canon LIDE 210 scanner. I’m still getting used to it. My last scanner was an old Epson Perfection 1250, which worked great. But I recently upgraded to a new iMac running Mountain Lion, and there are no drivers for my old Epson. I hate new operating systems! They break all the things that don’t need fixing.

I edit the drawings in Photoshop, but only to ‘clean’ the dust and dirt off of them. I do very minimal Brightness/Contrast and Levels adjustments to get the image looking as close as possible to the original. I sell the original drawings online, so I want buyers to see exactly what they’re getting, not some heavily tweaked version.

I use Illustrator to make files for prints, mostly so I can get the image positioned just right on a piece of paper with trim marks to cut them down to 8x10 inches.

I use Shopify for my shop and Typepad for my blog.

Ideal work environment

Space, natural light, and quiet. I don’t need a lot of space, since my pieces are relatively small. Sometimes I like to work in coffee shops. No laptop, just a cup of coffee, a sketchbook, pens and some watercolour paper. I’ll draw for a solid two hours or more and hopefully come home with a bunch of finished drawings ready for watercolour to be added.


I think the world we’ve created (as a human species) is a tad absurd, so I make drawings about that, drawings that are absurd. My drawings are often about navigating contemporary life. Sometimes they’re funny.

I get my ideas from everything and everywhere. I carry a small sketchbook and pen with me at all times, so that whenever an idea comes to mind I can get it on paper. I might be in a lineup at a coffee shop, on the bus, watching TV, or putting the kids to sleep. I’ll overhear a conversation, see some quirky signage, spot an interesting pattern, or think of an odd combination of objects and I’ll pull out a sketchbook and get the idea down on paper. Sometimes an idea for a drawing shows up in my head all ready to go. Other times it's just a single word, sometimes an object, a layout, which I come back to later to flesh out into something more complete.

Admire most

Edward Gorey, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Dick Bruna, Maurice Sendak, Maira Kalman, Quentin Blake, William Steig, children’s drawings, New Yorker cartoons, and a thousand other people and things.