Heart attack leads to art attack for Casey painter

November 28, 2004|BRENDA S. EDWARDS

LIBERTY - Roger Johnson began his hobby as a toddler painting by numbers and expanded his artistic talent in the years that followed.

"Every Christmas, I'd get a half-dozen paint-by-number kits," says Johnson, of Casey County. "As I got older, I saved paint from the kits and began painting on my own. I painted my first picture when I was 16 years old."

He began taking art lessons as a high school junior, then when he got to be a senior, he began doing sculptures, macram and more perspective work.

After high school, he had little time for art. A heart attack hit him at age 28 while he was taking tobacco off a wagon near his home in the Poplar Hill community. He got over that with little trouble, but a second heart attack almost took his life. He had quadruple bypass surgery after a doctor told him it looked like a hand grenade had exploded in his chest.


Now, at 48, he spends his days at Family Home Health Day Care where he paints and chats with his friends.

"I paint about every day. It's a talent God gave me. I'm getting better every day," he said. He used to sketch his art work, but he rarely does that now, except to develop a painting.

"I'm not much into modern art. I like classic and primitive. I like to paint what I see," said Johnson, who uses vibrant colors in his work.

Mural reflects use of bright colors

A mural on a wall at the day care center reflects Johnson's use of bright colors. He literally kept his nose to the wall four months while creating the mural that is centered around a rose garden theme. Johnson said he needed new glasses and could not see well unless he was close.

"I started with a gardener that looked like Wayne Raney, (a client at the center). After I told him, a whole bunch of people wanted to be in the photo."

Part of the staff are at a picnic and swimming in a nearby stream. Some are fishing and walking on a bridge. Johnson is sitting on a porch. Others are riding horses. Ducks swim in a pond while deer and other wild animals are near the stream. Stone and wood rail fences separate the gardens.

Even with all this, Johnson is still not satisfied with the mural.

"I won't be unless it was perfect," he said.

The mural is a real eye catcher. Each time you look at it, there is something you didn't see before. That was what Johnson strove for when painting the picture that has brilliant colored flower gardens. There is a weathervane on the barn, a colt coming into one of the gardens, birds and other wildlife in the trees with an eagle in the center of the sky and a sun up above.

The mural was finished in March 2002.

Helps at adult care center

When Johnson's not painting, he uses his knowledge from three associate degrees in accounting and computers to help the Sharing and Caring group at the adult day care center. He's president and in charge of computers for the group which saved enough money to purchase one computer.

Johnson said his social life is at the adult day care center. "There are lots of good people here," he said.

Before Johnson had heart problems, he would spend eight or 10 hours painting without a break, but now he does not have the strength to keep at it. He does art for fun and satisfaction.

"I paint big and I paint small and not only on canvas. I paint boxes, eggs, saw blades and gourds."

He likes to paint faces on gourds. One of his favorites is a family of gourds - mother, father and child - painted as snowmen with faces, scarves and hats. He also did an apple with a green worm coming out its mouth.

Johnson has painted all sizes of saw blades, from circular, handsaws and crosscut saws. He even painted both sides of a large blade from a sawmill. One side depicts four different scenes of horses, and the other side shows the four seasons.

Johnson has sold some of his work and has donated to Relay for Life fund-raisers. His greatest pleasure is painting for fun and relaxation.

"You can lose yourself on the canvas," Johnson said. "It doesn't matter how loud it gets in here, it doesn't bother me when I'm painting.

"I'm probably not very good, but it has been a lot of fun."

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