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David Abel Johnson 


David Abel Johnson was born in 1944 at the end of the depression and the war and raised in the rural Midwest; small towns and cities.

During his youth conventional art, painting and drawing were left for rare school assignments and he never did well on these assignments. He received his first encouragement in art from a high school art teacher named Andrew Labarbara. At his urging David entered a newspaper contest, receiving an “honorable mention” with a Bronze Palette which was presented to him at the school’s annual awards day, a first in art for the school.


At Northwestern Michigan College another encouraging teacher, artist Paul Welch, hired David as his assistant on a very large stained glass commission he had undertaken. After his time in the army and Viet Nam, David entered the BFA program at the University of Minnesota in printmaking. He worked closely with printmakers Karl E. Bethke and Zig Priede, and painters Peter Busa, Hank Rowan, and Raymond Hendler. He studied art history under Melvin Waldfogel, Norman Cannedy, and Sidney Simon. Continuing in printmaking in the MFA program at the same university he also studied with printmaker Malcolm Myers, my advisor. All of these teachers and artists left their mark on David’s work.


After several years of college teaching, when things were going well, He resigned to work as an artist but was soon overwhelmed by heavy seas in the form of extreme circumstances which made it impossible to pursue a career. The severe distress took a toll on his health though he continued to paint with difficulty until the mid-nineties when eventually the motive to paint fell away.


However, around 2012, after getting his health issues and other things under control, David’s painting resumed stronger and better than it was before, giving him a new lease on life and on his career.


1972 Master of Fine Arts, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN

1970 Bachelor of Fine Arts, cum laude, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN

1965 Associate of Arts, Northwestern Michigan College, Traverse City, MI

1962 diploma, Northport High School, Northport, MI

Grants and Awards

1982 Artist's Fellowship, Minnesota State Arts Board

1978 Yaddo Fellow, Yaddo, Saratoga Springs, NY

1974 Artist's Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts


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