My Favorite Piece with fuzzy grapefruit

We’re so happy to be welcoming back Heartmade artist Allison Johnston of fuzzy grapefruit! Her work often features animals in hilarious situations, like dogs dressed as famous people. (Tracy: “I own a Doggy Parton print!”) We were really proud of Allison’s most recent show featuring incredible paintings of endangered animals on entirely recycled materials. It was incredible and we’re crossing our fingers for prints at Heartmade Harvest, a week from tomorrow on November 3rd! Today’s post is about her favorite piece, which comes from that very show!

"Sacred Animal: Bornean Orangutan"

16" x 19.5”

acrylic & gouache on cotton, wood, and twine


This original painting was one of the pieces from a recent show I put together titled "Sacred Animal", featuring endangered species. He was a challenge for me, in a lot of ways. Although I love painting animals and they continue to be a recurring subject for me, trying to capture the emotion of this great ape was tricky -- throughout the process, I constantly wavered between feeling that I was making him "too animal" or "too human". In keeping with the theme of environmentalism, I also gave myself the additional challenge of only using substrates I had on-hand for the paintings in the show. I only had a handful of wooden panels and canvases so I turned to the one substrate I had an excess of -- fabric. Obviously there's a big difference between painting on paper or panel and painting on fabric, and at first I hated it! But slowly, with practice, I began to enjoy the way the fabric soaked up paint and water and forced me to abandon finer details for larger swaths of color. Making these fabric paintings into wall-hangings was a new experiment as well! I gathered branches from fallen tree limbs in my neighborhood, sanded and dried them, then protected them with an acrylic sealant. The purpose of the show was also to draw attention to animal conservation efforts, so this series will always hold a place in my heart with its cause-driven focus.