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 Douglas (Doug) Johnson  (1940 - )

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Lived/Active: New York/Ontario / Canada      Known for: illustration, graphic art, teaching, scene design, theater production

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Doug Johnson (1940)

A prominent American illustrator, graphic artist, educator, scenic designer and theatrical producer, Doug Johnson (aka: Douglas Johnson) was born in Toronto, Canada and has lived in New York City since 1968. In the 60s, 70s and 80s he illustrated music album covers, magazines, posters and advertisements. Since the late 1970s he has primarily focused his creativity on theater related work - posters, graphics, scenic design and executive production management. For almost 40 years he and his associated companies have been a major presence on and off Broadway, producing dozens of shows and winning numerous awards. He is the recipient of five Tony Awards, four Drama Desk Awards, and the Society of Illustrators 1986 Hamilton King Award. (1)

Johnson's illustration mediums include airbrush, gouache and mixed medium paintings which have been reproduced as posters, album covers, advertising illustrations and magazine illustrations. His subjects include the theater, movies, musicians, sports, social commentary, product promotion, humor, portraits, figures, animals and psychedelic imagery. His distinctive style incorporates Art Deco*, Art Nouveau*, Cassandre (see Adolphe Cassandre in AskART), Cubism*, Futurism*, Modernism*, Pop Art*, Realism* and Surrealism*.

His art education includes three years at the Ontario College of Art* (c. 1958 - 1960) where one of his teachers was Canadian graphic design icon Frank Newfeld (b. 1928). After the OCA, Johnson traveled on a study scholarship for two years in Morocco and Spain.

When he returned to Toronto, he worked as a freelance illustrator there for about six years. In 1968, he moved to New York City where he did illustrations for companies such as United Artists, Columbia Records (e.g. Judas Priest, Savannah, The Stylistics, Ike & Tina Turner, and The Velvet Underground), United Airlines, Levi's, the Department of the Interior and several magazines (e.g. Life, Look, Esquire, Sports Illustrated, Playboy and Time). He also taught at the School of Visual Arts in New York (c.1968 - 1974) and was a visiting professor at Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York (c.1976 - 1977).

His illustration art has been shown in several exhibitions, notably in "Illustrators XVII" at the Society of Illustrators Gallery, New York in 1974; in "Cover '75/Catch the Eye" at the American Institute of Graphic Arts, New York in 1975; and, in "200 Years of American Illustration" at the New York Historical Society (1976 - 1977). He was also the subject of a solo exhibition at the Society of Illustrators Gallery in 1977. (2)

Johnson; through his advertising and consulting firm Performing Dogs, as Creative Director of the Chelsea Theater Center (Brooklyn, New York), as  co-founder of Dodger Theatricals (1978), and as founder of Kelpie Arts (1987); has been involved in dozens of  theatrical productions beginning with Leonard Bernstein's Candide in 1974 and continuing to Constellations, which is currently (March 2015) playing on Broadway. As of 2014, Dodger Theatricals alone has produced 150 shows and won 56 Tony Awards. (3)

According to the Internet Broadway Data Base, Johnson has personally been nominated for 20 Tony Awards and 16 Drama Desk Awards. He has won five Tonys:  Best Musical Big River (1985), Best Revival Guys and Dolls (1992), Best Revival of a Musical The King and I (1996), Best Musical Titanic (1997), and Best Revival of a Musical "42nd Street" (2001); and he has won four Drama Desk Awards: Outstanding Revival Guys and Dolls (1992), Outstanding Revival of a Musical The King and I (1996), Outstanding Revival of a Musical 42nd Street (2001), and Outstanding Musical Matilda the Musical (2013).
(1) 'The Hamilton King Award, created in 1965 by Mrs. Hamilton King in memory of her husband, is one of illustration's most prestigious honors, it is presented each year to a Society of Illustrators member for outstanding accomplishment and repeated excellence. The award selection is made by former recipients of the award and it spotlights one of the artist's best works for that year. It can only be received once in their lifetime'. Source: The Society of Illustrators.

(2) Please note: Two of our sources say Johnson's works have been exhibited at the Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto) and the Brooklyn Museum (New York), however, the sources do not provide event names or dates and, unfortunately, we could not find any information about these exhibitions on the museums' websites. Sources: Mantle Fielding's Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors & Engravers (1986), edited by Glenn B. Opitz (see AskART book references) and 200 Years of American Illustration (1977), by Henry C. Pitz (see AskART book references). - M.D. Silverbrooke

(3) Additional sources: Dodger Theatricals website and Internet Broadway Data Base website.
Off Broadway Musicals, 1910 - 2007: Casts, Credits, Songs, Critical Reception and Performance Data of more than 1,800 Shows (2010), by Dan Dietz; McFarland & Co., Jefferson, N.C.

Drawing on Type (2008), by Frank Newfeld; Porcupine's Quill, Erin, Ontario
 (2006), by John Stewart; McFarland, Jefferson, N.C.

Who Was Who in American Art, 1564 - 1975 (1999), by Peter Hastings Falk (see AskART book references)

More Opening Nights on Broadway: A Critical Quotebook of the Musical Theatre, 1965 through 1981 (1997), by Steven Suskin; Schirmer Books, New York

Contemporary Graphic Design (1991), by Ronald Labuz (see AskART book references)

Scenic Design on Broadway: Designers and their Credits, 1915 - 1990 (1991), by Bobbi Owen; Greenwood Press, New York

Artists as Illustrators: An International Directory with Signatures and Monograms, 1800 - Present (1989), by John Castagno (see AskART book references)

Broadway Ballyhoo: The American Theater Seen in Posters, Photographs, Magazines, Caricatures, and Programs (1989), by Mary C. Henderson; H.N. Abrams, New York

Mantle Fielding's Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors & Engravers (1986), edited by Glenn B. Opitz (see AskART book references) 

The Illustrator in America 1880 - 1980: A Century of Illustration (1984), by Walt and Roger Reed (see AskART book references)

The Art of the Broadway Poster (1980), by Michael Patrick Hearn; Ballantine Books, New York

Air Powered: The Art of the Airbrush (1979), Richard H. Childers et al (see AskART book references)

200 Years of American Illustration (1977), by Henry C. Pitz (see AskART book references)

Cover '75/Catch the Eye (1975), by American Institute of Graphic Arts (see AskART book references)

Doug Johnson, by Norman Hathaway, Studio 55 blog (2009 interview and video)

Doug Johnson at the Wheel, by Kayla Harris, Graphis Illustration Blog (June 24, 2013)

Internet Broadway Data Base

Broadway World website

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Written and contributed by M.D. Silverbrooke.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at
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