Charlie Johnston (C5 Artworks)
Charles Henry Jacques Johnston was born in 1962 in Selkirk, Manitoba. His dad Stan
worked in construction and on bridges in Winnipeg.
By the time Charlie started university he already had a fairly defined style that was
already "pretty tight technically." He was more focused in the genre of fantasy art,
which grew out of his love of comic books.
Johnston graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in
1984. He went to Vancouver to see what was happening there and also went to
Chemainus to see their whole Mural scene, and met Muralist Dan Sawatsky, who had a
gallery there. In 1988 Johnston went to work for Viacom, painting and working on
billboards. Over the next 12 years he became known as one of the top pictorial painters
in the industry. The job was to recreate designs that were submitted by ad agencies. The
work contained all the elements of traditional painting, and was done with oils.
Charlie discusses his billboard work through his career with Viacom with a certain
satisfaction: "There would've been no other venue where I had that much opportunity
to practice and exercise myself and work on that scale. . I loved doing large-scale
portraits and the work challenged me artistically and technically and drove me. I've
literally painted acres of pictorial work in these billboards. Hundreds of portraits,
landscapes, architectural renderings, reproductions of other artists' works or designs,
photo interpretive work, still life, graphics, you name it.
Today, 98% of billboard art is gone. paint studios all over North America were closed
in a very short time, replaced by digital print media. And then the art got lost for the
most part. Except for those who transferred their talent to Murals.
Charlie started his own company, C5 Artworks, which for him is a metaphor.
The metaphor is an important one to him, as it's been a part of his own creative process.
He explains: "As an artist, I'm a corporation. That is to say I have amalgamated into a
singular organization. The act of self-incorporation is as much a creative act and
spiritual attainment as it is a business venture to me because I've chosen to make it a
symbolic gesture of the relationship between the material world and the spiritual one.
To 'incorporate' can also be defined as the act of giving an abstract or nonmaterial
concept a physical form, which is the essential task of an artist. I'm currently
C5, which is my personal expression of the ultimate state of creative
expression, the point were spiritual forces and material energy converge together."
"To me the next level involves larger commissions; work on the grand scale for the
world arena, but with greater artistic freedom. It's also about evolving Murals as an art
form. I have this little litany my best work is going to be my next work. Each piece is an
organic experience; nothing sits in isolation. Continuous learning is really important.
Every time I do something I hope I'm learning something. Each time I work with new
people, I draw from their experience, their perspective, as much as my own. It's not just
painting the same painting over and over again like a printer. I like to treat my work as
a place to explore and experiment, my own little laboratory."
Charlie Johnston lives in Winnipeg with his partner Sarah and their children.
Contact Charlie Johnston at
Visit His website at
Click here to view
Charlie Johnston's Winnipeg Murals.