Paul Johnstone – artist

photo-4The pixelated paintings of Paul Johnstone have a distinctive style that you cannot fail to recognise.

Layer after layer of evenly shaped squares of intense colour are used to create romantic paintings that draw you in and allow you to lose yourself for a moment.

It’s like spotting shapes in the clouds – each one means something different to the viewer.

You might think the artist had spent years at art school perfecting his style. In actual fact Derby-based Paul was first and foremost a musician, a singer-songwriter who simply dabbled with art.

The arrival of his child Lydia and the need for a quieter occupation meant that he had to reverse the two.

“With a baby in the house rehearsing became impossible so I had to find something else to do and I turned to painting. I still needed a way to express myself and if I couldn’t make music then this seemed the obvious way. I still play in a band, but that takes second place to the painting.”

Paul’s current style evolved as he tried to avoid making too much mess in the home he shares with his wife Jane and his daughter.

“I was slopping oil paint everywhere, so I tried to discipline myself and began using the palette knife. I liked what I had and I thought I would see where it went.”

The 53-year-old says his work is his response to the natural environment and that he is striving to find a line between digital imagery and mark making using colour and a complex depth of field and movement.

“I am fascinated by nature and I want the viewer to be able to experience a bit of it and a bit of serenity. I want you to be able to step inside yourself. I want the painting to be living in your mind,” he explained.

The Scottish-born artist is from Dumfries where he was once worked for a butcher. It wasn’t a job he enjoyed and the look on his face says it all as he declares this was what made him choose to become a vegetarian.

He and Jane escaped to London to live a Bohemian lifestyle that involved music, art, living in squats and generally being carefree. They travelled extensively and ended up in Brighton before the responsibilities of family life caught up with them.

Derby became home nine years ago as they figured it would cut their journey back to Scotland and their families in half.

It was Jane who found them their home in one of the Six Streets off Kedleston Road that are now considered to be the city’s artistic quarter.

“It really is a great part of the city to live,” he said.

A selection of Paul’s work is currently being exhibited at Deda in Chapel Street until November 8.

Paul’s band The Raindogs regularly performs in the area and if you want to see more of his work go to