The Dart: Visual arts teacher enjoys chicken, Brookhaven, portraits

Published 4:00 pm Saturday, October 1, 2022

Mississippi School of the Arts teacher Brandy Johnson finished her lunch outside of Jaine’s Bakery on South Whitworth Avenue Friday afternoon close to where The Dart landed. It was a beautiful day outside with blue and clear sunny skies and a light breeze and the Ole Brook festival was set to kickoff.

Johnson, a native of Brookhaven, said she and her students from MSA had gone to the Railroad Park to set up for the Ole Brook Festival. They are selling art they have made at one of the booths for the festival.

She said the entire time they were downtown they could smell Jaine’s famous chicken on a stick. When she dropped them back off at MSA she took her lunch and walked over. Being able to sit down for lunch on a Brookhaven sidewalk is a testament to what makes the town special to Johnson.

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“It is so pretty today,” she said. “It is still a small southern town and it is a great place to raise a family. The people are friendly and it is generally safe. There are few places like it and it is so beautiful downtown. I have lived in Jackson and Tennessee. I don’t like the city but I do like being able to do this.”

This year is her first year teaching at MSA. She has taught art for the previous 20 years but MSA is a different school than anywhere else. Her focus is visual arts, which is the art style most people think of as opposed to literary, theater and media art.

Visual arts include 2D and 3D art with drawing, painting, ceramics and mixed media. Students have a senior showcase at the end of the year and most days they work until 5p.m. on their art.

Johnson said her mom was an art teacher who taught her art her entire life. She said she has some talent because it runs in the family but her mom helped nurture that talent. It has given her opportunities and the passion for art has grown to new things. So far, she has loved teaching at MSA.

“It is wonderful. The kids want to be there. They had to be accepted to get in,” she said. “They are eager to learn and give 100 percent. It is a pleasant and happy place to be.”

In Johnson’s free time, she likes to read, garden and paint. Watercolor is her medium of choice and the subject matter is typically portraits. Specifically, child portraits.

Portraits are a hard art style but one she found she could do and it could still be a challenge. Photos are the way she captures a subject so she can get the portrait done without requiring them to sit still.

“With watercolor there is no correcting anything once you get it down,” Johnson said. “For portraits, you have to make things look right. If any part is off I like to express the emotion they have in the instance. I want to see it and know something about them. The way they laugh and smile. I want to capture something. If you can capture a moment with a portrait it is great.”