O Johan!

Berlin based artist and illustrator Johan Potma sings us a sea shanty and discusses his collaboration with comedy duo The Umbilical Brothers.

The Field Trip

The Field Trip

Johan, you visualise an interesting and wondrous world or characters and colours. Please describe this world for us, and your inspiration?
To describe the entire world is kind of hard to do. I haven't seen the whole thing yet. However, I do think all the characters and stories I paint exist somewhere in my brain.

Has your work been involved in books? 
I am currently working on a children's book concept together with the Umbilical Brothers. We met many years ago in Berlin, as they invited me to their show after seeing my work. We met up a couple of times and got talking about doing something together. This is the first project we’ve done, and my favourite to date.

It's All Good

It's All Good

What has been some of your favourite characters you've created to date?
I always seem to have the strongest connection to the painted characters I’ve just finished. Right now that would be the character from the painting ‘There Goes the Neighbourhood’. However, I do like many of the characters I made over the years. I put in a lot of myself. In fact, I regard most of my work as sort of a self-portrait.

What is your creative process?
I like to just start drawing and see what comes up. To loosely approach the subject manner in the beginning brings out a lot of useful stuff for the project. Once I find a good direction, I keep on sketching to develop a good character to tell the story, using a lot of stuff from the initial sketching, and put in little details to support the main message.

Love Hurts

Love Hurts

How have people respond to your work? 
I generally get very positive responses from my audience. I have been so lucky to build up a very nice business here in Berlin, selling my work from three different galleries that I own. The most rewarding thing, besides being able to do what I love for a living, is seeing people who come into contact with my work starting to smile.

What story or message do you want to achieve with your art?
The stories I like to tell are quite positive in most of my works. Also humour is something I use a lot in the paintings I make. Humour is maybe my way of coping with many things in life. For me it's working, so maybe I am trying to show people that.

So Fresh and So Clean

So Fresh and So Clean

What is something people might not know about you?
I was born under water, and raised by sharks. One day the shark king told me to evolve and go live on the land to fight for the species amongst the land people. I did as I was told and fought many fierce battles and became quite well known as The-Man-Who-Came-From-the-Sea-and-Won-Many-Battles. Songs were composed and sang by many, telling of my heroic life. This all happened before I reached the age of twelve.

One such song goes as follows:

   O Johan, O Johan, the man from the seaaa
   He fought many battle, and also loved teaaa
   He never was fearful, he never backed down.

   He never ate sand, he never ate clown

   He was a good swimmer, and loved boogie'n down,
   He was Johan the sharkman, the best sharkman in toooown.
   O Johan, O Johan, the man from the seaaa
   He fought many battle, and also loved teaaa (repeat 47 times)


Crazy huh? Also, I am quite okay at pingpong.

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

Click here to view more work by Johan