Say "Hello" To: Eafrica Johnson, an award-winning artist, with her first, one-woman show set to begin August 1 at VB's Bayside library

June 6, 2018

From outlining paper dolls to winning first place.


It’s almost been a childhood dream come true for Eafrica Johnson, who has grown from doing art as a little girl with her mother, to exhibiting later this summer at Bayside public library in her first, one-woman art show in Virginia Beach.


“My mom used to cut out paper dolls and I would trace around them to make drawings, just as a hobby,” said Johnson, a Chesapeake resident and Regent University graduate. “I still remember the drawings.”


Johnson may have received her creative spark from her mother, but neither of her parents were professional artists. Her mother, Wilma Spragling, lives in Chesapeake’s Great Bridge area and is a retired corporate benefits specialist; her late father, Charles Spragling, a freight transporter.


 Left to right: Tim Johnson, Eafrica Johnson and her daughters, Ashley and Kelsey. (Courtesy photo.)


Even though those early days of doodles and sketches are behind her, Johnson knows that’s when her creative spirit sprang to life, especially at Overton High School in Memphis, Tenn., where she graduated and made friends with many other artists attending the arts-oriented school. It was then, when many seemed to notice that her art work was becoming more polished and worthy of the public’s attention.


“My drawings would turn into portraits of people,” she said, adding that most of her works were done in graphite, charcoal or color pencils. “I developed a real interest in drawing different people. I did a lot of self-portraits, portraits of family members and even some magazine covers. I would actually sell them to my seventh-grade classmates; a boy bought one of my first drawings for a dollar, I was so excited. It was of a woman sitting in a swing.”


 Eafrica Johnson stands with a few of her paintings. (Courtesy photo.)


But over time, as Johnson matured, her artwork also progressed, moving away from her more youthful images and closer to the artistry, mastery and personal fulfillment of working full color oil paintings.


“I evolved into painting,” she said. “I had been drawing since the age of six, but maybe about three years ago, I started experimenting with painting.”


Johnson still draws by request and commission, she said, but after some three decades of focusing on one artistic effort, it was time for a change.


“I just got bored with the medium,” she said, “and I used to have to bear down so hard with the color pencils that my hand would get really sore, so I decided to try painting.”


Johnson moved to Virginia Beach's Kempsville area in 2003. After some subsequent personal changes, she moved to from Virginia Beach to Chesapeake's Deep Creek area and is now married to Tim Johnson,

a Virginia Beach insurance executive.


 An original painting by Eafrica Johnson.


Johnson entered her first competition in 2016, at the Ocean View Art Show in Norfolk, where she won Third Place. It was then when she joined the Chesapeake Bay Art Association. In 2017, Johnson won First Place at the members’ show at the Suffolk Cultural Arts Center, she said, besting 30 other artists and more than 100 pieces of serious art work. The achievement encouraged her to be more public, confident and assertive with her art work.


"Nobody knew I did art for a long time, nobody knew about me." said Johnson. "After I won an award, I really felt like I was going in the right direction and growing; people were beginning to experience my art. I used to be afraid that it wasn't good enough, it's an artist's thing; but, many of us are afraid to take that step because of the fear of failing; you think you're not good enough. I was putting myself out there, but I was winning and felt like I was doing something worthwhile."


 An original drawing by Eafrica Johnson.


When Johnson sometimes had self-doubts, wondering how much talent she really had and if her work was really a cut above the rest, she washed away those reservations with continued hard work.


"I painted every single day" she said, "and I painted and I painted. If I did not have time to complete a work, I would start anyway and finish the next day or do two smaller ones the next day. It takes drive, but when I paint, it feels good, it's relaxing and something I really enjoy."


Most of Johnson's work is done in oils, using the alla prima technique and is available in a variety of sizes. The smaller pieces are about 5" by 5" and the larger ones, up to 4' by 3'. She's created about 30 new paintings over the last year, ranging in price from $75 to $1,500. Alla prima is the process of applying wet paint over wet paint.


 An original painting by Eafrica Johnson.


Johnson takes her talent and inspiration to the classroom in the fall, becoming an art teacher for Portsmouth Public Schools. She knows one of the first messages she intends to impart to her K-6 students.


"I hope to encourage young people to take that step towards art early," she said. "I waited too late in life. Art is important to a balanced education; being creative is a 21st Century skill. It's required for success in anything from inventing technology, to problem-solving, to living a vibrant life."


Reach Eafrica Johnson at Her Bayside neighborhood library exhibit runs from August 1 to 31 and includes some 25 pieces of her work.


 An original painting by Eafrica Johnson. 


 An original painting by Eafrica Johnson. 


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