Last June I stopped for an oil change in Edina.  It was a nice day outside, and the ancient magazines piled around the garage’s waiting room didn’t interest me, so I decided to pass the time at the nearby art fair instead.  Beautiful baubles, pretty paintings, and ostentatious ornaments awaited me there, but one artist’s work impressed me in particular.  I loved how it conveyed the crispness of a Minnesotan morning, the breeziness of our cornfields, and the shivery feeling you get walking along a small city street on a moody fall afternoon.  The paintings belonged to Coreen Johnson, whose velvety Irish lilt was a nice change of pace from the Minnesotan accent to which I’m accustomed.

Coreen hails from Whitehead, a quiet seaside town in Northern Ireland.  The daughter of a textile man, Coreen would only live on The Emerald Isle until the tender age of six.  It was then that her father took a job working with polyester in South Africa and moved the whole family to the veldt for a serious change of scenery.  Coreen’s family lived in heavily Afrikaner Cape Town at first, but soon moved to the English speaking city of Durban.

Coreen still loves Africa and paints it and its remarkable creatures to this day, but she found her art’s primary subject, the Great Plains, at the age of 25 when she transferred to University of Minnesota to study agriculture.  At this point, Coreen has been Minnesotan longer than anything else, and her affection for our state shines through in her paintings.

“I love driving around the country until I have an Aha! moment,” said Coreen.  “Minnesota’s light is gorgeous, the way it plays off the fields, the old granaries, and especially the cows.  I love cityscapes, too, and the way the light contrasts across their concrete angles, but there’s nowhere like our lakes and prairies for a painter.  The diversity of the Midwestern landscape is inspiring.”

“Painting for me is a release,” she continued.  “I begin in the morning only to pass the whole day away over a painting.  I’m not very poetic.  I save that for my canvas by depicting life wherever I go.  I’m very fortunate that now happens to be here!”

Coreen enjoys meeting new people at the art fairs she attends in the summer.  Her visitors are often surprised at the juxtaposition of paintings of gazelles and elephants hung alongside landscapes of rolling dairy farms, which means Coreen very often has to tell her life story.  “I would like my work displayed in galleries soon,” said Coreen.  “Maybe then I won’t have to do quite so much explaining!”

Coreen Johnson is available for commissions including paintings of livestock, pets, houses, and prized possessions including motorcycles and classic cars.  Coreen Johnson Fine Art is available at (507) 276-3119 and


By David Scheller