Once a week, Chance Bailey Johnson sits at Art Nova Gallery at Sunland Park Mall painting in acrylics.
At 15, Chance easily stands out among the other artists, all much older, but seems unfazed as he dabs the paintbrush from the palette to his Downtown El Paso cityscape. The shapes of the Abraham Chavez Theatre and the Plaza Theatre already formed.
As an artist, sculptor and musician, the impressive El Paso teen has been standing out among his peers for quite a few years.
The homeschooled artist was featured in the El Paso Times at age 10 for his varied talents, including showing artwork at the El Paso Downtown Artist and Farmers Market and Chalk The Block. He’ll be back at the farmers market Saturday, Feb. 26.
Happy to catch up with us again, Chance is still working on his art while also still keeping up with his music and looking forward to a future in architecture and/or engineering.
The talented teen spends about equal time on his two loves, music and art. He plays the cello and percussion and performs with three different symphonies in El Paso as well with his talented oldest brother Brandon, who plays about seven different instruments.
“I’m self-taught as a painter but recently I’ve been taking art classes with Mr. Raafat Maximos,” Chance said. “I’m still doing painting of the city landscapes because that is my biggest inspiration and I still use the same bright colors and kind of style.”
He not only had art featured but also played cello in his brother Brandon’s band in the 2018 Whirlybird Music & Arts Festival in Jamestown, New York.
He also did an apprenticeship with noted El Paso artist Hal Marcus in 2018. He was able to contribute work on a mural at the Hospitals of Providence Transmountain campus that depicts both sides of the border.
Chance said he enjoyed working with Marcus, who also is known for his great use of color.
“He showed me how you can mix colors and get a better version of the color you want to use,” he said. “We would talk about art and he would tell me to never give up and to always keep practicing, because practice makes everything better.”
He also had artwork featured in tributes to the late musician Prince in various celebrations in Ohio, Los Angeles and Minneapolis.
Maximos, who owns the Art Nova Gallery at Sunland Park Mall, said he sees that Chance is very passionate for his art.
“From what I notice, he has great attention to the small details. And he seems to be more toward graphic design with bold brushes which is a good shift,” he said. “He’s very talented, I see a good future for him in the art.”
During the pandemic, Chance took up an interest in fencing which he still continues to do and also sometimes paints as a theme.
Proud mom Nancy Johnson also tries to fill in some details of how prolific and focused Chance has remained.
“He designed all of Brandon’s covers for his albums. He does all the photo shoots and video and he plays the percussion and cello along with Shelby, who plays the violin. They are still a trio, the Johnson Trio,” she said of the siblings.
Although the coronavirus stopped live performances, Chance continued to perform with his siblings during the pandemic.
“It was refreshing and inspiring. Through the El Paso Art Association, art shows continued online virtually and the trio performed during intermission,” Johnson said. “He still continues to infuse art and music.”
Johnson also is proud of how Chance has been inspired to paint a series of portraits such as Prince, former President Barack Obama, Miles Davis and Elton John.
“His buildings and architecture was his strong point but now his figures are ‘wow.’ ” she said. “You can see so much depth and they seem so real.”
For Chance, it’s inspiring to be able to paint some real role models.
“It’s inspiring because I’m not choosing people at random. These are people I’ve seen do great things and it shows what you can do as an individual – no matter the skin tone,” he said.
As he contemplates Black History Month, Chance feels positive, seeing more Black representation in all facets of life. His mom mentions that he’s been inspired to paint by the poetry of Langston Hughes, an African American writer whose poems, novels and other work made him a leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s
More recently, he is an admirer of Olympic fencer Miles Chamley-Watson.
“When you think of fencing, I think you think of more Caucasian males,” he said. “One of my favorite icons is Miles Chamley-Watson, one of the African-American fencers who’s won a lot of titles … and it’s great to see him representing in a primarily Caucasian sport,” he said.
María Cortés González may be reached at 915-546-6150; firstname.lastname@example.org; @EPTMaria on Twitter.