(written by his sister, Marjory Johnston)
Daniel is a highly intelligent and sensitive person. He is also an extreme manic depressive with a history of psychotic episodes that are now controlled by his medications. He has not been successful living independently because he, like so many mental patients, goes off his meds. He has been lovingly cared for by our parents for the greater part of his life, eventually having his own house built next to theirs. As our mother is now passed and our father is 89, Daniel is now partially under my watchful eye. He is unable to keep up with tasks like laundry, dishes, and trash, so it falls on me to be his butler, chauffeur, and art manager. Our brother, Richard (Dick) manages his promotion and schedule of engagements and takes him on tours of musical performances. He is, at this time, very happy and extremely productive in his creative output of both art and music. As a family, we want to insure his health and happiness as well as make sure he is financially secure into the future.
Dan’s life has been chronicled many times in newspaper and magazine articles, books and documentary films. His music and artwork have been acclaimed internationally. This website specializes in offering his artwork to his fans and for that reason I will limit my comments to his artwork.
Daniel has been an obsessive artist (mostly drawings) since he was very young. I believe his art is a form of self-medication or self-therapy, helping him to dispel the demons of his illness. The art helps him balance or even control the conflicted and often frightening energy of his mental world. He repeats his cartoon-like characters in an ever-evolving world of relationship and truth seeking. Some of his characters are original creations while others are borrowed from popular culture.
Examples of original characters:
Joe Boxer—hero in polka-dot underwear with the top of his head open
Vile Corrupt—Joe’s arch enemy having multiple eyes on tentacles
Sassyfrass the Cat—red-tabby good guy, based on a childhood pet
Jeremiah—the innocent frog
Female torsos—symbol of human desire and sexuality
Casper the Friendly Ghost—from Harvey comics identified with Daniel
Satan—bad guy from religious literature
Hitler—bad guy of World War II
Sad Sack—from Harvey comics identified with Daniel
His artwork is filled with comments, phrases, words, numbers and even conversation bubbles like comic books. Daniel will often make clever word plays or even deliberately misspell a word to change it’s meaning.His favorite medium is marker and ink, but he has also done paintings in watercolor, gouache, and acrylic. He has occasionally incorporated collage elements into his drawings. His early work is typically 8 1/2″ X 11″ cardstock or typing paper, but around 2004 he began to draw on 15″ X 20″ illustration board as well.
Much has been said (and rightfully so) about the symbolic nature of Daniel’s work, but it also has a playful fantasy quality. The “Good will triumph over Evil” and “Love will triumph over Hate” themes are ever present and are played out in limitless versions.
For more information on Dan’s life see the link page of this website.