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64: Aaron Johnson

When we last put the spotlight on 100 creative forces in Phoenix, it was no secret there were more than 100 individuals who were making waves in the local arts community. So as we count down to our annual Best of Phoenix issue, we're profiling 100 more. Welcome (back) to 100 Creatives

64: Aaron Johnson
Aaron Johnson

Aaron Johnson says he likes, pinball machines, shortbread cookies, graphic novels, and skateboard competitions. But you're more than likely to find the local writer at Lawn Gnome Publishing and Bookstore, which he opened in downtown Phoenix this year.

"As a young teen, I saw a lefthander chop off his thumb in a roast beef slicer," he says. "Being a lefty too, I was permanently scarred for life and began writing and performing poetry."

64: Aaron Johnson
7th Ave Streetscape Haiku by Aaron Johnson, art by Eve Vrla

I came to Phoenix with . . . I was born in Phoenix, moved to Flagstaff in 2002, and came back in 2008 with a dual degree in sharpie marker illustration and beatbox harmonica, an international performance poetry championship belt from Rome (International Forensics Association 2001), and some experience in the crepe-flipping biz. My father was a musician in Phoenix (Ordinary Boys & Last House on the Left) when I was growing up, so I was drawing flyers for local bands like Kongo Shock and Medieval Knievals when I was in high school. My father was also a big part of the cassette-tape-mail-underground of the '80's and '90's, which gave me an appreciation for nerdy subculture artists like Daniel Johnston, Elliott Smith, I Hate You When You're Pregnant, Dino Dimuro, They Might Be Giants, R. Crumb, and Dan Ciesla.

I make art because . . . Tell me what sounds better. "I make art because I never went to church as a child." Or, "I make church because I never went to art as a child." I guess you can say I make art because I believe in its' power.

I'm most productive when . . . I am challenged by my peers. I first started writing plays, poetry, sketches, and short stories when I was a speech and debate competitor at Cortez High School. I became really competitive and stuck with public speaking for two years at Glendale Community College, two years at Northern Arizona University, and then 5 years in the National Poetry Slam. I found my voice and style from those years of writing and editing and critiquing and practicing. When I went on my first national tour, I started creating flyers for my own shows and drawing doodles for the covers of my albums, which got the attention from other DIY artists like Sage Francis, Derrick Brown, Henry Rollins, Jello Biafra, and Michael C Ford (who just joined the Lawn Gnome Publishing roster for 2013).

I've learned the most from . . . conversations with Joey G, Mike Cause, John Sagasta, Billie Speece, Dann Dykas, Ernesto Moncada, The Klute, Michael Twentythree, Djentrification, Casebeer, and Randal Wilson. Coffee helps productivity, too. All of these creative types are constantly learning and working despite day jobs and triple digit heat. And they aren't the only ones. I wish I could learn from El Mac and Elvis Costello on a daily basis.

My inspiration wall is full of . . . I don't have an inspiration wall. "Wall of inspiration" sounds a lot like wall of limitations. Hulk smash wall. My walls are filled with books and power tools.

Good work should always be . . . When I perform at colleges and high schools, I get asked, "how did you write that?" quite a bit. I always tell new writers that the trick is to edit out the experimental process when presenting yourself.

Some things I've tried to create that failed miserably and will never be seen by the public: 1) a steampunk airship float for the Phoenix Annual Parade of the Arts 2) a miniature golf course on 5th Street and Roosevelt 3) a motorcylce poetry show that rides into Bragg's Pie Factory (they got stuck in Flagstaff snow on the way)

I have to admit, not every idea is a good idea. Speaking of which, the Phoenix creative scene could use more writers and green chile.

The Creatives, so far ... (And while you're here, check out 100 Tastemakers on Chow Bella.)

100:Lara Plecas 99. Isaac Caruso 98. Brandon Gore 97. Kelsey Dake 96. Hector Ruiz 95. Caroline Battle 94: Jennifer Campbell 93. Jeff Chabot 92. Tiffiney Yazzie 91. Daniel Germani 90. Irma Sanchez 89. Daniel m. Davis 88. Kirstin Van Cleef 87. Emmett Potter 86. Sarah Hurwitz 85. Christine Cassano 84. Fred Tieken 83. Lindsay Kinkade 82. Ruben Galicia 81. Robert Uribe 80. Heidi Abrahamson 79. Josephine Davis 78. Travis Ladue 77. Taz Loomans 76. Mikey Jackson 75. Alex Empty 74. Joe Ray 73. Carol Roque 72. Daniel Funkhouser 71. Carla Chavarria 70. Hugo Medina 69. Cavin Costello 68. Claire Carter 67. Lindsay Tingstrom 66. Catherine Ruane 65. Christopher Crosby

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