Copper in the Arts

January 2010

Speaking Through Copper

By Ashley Morris

L. Brooke Johnson at work Artist L. Brook Johnson at work on her signature patina copper panels

Photograph courtesy of L. Brooke Johnson

The successful career stepping stones for artist L. Brooke Johnson have materialized much like her first patinated copper wall hanging: by sheer accident. It all started in 2003 when Johnson had a sheet of copper left over when making a handcrafted birdhouse.

"One day I decided to try and patinate it, so I poured on some chemicals, walked away and came back and thought, 'Wow, this is just fabulous!' because of the patterns left from the chemicals flowing," she recalls. "I mounted it and hung it in my house and people noticed it."

Today, after years of experimenting, Johnson has found the perfect recipe, layering and timing of chemicals for her popular patinated copper artwork, which can be up to 8-foot-by-4-foot in size. All work must be done outside, which results in a unique set of elements on any given day in Colorado Springs, Colo., at the foothills of an inspirational backdrop like Pikes Peak. "I can only get blue tones when it's freezing cold outside," she says. "But shades of verdigris can happen at any time.

Johnson has developed her signature patina process over the past few years, and treats her copper with a mixture of three to seven chemicals, manipulating temperature, time and various chemical layering to create her unique patterns.

signature patina close upClose up of the artist's signature patina

Photograph courtesy of L. Brooke Johnson

"I've had people say they can see things in a piece," continues Johnson. "Like a waterfall going into a cavern or the turning of the earth with the metal, a nude woman's body or just movement in there that is so primordial. There's one hanging at a particular restaurant that has a Pegasus in there. I can move the copper, but overall, I let the chemicals talk. I may ask someone where they want the chemicals to flow because of where they want to hang it in their home and then I can either direct it with a brush or tilt."

Johnson claims it's actually not the patina process that's as time-consuming as the mounting of the artwork, a combination of drilling through Plexiglass, framing and drilling some more.

Many restaurants throughout Colorado have found Johnson's work to be the perfect addition to their swanky dining rooms, and her work can be seen in The Warehouse Restaurant and Gallery as well as The Famous Steakhouse in Colorado Springs. Johnson has also shipped out orders to Ohio, New Jersey, California and Arizona.


L. Brooke Johnson Studios, Colorado Springs, CO, (719) 321-5823

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