New market vendor has Skywalker past

“During her California stint, Johnson worked for two years at Lucas Learning, one of several George Lucas companies clustered around Skywalker Ranch. Lucas is shy but conducted speeches for new recruits, she said.”

October 17, 2014

Doing profiles may be the form of writing that I like best. It is so interesting to find out what people are about. Working for the small press has meant I have done at least a hundred profiles. Why? When it is a slow news week, doing a profile on someone in the community helps fill the newspaper. To do a good profile, it is important that the journalist has great interviewing skills. If this is the case, the subject will open up and tell you the fun and interesting stuff.

I find sometimes this means asking a stupid question. By this I mean, asking something for which I already know or think I know the answer. I want to get a good quote from the subject which helps pick the story up off the page in a way that is often better then me just making a bald statement. Often, too, I am surprised. The answer is much more or much different than what I anticipated it would be.

The following is a profile piece:

Gulf Islands Driftwood
April 13, 2005
New market vendor has Skywalker past
by Tanya Lester

Animator Christina Johnson has a market table this season as she exploress — like thousands of other new arrivals have over the years — where her entrepreneurial niche will be on Salt Spring.

The 35-year-old Canadian artist took an interesting circuitous journey which led back to her home country and to this island a year and a half ago. It was one that included rubbing shoulders with the likes of Star Wars creator Geroge Lucas.

Growing up in Kitchener, Ontario, Johnson drew constantly.

“I like drawing expressions on animals,” she said. “It’s like creating a little character.”

Johnson never played with dolls but has always been attached to stuffed animals. She also made flip books of her creations.

In Grade 6, Johnson’s father built her a light box in a small table. She explained how the light box ensures the dimensions will stay the same for each picture. The first picture or frame for a rabbit coming out of a hole might be the hole, then the second one is the rabbit’s ears poking out of the hole and so on.

At St. Mary’s High School, Johnson did the set mural for the Anne of Green Gables performance and another of the rainforest. Two summers later, she got her first paying art job when she painted murals throughout the school.

Johnson found Sheridan College’s classical animation diploma program (read “Disney”) was where her passion for animal characters really fit in.

Here, Johnson had the principles of animation drilled into her.

“They’re really hard because it’s all about physics,” she said. “You need to know how the body works in order to draw a cartoon character accurately.”

Johnson learned how to draw so her copy of Goofy or the Pink Panther would be “acting”: using facial expressions and talking in coordination with their lip syncing.

At the end of the course, the students’ films were scrutinized by industry people and a San Francisco company hired Johnson. At 23 years of age, she began a decade of work in the Golden Gate city’s early childhood animation market.

To this day, animal characters have remained prevalent in Johnson’s work. She has done sketches of Mercer Mayer’s Just Grandmas and Me and Little Monster at School for CDs that children watch on computer in order to learn how to read. She has also instilled characters from Dr. Seuss’ ABCbook with movement.

During her California stint, Johnson worked for two years at Lucas Learning, one of several George Lucas companies clustered around Skywalker Ranch. Lucas is shy bit conducted speeches for new recruits, she said.

Employees’ perks included dining on low-priced gourmet lunches, made from the organic garden’s produce, at tables draped with white cloths. Bicycles were used to go from one building to another.

With a chance to win a trip to Hawaii, Johnson said some staff took a week off before the Hallowe’en party to prepare their costumes.

Still, the hectic urban American life began to lose its sheen for Johnson. In some places, the old boys’ network determined that women could be producers but not animators. Japanese Anime, with its well-endowed female figures, made Johnson’s characters seem too “sweet”. Her four-year marriage ended.

Johnson and her partner Paul Richard discovered Salt Spring on holidays. Although they still spend time California, they have a home on Rainbow Road.

Eventually, they will own sheep, but Johnson’s delightful sheep character already adorns the change purses and children’s hats that she sells in the market.

Although Johnson just landed freelance work with a Vancouver company to create characters for cell-phone games, she now wants to derive the bulk of her income from original designs and murals as a professional artist. She also wants to teach flash-book animation classes to children.

Johnson has the creativity to decorate almost anything, including signs, with her original cartoon characters. Her website is ….

To read the first posts in this blog, please go to
Facebook. LinkedIn. Twitter. Google
Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader by Tanya Lester can be purchased from the author or by going to the title and author name — to read the first few pages and buy it — at
Tanya Lester’s other books are
Women Rights/Writes, Dreams & Tricksters and Friends I Never Knew.


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