Rancho Santa Fe artist featured in Sept. 17 Zagö Studio Gallery show

A piece by artist Jay Johansen.

Zagö Studio Gallery in Solana Beach’s Cedros Design District will present a solo exhibition show for Rancho Santa Fe artist Jay Johansen on Sept. 17.

Johansen’s work has been shown in galleries across the country from Florida to Hawaii but this will be his first local show, displaying his unique style of digital pop fusion art, blending traditional realism painting with vivid pop colors, collage and digital enhancements.

Artist Jay Johansen

He recently began submitting his work into online juried art competitions and has won five in the last three months: “I can’t believe it myself,” he said.

A resident of The Bridges at Rancho Santa Fe for the last 10 years, he and his wife moved to Rancho Santa Fe from the Monterey area, seeking warmer summers.

“I have painted all my life, since I was five years old,” said Johansen, a native of Oakland.

Johansen loved art from a young age but he had watched his father, a wonderful artist, struggle financially in the tough industry. He decided to pursue a career in business, graduating from Cal Berkeley, earning his MBA from San Francisco State University and opening his own successful insurance agency by age 26.

He always kept painting as a hobby but was able to devote himself full-time to art after he retired.

“I paint every day,” he said. “I paint because I love it, I’m passionate about my art but I’m always trying to improve and learn.”

As an artist, he established an international collector base and became represented by several galleries. For many years, his forte was hyper-photorealism painting—he had always loved painting people and his goal was to make them look as realistic as possible.

“The work became very, very realistic but it lacked any real expression of humanity,” he said.

In 2010, he began exploring and morphing his traditional paintings into a new style, playing with the values of his subject, substituting bright colors that evoked his subject’s energy and taking his work digital. He found that his new style livened up his work, created more of a challenge for him and allowed him much more artistic freedom, “It was more satisfying for me.”

Johansen begins by painting on canvas with acrylics with some collage elements— a photo of the work becomes the basis of the piece. On the computer, he then adds to the drama using stencils and other digital tools. His pieces are then printed on a specialized silver metallic paper and encapsulated in acrylic glass. His pop icon series features the familiar faces of people like Frida Kahlo, John Lennon, Albert Einstein and David Bowie; while his fusion Renaissance series infuses a pop flavor into classics like the “Mona Lisa” and Joannes Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring.”

The show at Zagö Studio Gallery wll feature 14 of his original works.

“I feel blessed,” Johansen said. “If you do what you love you never spend a day of your life working. I feel I’m doing what I love and never had to work for the last 30 years.”

The exhibition will be held on Friday, Sept. 17 from 5-8 pm. Zagö Studio Gallery is located at 415 S. Cedros Avenue, Suite 140 in Solana Beach. RSVP to Visit Johansen’s website at