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Former Fray drummer Zachary Johnson has an insatiable appetite for making art.

December 2013

Moderation isn’t a word in Zachary Johnson’s vocabulary—at least not when it comes to making art. For many artists, completing a 10-painting series might be overwhelming, but for Johnson, 100—or, say, 400—is right in the sweet spot. Case in point: His latest project (out next month) required finishing 400 paintings for an episode of HitRECord On TV, hosted by A-list actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Not bad for a 28-year-old who’s already mastered two other artistic careers. 

As a child, Johnson spent 10 years playing drums with his family’s band, the Cinematic Underground; he was also the Fray’s first drummer. In 2003 he traded cymbals for the stage at the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts. But the Arvada native (he recently relocated to L.A.) found the scenes outside the theater more inspiring than the ones in his scripts: Johnson wandered the city between classes sketching buildings and street scenes in pencil. The impromptu works became a 60-piece series (it will eventually include 100-plus works) titled Disappointed People Holding on to Guardrails, part of which was displayed in Denver design company Work Shop’s
pop-up store this summer.    

Johnson’s family took note of his ability. His cousin, director Rian Johnson, asked Johnson to come to Serbia in 2007 to create props and a movie poster for Rian’s The Brothers Bloom. Before the filmmaker’s third movie, Looper, a critically acclaimed futuristic hit starring Gordon-Levitt, was released last year, Johnson churned out more than 600 paintings and illustrations for an animated trailer—in just three months. “You have to be a little bit delusional to be creative,” Johnson says. Or just crazy good.

Click through to see some of Zachary Johnson's works.