The visual art of sound

Steve Johnson, shown here with some of his paintings, is a local artist that enjoys painting the sound of your voice.

A visit with Steve Johnson would have most anyone immediately convinced he has a love of painting and music.

So it should come as no surprise that the Chatham man has found a way to blend audio and visual together.

About 15 years ago, Johnson took up painting as a hobby. He hasn’t looked back.

Over the years, he’s entered into various art competitions, including one at the Thames Art Gallery, Eye for Art in 2018. He enjoyed seeing his work hanging on the wall of the gallery, and refined his area of interest.

It’s to the point now where his subject is the visualization of sound.

That’s right, Johnson paints words.

The artist has taken to recording various famous sayings that are in the public domain and painting the sound waves.

The paintings are simple, but eye catching. The visual sound waves of descriptive phrases are captured on canvass. Johnson prefers vibrant backgrounds and contrasting colours in his work.

What he has done is a series of six sound-wave sayings from his own voice. Three are four-feet-by-two-feet and three are a quarter the size, two-by-one.

“This is me recording my own voice and painting the sound wave. We each have a unique sound wave. Every person could say these quotes and it would look different,” Johnson said. “It’s very personalized.”

He said he’s been drawn to sayings in the public domain, including “Experience is the teacher of all things” by Julius Caesar; “Be yourself; everyone else is taken” by Oscar Wilde; and “I am not afraid…I was born to do this” by Joan of Arc.

Johnson said the idea for the subject of his paintings evolved from his intention to write a speech as a member of the Toastmasters.

“I read a lot. I’m a student of history. I stumbled up on a page of famous quotes through an online search,” he said. “I recorded them. I was going to write a speech. But with the recording program I used, I looked at the pattern afterwards and thought, ‘That’s pretty.’”

Johnson, 63, and his wife Lenda moved here from Carleton Place in 2015. They couldn’t be happier.

“We did a Google search. We couldn’t believe the reasonable prices at the time in Chatham-Kent,” he said. “People are friendly and the climate is amazing.”

Johnson added the proximity to the Great Lakes is another attraction, making Chatham an excellent home base for day trips in the region.

“There’s a lot to see around here.”


  1. ‘Be yourself everyone else is taken’ is absolutely not an Oscar Wilde quote. The Oscar amWilde society have been unable to find any proof at all that Oscar wrote said it was reported to say this. There are plenty of other interesting Oscar Quotes! Good luck with the project but this is, we feel a 20th century quote or indeed cliche.

  2. thanks for the update Vanessa…whether Oscar Wilde ultimately wrote this quote or not, it is still excellent advice!


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