ATLANTA - It can take creativity to corral a fastball. The right hit-erasing diving catch shows off plenty of style. Gwinnett Braves outfielder Micah Johnson can do both and says he loves being around his teammates, honing his craft on the diamond. His true art, however, is elsewhere.
"[You have to] not be afraid to mess up," said Johnson.
That quote could certainly apply to baseball; but it's actually about Johnson's second passion and other budding career: as a painter. The 26-year-old is a talented artist, gearing up for a big step: his first solo art exhibition, coming this October at the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta (details about the art exhibition are below).
"You realize nothing's the end of the world," said Johnson of his new art appreciation. "Baseball's a lot of enjoyment, that's why I got into it, I'm in control, you know. I can do well in baseball and it not work out, in art, you can make mistakes and learn from them."
The Indianapolis native has only been serious about painting for about a year-and-a-half, encouraged to pursue his interest at spring training while he was with the Dodgers, the advice coming from Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts. He was traded to Atlanta before this season.
Pursuing two passions that are both intense and time-consuming can be ... intense and time-consuming. Johnson says he often works on his paintings for about four hours before heading to the ballpark. He's there until the game ends, often around 10:30 p.m., then heads home and paints more.
"I wish you could stay awake 24 hours, just stay awake," said Johnson.
It's not a case of one interest trumping the other, or Johnson wishing he could give up baseball to paint: he enjoys both, and also finds time to play guitar and piano. The music is his stress release, the other two are jobs.
On the baseball side, Johnson injured his wrist during spring training with the Braves, but worked his way back and is hitting .345 with the AAA Gwinnett Braves. He appeared with the Atlanta Braves in 3 games this season.
On the art side, he has the exhibition coming up and has sold some work. A couple Braves teammates have asked for custom pieces. Ultimately, Johnson says he's not following either dream for money or fame; rather, he hopes to be an example for kids that don't want to follow just one path.
"[The goal is] for people to know me enough that kids can see me as an example, [they can] say, 'there's Micah, he's MVP of the league this year and he does art,'" said Johnson. "Or if that doesn't work out, 'there's this artist, but he also plays baseball, he's doing murals all over.'"
Johnson says he's seen kids be pressured into one pursuit or another and thinks the focus should be on fun instead of success. He also wants young people to decide their own paths, not listen to what people think they should be or should do.
"I always got bothered [when people say] I'm supposed to be a certain way, I'm supposed to act this way, do this," said Johnson. "I want people to say, 'what lines'? Blur the lines between athlete and artist, black and white. Where you grow up. I want kids to think, there's really no stereotypes, you can be whatever you want to be."
If you want to see Johnson's artwork on display at the Woodruff Arts Center, the event will be held in the Beauchamp C. Carr Gallery at the Woodruff Arts Center. It will run October 8 through November 12, opening daily from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m.