She works with beloved authors and illustrators such as Rosemary Wells, Peter Reynolds, Jez Alborough and Babette Cole, among others, to make their cherished works available to the public.
It’s a business she began two years ago, after a lengthy career in the children’s book publishing industry.
"I really wanted to start a business for myself," explains Johnson. "And I had developed many relationships with children’s book illustrators through my years in the industry.
"One day, I was talking to Jez Alborough, a well-known author and illustrator, and the idea materialized. Actually, Jez helped me launch the business because he gave me a stack of his work so I could get started. And it just took off from there."
Johnson’s company, Picture Book Originals, is primarily Web site based, though the local woman also holds gallery events at bookstores and even has some prints available at various shops around the country. She currently represents eight illustrators, but plans to add more in the future. Specific artists are chosen for a variety of reasons.
"Some of it is personal choice," she says. "I also try to bring on artists with unique techniques and whose published works are popular."
Original art ranges in price from $50 upwards of $20,000.
Prints, which are all limited editions, numbered and signed, can run from $35 to $350, depending on size. The most popular image is "Carry Me," from Rosemary Wells’ book of the same name. "It’s such a sweet, endearing image," comments Johnson. "And so many people really love it."
Those who buy the artwork often do so as gifts for children or grandchildren, to adorn the walls of bedrooms and playrooms.
"The pictures speak to people because they connect them to a story they have fond memories of," says Johnson. "And the story connects them with their kids. That’s the beauty of children’s books. They manage to touch the child within all of us. They bring back memories and the emotional connection is strong."
She adds, "Most kids’ books have an emotionally based story – one that’s funny, sentimental or sweet. They capture special relationships between children and their parents, children and children, kids and their pets, animals, or a moment in time."
Johnson explains that illustrations figure prominently in children’s books and must be able to tell the story on their own. They are key to comprehension for the very young.
Johnson’s business continues to attract a steady stream of customers who learn of the company via word-of-mouth or on the Web.
"It’s been doing OK," she says, "but the economy didn’t help.
"Art is a disposable income purchase, so things were slow last year. But this year, it’s beginning to pick up and I’m getting more inquiries.
"Once people see what I have, they get excited because it’s such great work. Instead of putting away that special book on a back shelf somewhere, they can have a remembrance of it on their walls forever."