Donny Johnson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Donald Clayton "Donny" Johnson[1] (born 1959/1960 (age 58–59)) is an American painter and convicted murderer.[1] He is known for his unconventional technique, which involves using a brush made of his own hair and pigment from M&M's candy shells dissolved in water. The New York Times described his style as abstract; Spiegel Online mentioned that his art varies from colorful to dark.[1][2]

Johnson grew up in a family of abusers and criminals, ran away from home at 10, and spent time repeatedly in juvenile detention.[1] He has been in prison since 1980[1] after pleading guilty to second-degree murder and being sentenced to 15 years to life.[2] In the late 1980s, he cut a prison guard's throat[1] and assaulted another, and was convicted for both and sentenced to two additional terms of nine years to life.[2] He's been housed at Pelican Bay State Prison, California, since 1989, and as of 2007 was in indefinite solitary confinement in the Secure Housing Unit.[1]

The Secure Housing Unit, the highest-security unit at Pelican Bay, did not offer any art supplies, so Johnson created a paintbrush using hair, plastic wrap, and ballpoint pen refill, and created paint from M&M's candy coatings.[1]

Johnson is not allowed to profit from his artwork. In 2006, he stated that he intended the money to go to the Pelican Bay Prison Project that helps the children of prisoners.[2] After Johnson sending paintings to a friend, the friend organized an exhibition of work in Mexico.[1] In July 2006 and August 2007, exhibitions of Johnson's paintings were held at the Yam Gallery in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico,[3] with proceeds to go to the Pelican Prison Bay Project.[citation needed] On one night, six of his postcard pictures sold there for $500 a piece.[1][2] Prison officials responded by confiscating his art supplies and prohibiting him from sending pictures out, as a punishment for "unauthorized business from inside prison", but eventually allowed him to send pictures out again.[1]

On August 4, 2006, The New York Times reported that Johnson has been disciplined for engaging in unauthorized business, but this proved not to be the case and Johnson continues to produce and mail out his work to friends.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "The Jailhouse Jackson Pollock". Spiegel Online. Hamburg. August 24, 2007. Retrieved 2017-01-01.  (Note: appears to be largely sourced from The New York Times article.)
  2. ^ a b c d e Liptak, Adam (July 21, 2006). "Behind Bars, He Turns M&M's Into an Art Form". Retrieved 2017-01-02.  A version also appeared on page A1 of the New York edition, possibly on July 22, 2006, with the headline "In Prison for Life, He Turns M&M’s Into an Art Form".
  3. ^ "Exhibitions". Donny Johnson: The Official Website. Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts: Derek Burrows. Retrieved 2017-01-02. 

External links[edit]