CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Keith W. Johnson's midnight oil was not the type in a lamp, but the kind used for painting.
The 37-year-old Charleston native spent many a late night painting with oils and drinking java to keep focused. Now, he's switched careers to full-time artist and switched to coffee as his art medium of choice.
Johnson graduated from DuPont High School and joined the Air Force, where he was a security policeman. He earned the Air Force Achievement Medal while serving in Cuba and worked at the Air Combat Command Headquarters in Virginia. Following his military stint, he worked for the U.S. Postal Service for 10 years.
"Most of the time I boxed mail or worked the window at the main office downtown in Charleston. At the Post Office is where I started painting with oils. When I first was hired I was on midnights and to keep on schedule, I would stay up on my days off. To keep me busy, I started painting."
At the time, he was focusing on oils, but for health reasons had to make a switch.
"I did switch to acrylics because I needed to get away from the chemicals of the oils. I am messy and always had paint all over me and after painting with them for years, I think it got to my body and I started having reactions to them.
"I thought the switch would be hard. It really wasn't. After about a week or two painting with them it was second nature. I really love the quick drying time. I can finish paintings quicker then with oils. I still use a variation of the old master technique that I learned called the Flemish technique. I build the painting up in layers starting with a drawing, then I do a black-and-white painting, then I add color."
Then there's the newest, well, medium that Johnson is using in his art: coffee.
"Well, I was in a rut painting. Trying to paint things that I would think would sell, etc. Or trying to box myself in as a landscape painter or flower painter, etc., and I got tired of it. It bothered me and hindered my artistic expression.