Johnson shares love of string art with others

Sophia Johnson | Staff Writer

Anybody can hammer a nail into a board; not everyone can make art out of it.

Over the past two years, Senior Isaac Johnson has created personalized nail board string art for people close to him. The art is done on a painted board where string is wrapped around nails to display an image. Johnson depicts the design based explicitly on who is receiving the board.

“You’ve got to know your audience–what they like, who they are, where they go to college, what sports and music they like, Johnson said. “I paint what their passion is, and I put their dream and their work onto a board, and I make it real for them.”

While Johnson makes his art for others, he initially found the inspiration to make custom nail board string art after designing one to fit his own interests. 

“The very first nail board art, I wanted to make for myself; I did the anatomy of the heart one because I want to go into pre-med,” Johnson said. “So I started out making one for myself. And ever since then I’ve always had an act for it.”

Each board takes Johnson about 48 hours to complete. The time demanding process consists of several steps. Johnson said he appreciates the simplicity of taking basic materials and creating a pleasing visual.

“First I draw it out; I pick an idea, and I get computer paper and draw out the design of what I want to do and draw little dots around the lines of the design,” Johnson said. “I paint the board with whatever I want, using spray paint, with stencils, it’s what I feel like doing.”

Senior Isaac Johnson crafts string art onto a nail board by intertwining the string around nails to form personalized and creative images for his friends.

Due to the tedious work when it comes down to individually placing and hammering each nail, Johnson said it has taken him up to a month to finish a single board.

“The tattooing phase is where I put the paper on the board and use a nail and pliers, and I tap, tattooing it onto the board,” Johnson said. “The design is tattooed to the board, so I know where to put the nails. After that, I hammer the nails in, and then I thread the string and do minor paint jobs on the board.”

While Johnson has always had a passion for painting, art has not come easily to him. By sticking with nail boards, he has improved his work, and creatively display the designs through the time and resources he has put in. 

“Anyone can do one; you just have to have the passion and put in the time and work,” Johnson said. “People are surprised I can come up with something creative and out of nowhere because I’m not the best artist. Anyone can copy a painting or drawing, which is good because I can’t do that. I’ve never seen anyone do nail board paintings like me though, and I don’t have any reference to look at when I make my nail art. All of my nail art I come up with myself.”

Expanding your skills is essential to advancing your art, Johnson said. He is in the process of implementing more media into his pieces and continues to use this technique to shape his artistry.

Senior Isaac Johnson’s string art is inspired by the interests and passions of his closest friends.

“I’m starting to work with new materials and trying to incorporate more media into my boards,” Johnson said. “In the 21 Pilots board I did, I used a metal ring, and I tied it into the board. I’m also planning on incorporating LED lights into a nail board art.”

The 21 Pilots board Johnson made was for Senior Miranda Gworek.  In receiving the nail board string art, Gworek said she appreciated seeing the amount of thought Johnson puts into his gifts.   

“When he gave it to me I cried, he put so much effort into it, and it was so intricate,” Gworek said. His approach to painting is very unique; everything is very crisp as if he’s doing a vector drawing on the computer. “

For Johnson, nail board string art is a form of therapy. His passion for the art not only comes from his craft, but the reward in gifting a meaningful work to the people around him.

“I use nail board art as an escape from all the stress in my life,” Johnson said. “It’s so relaxing to hammer some nails into a board and string it up. It’s an outlet for me and to see the smiles on the people’s faces that I give it to is so warming to me.” 

Photos by Sophia Johnson.