Movember Ben Johnston Muralist
Ben Johnston x MovemberImage by: Movember
Movember Ben Johnston Muralist
Movember Ben Johnston Muralist
2 November 2021

Life Beyond The Canvas With Muralist Ben Johnston

3 minutes read time

Walk down any Toronto street for a few minutes, and you’re likely to see one of muralist Ben Johnston’s surreal works on a downtown wall. As an artist and designer specializing in custom typography for murals, advertising and installations – words have always played a special role in Ben’s life. From moving to Canada from Cape Town, South Africa, to his creative rituals and work around the globe, Ben sat down in the barber chair to share more of his journey with us.

What inspired you to become an artist?

There was never one particular moment, but rather years of experiences that led me to where I am today. I started my career in design and pursued my art on the side, taking part in group exhibitions and painting murals. After a few years of balancing both paths I decided to leave my day job and pursue a full-time freelance career focusing on mural painting and fine art for galleries.

Currently, I am based out of Toronto, but work worldwide (or at least used to, pre-COVID), doing large-scale murals for corporate clients and NGOs in places like San Francisco, Serbia, Hawaii and India, to name a few. 

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced in your life? How did you overcome them?

One of the toughest decisions I’ve made so far is selling everything I owned and moving to Canada 8 years ago from South Africa and having to build a new life. It’s tough starting again without your friends and family and being back in the deep end, but it really helped me to grow as a person and artist.

What is one of the most impactful conversations you have had with a friend, a family member, a teammate, etc.?

I don’t think there’s just one conversation that stands out, but rather I try to be the kind of person friends and family can talk to if something is on their mind, big or small.

Ben, we know typography means the world to you and that you’ve painted hundreds of words in murals; what’s one word that has a significant meaning for you, in your life?

I’ve painted the word ‘Together’ a couple of times as I think it holds a good message for not only me personally but the community as a whole.

Many of the words painted in my work are a sort of affirmation to others, encouraging them to pause for a moment on a busy day and reflect. Words like “Keep Going”, “Relax”, and “Love” are words I have painted on walls previously that I hope encourage reflection in those that see it, or affirm the need to slow down once in a while.

How much has mental health played a part in your journey as an artist and how does it inform your work today?

Fitness and staying active is one of the most important ways for me to stay feeling good both physically and mentally, so it’s become the way I start every day.

What is one of the most impactful pieces of feedback you’ve ever gotten on your murals?

I tend to use fairly ambiguous words a lot of the time which I find resonates with people even more as they find their own meaning in the words they’re reading on the wall.

Why do you think Movember is so important and what inspired you to design the piece?

I think it’s important for men to know that they’re not alone when they’re going through something tough, and Movember is helping to get rid of the stigma of men reaching out for help. I hope that the large bold graphic I made can be seen from afar and might just be the reminder that someone needs to see.