Johnny attended the Dun Laoghaire College of Art from 1971 – 73, leaving to return to Glenties to help run the family hotel business. Although he continued to do some painting he did not exhibit until 1988 when he was invited by the Dublin watercolourist, Brid Clarke,to join her in a two man exhibition for the Patrick Mc Gill Summer School in Glenties that year.
At that time, because of the lack of a proper studio he worked mainly in watercolour. Now he works in oils, acrylic, paper collage as well as watercolour, ever searching for and experimenting with new ways to express his emotional response to the Donegal landscape.
Most of the pictures that Johnny paints are of familiar places near his home in Glenties and sometimes are done in the studio from the memory of a particular aspect of weather or light that remains filed away in his mind until he sketches his ideas down on paper. But that doesn’t stop them being exhibited all over the world.
Johnny’s influences are many and varied but he says that he frequently dips into the well of poetry for refreshment, especially the nature poems of Donegal based poet and friend Frank Harvey as well as the work of British poet Ted Hughes. He believes that the artist is influenced by everything that surrounds him and that all of life’s experiences are laid down on the painting surface in one way or another.