Employees, Featured Artist, Illustration

Justin Coelho

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Justin Coelho has been our Screen Technician for over a year now, and his interest and background in screen printing made him a perfect fit for our shop. Our shop flow depends heavily on Justin to ensure that our screens are up to standard prior to print production. Justin was first introduced to screen printing as a Fine Arts student at Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana. He would go on to conclude his undergraduate degree in Fine Arts at SCAD (Savannah) before moving to Atlanta, Georgia.

As a company of Artists and Designers, we take pride in having crew members like Justin who continue to explore their creativity through a diverse range of media. We caught up with Justin to learn more about his creative journey, his current body of work, and his artistic aspirations. 

Justin, in your latest VoyageATL interview, we learned about your very diverse background. How has this influenced the work that you make?

I wouldn’t say my family lineage directly influences the work but growing up in the Midwest with parents from two differing cultures did give me an interesting perspective on what it means to be an American, and that might have led to developing a wide perspective as an imaginative kid. Geographically speaking though, Indianapolis has some great neighboring hip-hop influences, Chicago and Detroit to name a few.  The music scene all around in Indy can be very rich and diverse, but growing up I was engrossed with the authentic elements of hip-hop and self expression. I think that might have led me on the trajectory I’m in. When I was younger I was a big graffiti nerd and liked art that was really loud and grabbed your attention. Although my subject matter may have shifted a bit, I still have bits of that approach influencing the process in how I like to suddenly grab attention.

You have a very unique way of blending surrealism and abstraction together. Where does your interest in these styles come from?

Talking about abstraction gets pretty difficult for me, but it’s just always been a fun activity for me whether I choose to reflect these thoughts into my art or just sit for a second and appreciate something til it floats away to some other part of my brain. As a kid I loved being outside and around the natural world. Observing and interacting with everything around me was sometimes all I needed, and I think what I got from that, though, is a curiosity to bend and play with my observations/ideas until they were pushed much further than from where they started. Also in high school I became interested in some of the classical surrealists, like René Magritte and Dali. There’s quite a bit of magic happening when you take things from our actual reality and skew them a bit to make them a little off kilter. Right now, though, my biggest surrealism inspiration has been the Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos.

The majority of your current work heavily involves watercolors and gouache. Why is this your preferred media to work with?

Well, after years of experimenting with a lot of materials, watercolors just felt the most natural to me. There’s a different kind of resistance that paper gives me, and my hand just has a natural way of working the technique. It’s kind of a thrill when painting with water-based paints because they’re VERY unforgiving, and it’s sort of like a quick, flawed sprint, but with a dose of careful pacing and intuition, the paintings come out alright. You can’t rely on over-working and layering the paints like you can with oils.

Where does your interest in editorial illustration come from?

Editorial is one of a few commercial markets I learned about in school that really stood out to me. It gives me a chance to take a brief story and challenge myself with the task of creative problem solving. I love all sorts of visual cover art that complements a story, and it’s also a readily accessible sort of “foot in the door” market.

You spoke about having an interest in exploring the themes of psychology, chaos, and astronomy. Could you tell us more about why you explore these themes? 

I don’t want to get too heady, but it’s cuz all that woo woo stuff is so juicy.

Abstracted human figures are heavily present in your work. Could you tell us more about your use of the human figure?

Well, to begin with, I was always a huge fan of technically anatomical drawings and sketches. I’m obsessed with human anatomy and all the nuances. When I was at community college, I had a number of fantastic drawing teachers who helped me develop the ability to deconstruct the shapes and forms of a figure and then piece it all back together. Once I learned how to draw the human form I was excited to use these tools and go places with my art that I never could before. So after years of practicing and getting a solid understanding, I began experimenting with the human form to make unusual compositions. Objectively, we are all walking, breathing, and pulsating oddities. I can’t stop thinking about how mysterious we are, and I want to push that mystery further and create new organic reactions.

What projects are you currently working on?

There’s a pretty fun promotional piece I’m making for a peer and good friend from school. It’s a great feature film project in the works and this is sort of an interpretive graphic to assist in the pitch. I will also be working on refining my commercial illustration portfolio.

Do you have anything exciting coming up in this new year?

I don’t have any dates or events planned at the moment, but in general I will be expanding my portfolio and looking for more collaborative opportunities around the city. I’ve been putting it off, but I really want to dip my toes in the waters of Atlanta….that sounds weird…whatever….thanks for the opportunity, José! Let’s get this grain!

We look forward to following Justin’s creative growth and are excited to see what he creates next. You can view more of Justin’s work here. You can also find him on IG as @justincoelhoart