26th and Logan

For 5 days, I locked myself away in an empty apartment building to create a new work of art that pushed me to my limits. Vaxon Films and videographer, Brian Mahoney, captured this painting as it came to life… Yet, not in the way anyone was expecting.

Be sure and pop the video player to full-screen for an even better viewing experience! Trust me, it’ll be worth it (:

Interview – The Sublime, Arts & Culture Magazine

Over the past several days, I took some time to sit down with the editor of The Sublime Arts & Culture Magazine to open up about myself, my work and the inspiration guiding me along the way. Its one of my first feature articles and they made it quite painless and fun. Hope you guys enjoy ~ J

Interview with Tree In A Box Artwork

This past month, I had the privilege of speaking with Caleb over at TIABA as part of their ongoing efforts to promote artists making work and living and breathing the studio life. I dig their vision and what they’re doing is excellent for creatives like myself. In their own words, “Tree In A Box Artworks reps growing out of the box. The box otherwise known as the everyday grind. An online gallery from the mind of a starving artist ;)”

It couldn’t have been more fun to chat about our visions for the future, art that’s captivating us at the moment, and inspirations from our past and where that has lead us today.

So, stay back on your haunches and spend a quick minute with TIABA and I ~

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TIABA: Where are you from?

JH: I was born in Thomasville, a small town in south Georgia, but my family soon moved to Atlanta, and this is where I grew up. My siblings and I were tucked back in a quiet community situated across from a small lake. We roamed the woods and creeks surrounding us, and we’d disappear for hours discovering waterfalls, giant turtles and building up fortresses we’d abandon at summer’s end.

I currently live in San Diego, California under the flight path where I can watch the metal vessels pass overhead and then all the way until they touch down. Its here that I have my studio loft and where I sit and draw, paint and mull over ideas for far too long and then sometimes, never enough.

TIABA: When did you start creating art?

JH: For as long as I can remember I have been drawing or making something. Mostly, I drew comic book characters with hand-styled lettering. About six months ago, my mom mailed me a package that included a collection of drawings from when I was 11 or 12. I remember one of these creations vividly. It was a pencil drawing of Batman standing on a ledge. I was 11 years-old and home sick from school. The moment I sat my pencil down that day I remember feeling better because I knew I had created a great picture.

Flashback to age 12

Flashback to age 12

TIABA: Why art?

JH: I was fascinated by comic books from very early on. Growing up, there was a family cottage off the coast of Florida that was quite old. In it, there was a small cabinet in a back room that housed tattered comic book pages from the 50’s and 60’s. Every summer, I can remember working in earnest to piece the segments together, looking for clues as to how the sequence of story and art was meant to play out. Each year I kept thinking that maybe I would find another piece of the puzzle and the story would be revealed to me. In truth, there was nothing more to find but I was fascinated with the idea of how storybook frames worked to tell a story. Soon after, I was gridding off blank sheets of paper and penciling in stories of my own.

TIABA: What motivates your art?

JH: I’m motivated by the work or others. Not just other artists, but writers, inventors, entrepreneurs, and musicians. It could be a slice of cinema, a painting from a book, or a tightly designed graphic from a surf mag that’ll inspire me. I think that’s what i find so brilliant about living today – inspiration is everywhere.

TIABA: What types of mediums do you work with?

JH: My go-to’s are graphite or gouache. I love the control and personalities of both. Recently, I’ve been experimenting with cardboard and clay, scanning the creations and turning them into 3-D printed objects. I’ve just begun to explore this method and I’m pretty fascinated with it right now.

WIP: spraying 3D printed trashcans

WIP: spraying 3D printed trashcans

TIABA: How do you know when a piece of work is finished?

JH: A work is considered ‘done’ in my eyes when I simply lose interest in it or my mind sees it as complete. I’m attracted to visual tensions, a hierarchy of details and a strong sense of space. To me, once I’ve achieved a sense of balance among these points mentioned, I put down the brush or pen and won’t pick it back up again. It can feel cathartic or it may feel as if the image has found peace. However, even as I say this, I know that many of the paintings and drawings in my studio are unsigned. I’ve never figured that one out yet. I just don’t usually sign my work unless I’m formally hanging the work up or letting it go to a collector.

TIABA: What sets you and your style apart from other artists?

JH: I don’t know that I fully have that answer. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a bit of a sponge absorbing experiences, words, images, sounds, people’s emotions, as well as the work of artist both new and old. And, not just within the fine art world. I’m extremely fascinated by high-fashion, modern animation techniques, and world-travelers. I can sit down with a great painter friend of mine, Joel Frank, and discuss the beauty and sincerity of figurative and landscape works. He’s one of the most talented painters I’ve met and its completely insane how jacked up to create I can become just by sitting and talking with him for an hour or two. However, I can then pick up a mag featuring the work of a modern illustrator and be completely drawn to the power of that particular artist’s expression. I’m very open to absorbing many different styles and distilling the elements that are most appealing to me. To isolate one constant in my work though, I would say that storytelling is at the root of all that I create. I’ve never shied away from being a storyteller.

TIABA: Do you use past troubles for motivation?

JH: I’m motivated very much by the thoughts and feelings I’m having while creating. I’m not sure that I dig too far into my past for these motivations but if I’m feeling melancholic, my approach to making lines is very different from when I’m feeling excited. Introducing these different emotions into the work results in very different picture. Just recently, I was in the middle of a fairly large painting and feeling quite far from the finish. However, my energy for being in the studio that night was pretty high so instead of grabbing a small brush to hit some details, I grabbed my biggest brush and soaked it in pure turpentine. A few bold moves later and the painting just clicked. It was done. Nothing more needed to be said and to me it was perfect. I’m very open to letting events like this happen and I still kinda marvel at them today. It constitutes a sense of pure abandonment and I admit I enjoy this.

TIABA: Do you have a favorite type of art? (Painting, Sculpting, Drawing, etc.)

JH: My favorite type of works today sway between the masters like Van Gogh, Matisse, or Sorolla and the obsessive and beautiful linework of James Jean or João Ruas. I recently discovered J.A.W Cooper’s work and was blown away by her arabesque lines and approach to making imagery. There’s something magical about seeing the preparatory sketches for any of the names I just mentioned. Van Gogh’s drawings rival his finished works as do James’. Because drawing is at the root of how I approach almost every 2d artwork, I have a keen interest in what lies underneath the oils and acrylics of others.

TIABA: Do you have a preferred subject when referring to art?

JH: There is certainly an affinity I have for the human form which draws me more to figurative works. When artists are capable of capturing the emotions of others; when you can see it in their creation’s eyes, in their hands, or in their body’s postures, I can’t help but fall in love with these efforts. However, if I had to pick one subject that intrigues me the most, its the female form tucked within a strong narrative.

The Salt Fountain

The Salt Fountain

TIABA: Do you feel relaxed when you work or does the anticipation for the end product keep you going?

JH: I am usually either very relaxed or experiencing a surge of energy when making art. If I’m working from life, my energy is usually very high, almost anxious to take what i see and lay it down on paper or canvas. Digital coloring is perhaps the most peaceful way of working to me. I am usually calm with a ‘control-Z’ in my back pocket, which now, when i say it, seems a bit backwards. But its true. I think that although you can always paint back over anything, i tend to think of paint and ink as possessing a ‘no way back’ edge that i love. A computer offers me the chance to back up so easily, to undo what was just done, and because of this, I can’t help but feel at ease.

Working in PS w/ my trusty Wacom

Working in PS w/ my trusty Wacom

TIABA: What is an artistic outlook on life?

JH: I am usually more optimistic yet happily drawn to melancholic sounds and stories. Bon Iver, Into the Wild, Zorba the Greek, Egon Schiele… each of these creates a sensation within me that holds my attention far longer than just pure happiness. I certainly don’t venture into dark places on purpose. However, whether its in lyrics or feeling, that shaky fortress that melancholy exudes is so beautiful and emotive to me. I’d also say that I tend to find the beauty in what’s most often overlooked, empathize always to some degree with the other side, and would venture to guess that being a middle child had something to do with this.

TIABA: What is your dream project?



JH: My dream project is to travel the world, experience its varying cultures and locations while painting the stories and pleasures of it all. Along the way, I would like to leave remnants of my time in the form of large scale works, both in size and concept. Bigger may not always be better but its harder to ignore. My beautiful fiancée would be in tow and we’d meet up with our friends and family throughout our adventures and stay up late into the evenings with bottles of wine and maddening laughter filled discussions. Why not, right?

TIABA: Thank you for taking the time to work the Tree In A Box Family



JH: Thanks to you! – I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me.

Artist Interview with ‘A Modest Start’

A few weeks back, I sat down with Marie Elena of ‘A Modest Start’ (you can find and follow them on Facebook here) who wanted to ask me a few questions about my work, my inspirations and future vision for where my work is  headed. You can read the full article below.

Hope you enjoy!

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A Modest Start:  When did you become interested in art, in general?

JH: From very early on in life. Children’s author and illustrator, Tommy de Paola’s work had a big impact on me. As did The Secret of Nimh and Dark Crystal. Its only been recently that I have been able to deduce that much of why I became entranced in art wasn’t ‘wanting to be an artist,’ that came much later, it was more the wanting to reproduce the feeling again and again that i got from viewing great work.

My comic book inspirations

My comic book inspirations

AMS: When did you you develop an interest in creating art in the form that you do?

JH: At 9 years old I began collecting comic books. I was completely fascinated by the art and stories and spent many hours leafing through their pages. It was only natural that i would start drawing the characters. Batman and Spider Man were my favorites. And not too soon afterwards, I began creating my own stories. The first comic strip i made up was “Clark Vent” – a normal vent by day, yet when trouble arose, he’d duck into a nearby phone booth, chuck the glasses, and done a cape. I was a huge DC comic fan back then.

Over the years, as my skills developed, I was never quite able to shake the comic book illustration style I had picked up way back then. I fought it for many years and then finally succumbed, to the absolute thrill of my hand and mind.

AMS: What classes did you take in school for it? Were there any courses you took for art growing up?

JH: No, I didn’t take too many classes growing up. Maybe 3 or so? It was more the paint the inside of a shell or draw Donald Duck type of classes too. I wanted to draw comics but I don’t think i ever seriously believed people did that – the artists in Spider Man were mythical to me.

It wasn’t until I became a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2005 that I began studying both the history and formal training of art.

The Stumbling Man. Color Pencil on Toned Paper, 30" x 22". 2012.

The Stumbling Man. Color Pencil on Toned Paper, 30″ x 22″. 2012.

AMS: What genre of art would you file your work under?

JH: I tend to not do well with labeling my work or that of others. My work seems to suggest that of a dreamscape I escape to in my imagination. But, the purposeful narrative and realist nature likely lends itself to the pop surrealist movement.

AMS: Who(what) has been your influences?

JH: There are many – Don Southard, Todd McFarlane, Maxfield Parrish, Wes Wilson, Frank Miller, James Jean, Van Gogh, Picasso & Mucha to name a few; women’s fashion design has played a tremendous part in cultivating my current style and interests; I love music and filmed spurned from a melancholic mindset; traveling has always affected my artworks; then, lastly, my muse and fiancée, Ginny.

AMS: Where are you from?

JH: Atlanta, Georgia. But at times I’ve called Colorado, Montana, Chicago, and, now, San Diego, my home.

AMS: Do you work under your own name and/or have a company name? How long have you been creating art for a living?

JH: Both. My personal work is under my own name while the majority of my commercial work is through a brand development company that I own. I need both – it allows me the opportunity to switch between ‘director’ and ‘actor’ responsibilities.

My muse, Ginny

My muse, Ginny

AMS: Who(what) is your constant inspiration?

JH: Definitely my fiancée, Ginny. She’s the perfect representation of beauty and femininity and keeps me grounded and focused on the true purpose of what I want my life to stand for. My home of San Diego is a great resource and one I have been lucky enough to explore and find inspiration at every turn. The homeless community here is a big inspiration to me – my time spent visiting and watching them has helped me answer questions pertaining to the true purpose of my art as well as cultivating new ideas of what it means to truly value and appreciate something. It has greatly informed my work as well as the way I have lived my life over the past couple of years.

AMS: Where do you see yourself & your art headed in the future?

JH: Playing a larger part in shifting popular culture. There are too many people, communities, and ideas without a voice and I’ve always been drawn to the power that art can play in connecting two disparate sides together. I recently ran a contest for someone to win an original piece of my artwork that they helped create. I wanted to hear what ideas others had and then I selected one and painted it. This is something I will continue to explore – helping others realize their visions, for their craft, for their companies, for themselves, and for larger communities. I also think my work will continue to grow in scale and composition. I’ve begun painting outdoor murals in public spaces and the challenge of the environment as well as actualizing an idea large scale will continue to taunt me for its possibilities.

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Cheers and Thanks, Marie Elena!

The Street Recyclers of Banker’s Hill

I wanted to write something quickly about the genesis behind “The Street Recycler of Banker’s Hill,” a body of work that had arrested my studio space for over a year.

In January of 2012 , I moved to Downtown San Diego. I rented a small apartment and moved in with my drawing table, guitars, clothing, book collection and about 300 pieces of art. It looked like I had robbed a gallery. The funny thing was I had not painted in several years.

In my new ‘home,’ I spent a large portion of my time reflecting on what that word actually meant. What is a home? And, is it the people or the items within that make it so?

I had previously lived near the ocean waves. Yet, after failing to ‘feel’ what i had wanted to feel when moving to California only two years earlier, I decided what i was missing was teeth. ‘Teeth’ as in grit, as in metal, as in dirt and grime.

I had wanted a landscape with ‘teeth’ and Banker’s Hill was it. If you’re lucky, the planes will only lightly scare you as they pass about 75 yards overhead. You’re right between Little Italy and the farmer’ market, the color of Hillcrest, the culture of downtown and then, the activity from the walkers, runners and workout groups gathering within the green landscape of Balboa Park.

What I wasn’t expecting to discover was the 10,000 or so homeless men and women living and working. And, they were my neighbors.

One day, I was driving from my home on 1st Avenue to the beach when I saw a man crossing the road pushing a huge buggy flanked by plastic bags and buckets tied to the side of his cart. My camera was with me and I had a sudden urge to speak to the gentleman.

The OG 'canner,' Loyd, photo by Josh Hunter

The OG ‘canner,’ Loyd, photo by Josh Hunter

Trash bags tied off, photo by Josh Hunter

Trash bags tied off, photo by Josh Hunter

 

Flipping the car around, I parked and walked a weird L-shaped path to cut him off and not appear like a stalker. Loyd was my first introduction into the life of the ‘canners,’ or, the street recyclers of Banker’s Hill.

In a few short months, the stories and tales I was to hear from the men and women I met had me painting and drawing with a fury. I was up late and up early to spend every free moment painting their stories. Urban portraiture and my own blend of illustration, photo-realism and a mild flare of street hard had me arrive at a new body of work that I am still working on to this day.

I’m not yet sure how I will present this collection to the public. I have many ideas and continue to sift through the possibilities distinctly aware an answer is somewhere close and around the bend.

Never would I have thought that someone who seemingly has so little would become my catalyst for picking the brush back up. To say I am grateful seems cliché and poorly simple. It has taught me to recognize the value in the places where so many often overlook it. In the streets of Banker’s Hill live the homeless canners. They are the gold miners of our day and they disappear and reappear like urban wildlife. Yet I do not say that to be derogatory in any way. There is a beauty in what they do and how they do that still mesmerizes me. It will wake me up at dawn to grab a camera at the first sounds of glass clinking. I honor and respect their work ethics and I have been pulled into a world that ignited my imagination once again.

Here’s to the dreamers…

The Buggy Ride, photo by Josh Hunter

The Buggy Ride, photo by Josh Hunter