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Life & Work with Justin Robinson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Justin Robinson.

Hi Justin, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
I got started by wanting to make my own unique mark in the art world. Growing up, I fell In love with graffiti, I was from the inner city, and the side of buildings, alleys, and buses was my first art gallery. That sparked something in me till this day that I continue to chase.

By utilizing rap lyrics as a found object, I camouflage and re-contextualize these signifiers in plain sight. By changing the aesthetics of hip hop culture into one we interpret as institutional or conventional, they now have the appearance of a common street sign. These seemingly average street poles that direct our everyday lives are transformed into a larger dialogue that is applicable to a wider population. Viewers in the street may initially read these lines as poetry because of their location and because they are void of the cultural stereotypes associated with the sub-culture. In the end, I hope to engage in deeper racial and cultural issues through an accessible medium and context. I really appreciate the engagement with my artwork in public. Whether they take a picture with the sign or even take the sign home, I love it! I intentionally put it out in the public, for the public. It is free art for everyone’s consumption. How I got to where I am professionally was by being consistent.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
The road of an artist is not an easy one. It requires thick skin and a drive and passion to become great. The most important thing I always remember is that not everyone will like your work, and that is ok. Keep moving forward keep grinding it out till your voice is heard by the right crowd. Now I am not going to say my road to becoming an artist was an easy one, it is work but since it is art and design and they are my passion, I do not look at it as such. I have heard many NOs, I have had many unreturned messages, and even been brushed off, but I keep going after it. The way I looked at it was like this: the ones that did answer and the ones who said yes, they are the ones I needed and was meant to talk to. The world has a way of placing people on your path that will help benefit your journey.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
Well, my career path took me to become a high school Graphic Design teacher and college photography and graphic design professor. I love the art of teaching, My role as a teacher is to create a safe environment where open-ended reflective questions and assignments allow my students to integrate their lives into their work. I find that integration often naturally leads to innovation. I encourage my students to both embrace and grow whatever ideas they are entertaining in their creative process. My students’ best work often comes as the result of deep self-exploration. Tradition and integration give students a foundation to build on and innovate. My teaching style allows my students to work through trials and errors to develop their own creative processes. I believe art and design are as much about the process as it is about the final product. The joy of teaching comes when I see my students coaching each other in their work through difficult moments, and my biggest joy stems from my students being impressed with how far they come from the start of class to the end. My ultimate goal in teaching is to pull out the artist that I know is in each one of my students.

What sets me apart from others is that I realize everything takes work, and only through the ups and downs of the journey, you’ll be able to become better and develop your own unique style.

In terms of your work and the industry, what are some of the changes you are expecting to see over the next five to ten years?
In art I see the shift leaning in towards the digital space. I believe artists need to know how to sell their own artworks in this new age of digital access. A friend of mine said this – create your collectors. Teach them, build them, the resources are there. Don’t overlook them. There are people that need to be coached on how to see your practice. Talk to them, make them understand, connect with them. Learn about what they like and why they like it, tell them what you like and why. Tell them something they may not have known about your work or art history in general. Stand out. Relate your work to work that they know. How does your work connect to their interests? Do they like specific mediums? Everyone who likes an Instagram post is a potential collector of your work. Have you told them why yet? – to me, this will be the trend in the next 5-10 years once artists get it.

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