ArtPrize, a social experiment started in 2009 by Rick DeVos, has successfully turned Grand Rapids into an autumn destination for thousands of art enthusiasts. Visitors have seen Nessie in the Grand River, a T-Rex at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum and push pins assembled to form portraits.
Last week I had the pleasure of learning more about first time ArtPrize artist, Justin David Gustafson of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Justin’s entry, If You Lived Here, You’d be Home Now is a two dimensional, highly textured oil painting created by layering each paint color with a palette knife.
The charm conveyed in the painting stayed with me, and as a lover of all things romantic and idyllic, the image captured in the painting satisfied both. Although much of the foreground is painted in darker hues, the mood of the picture is light and happy. This is more than just a house; it is a home, a neighborhood and a community.
The palette knife technique is a painting method that Gustafson began using about thirteen years ago. Influenced by impressionist painters such as Mary Cassatt, Vincent van Gogh and Camille Pissarro, his paintings have a unique identity in that they are heavily layered, but still have a soft essence. He explained to me that they have a “soft essence without being literal”, which describes his work and impressionism in general, perfectly.
Gustafson’s art has taken him from Michigan to California and back. This Ludington native earned a scholarship to Kendall College of Art and Design where he graduated with honors. From there he moved between Illinois, Minnesota, California and Michigan before finding his place among artists in the Park Trades Center in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
The Park Trades Center is a 140,000 square foot building, housing over 150 businesses and 95 artists’ studios. One of those businesses is Homestead Cabinetmakers where Gustafson spends his days creating custom cabinetry. By night he retires to his studio, also located in the Park Trades Center, to create his layered works of art. Having a studio separate from his home has greatly increased his living space where, in the past, he would be actively working on fifteen to twenty pieces at once.
When I asked Gustafson for words of wisdom for ArtPrize first-timers, he gave me an answer that applies to more than ArtPrize, it applies to life. He told me that accomplishment takes discipline. Take care of yourself. It’s not just the goal – it’s the steps.
To learn more about Justin David Gustafson and his art, please visit his website, http://www.jdgus.com/my-emergence-from-the-void/ or friend him on Facebook, “Justin David Gustafson”.