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The most important tools in painter Justin Christenbery’s arsenal are not his brushes. They’re not his paints. Nor his canvasses. In fact, they’re barely noticeable among the stacks of brightly colored artworks that line the walls of his fluorescent-lit garage art studio.
In a corner sits a stack of well-worn journals, each filled cover to cover with writing and sketches. While their exteriors are deceptively dull among the swirls of fiery color that adorn his canvases, the books’ covers belie their contents. Full of thoughts about life, moments of inspiration, commentary, and of course, ideas for art pieces, these journals are a sort of life force that drives Christenbery’s craft.
At times, Christenbery has explored incorporating words into his paintings, and he continues to consider the best ways to do it. On his Website, he includes commentary with many of his pieces in an effort to share some of the thought and philosophy behind the pieces – tiny glimpses into the depths of those dusty journals. While some pieces contain words within the canvasses, most speak solely through visual mechanisms of image, color, and composition.
At 35, Christenbery feels he has found his artistic voice and yet continues to discover new potential with every piece.
This process of discovery through doing is something he came to appreciate early on in his artistic career. His early fascination with mandalas, which are geometric designs used to represent the universe, had – and still has – a significant influence on his process and his aesthetic.
“Working on a mandala is like tapping into a spring,” he says, and once tapped, the possibilities are endless. With every piece he begins he seeks that same “spring” of inspiration – a combination of art and philosophy that comes from within and reaches well beyond the canvas, inspiring others.
“It’s important to be aware of the context of our culture and how people might receive things. I feel like I’m slowly making a difference, like rolling a snowball.”
That need to make a difference, to reach people, lends a sense of urgency and importance to Christenbery’s work.
“When I make a piece I think of my viewers constantly. I care about each one. I’m always thinking, how can I love that person to life?”
Christenbery earned a BA in art from Appalachian State University and lives in Cornelius with his wife, Morgan Andrews and their infant son, Ethan. You can view his work here