This month’s featured artist, Justin Vining, draws inspiration from rural America and has become fascinated with the disappearance of small family farms that once dominated the American Landscape. Royal Talens North America Vice President Kyle Richardson sat down with Justin to talk inspiration, projects, and Royal Talens products.
Justin, you and I have known each other for a few years, and when we first met, you were working primarily in watercolors, but now I see you’ve expanded your palette to include acrylics and oils, but also you’ve expanded you style, audience and subject matter. Tell us a little about the journey you’ve taken over the past few years.
I recently spent some time with C.W. Mundy and he said something that hit home for me “You have to learn how to paint before you can become an artist.” Well, I think I accidentally became an artist before I ever learned how to paint. Nothing wrong with that at all, but about 2 years ago I felt like it was time to take my work to the next level. I didn’t know what that looked like, or what that meant, or even how to go about it, so I started experimenting. Those experiments lead to some private lessons, which lead me into oils, which really got my wheels turning. I built my first solo exhibit out of oils in early 2016, we sold 39 of 51 paintings by the end of opening night. But, through the building of that show I realized I didn’t know much of anything about how to really paint with oils. So after that show I decided to spend all of June painting outside every day just to get some miles under my legs. What I didn’t expect was how addicted I would become to it. Long story short, I have not stopped. I have painted outside at least 3-4 days a week, if not more, since last June. Even all winter long, rain, snow, cold, wind, and I have loved every minute of it. I frequently go out with other painters and have learned a tremendous amount from them. My 2017 solo exhibit opened last month with over 100 plein air paintings and by the end of opening night we had sold 72! In the short term I plan on continuing to paint outside, but long term I think it will be interesting to see where my work goes. At this point, I have no idea whats ahead, but I will say I am as addicted to painting as much as I’ve ever been.
You made a choice at a fairly young age to change professional careers and pursue the arts, what lead you to that decision and what advice would you offer those who may be considering this as well.
My path to becoming a full-time artist is very non-traditional. I built my business selling art online during my 3 years of law school. In June of 2011, after 7 months of being back in the real world, my art business was tanking, I just couldn’t balance the real world and making art. So I quit that job and have never looked back.
As far as advice goes to anyone who may be considering becoming a full time artist. I believe you have to want it more than you want anything else, more than food, more than sleep, more than money. You have to have the confidence to persevere through the years of learning experiences and growing pains. A “say yes” & figure it out attitude. There is a lot to learn, not even on the creating side, but on the business side, sales, marketing, networking, appearances, insurance, permits, book keeping, taxes, etc. all those things that take away from making art. I’m 10 years into actively selling and going on 6 years full time and I still learn unexpected things every year.
I probably thought about this question way too long. Give me Titanium White, Burnt Umber & Ultramarine Blue Deep along with about any other colors you want and I will make some paintings. I go through those 3 colors easily twice as fast as anything else on my palette. With that being said, I made my entire plein air setup to be a lean, mean, painting machine and I could not live without it at this point. I can carry everything in my pack along with 6 wet panels and still have 2 free hands to hold my coffee when walking into a location in the morning. I can set up and tear down in less than 60 seconds which makes it much easier to get out and paint and much harder to make excuses.
You also work with some other art material manufacturers, who are based in Indiana as well. Who are those folks and how did you become friends?
Twinrocker Handmade Paper & Royal & Langnickel are both based out of Indiana. Twinrocker is located about 15 miles from where did my undergrad at Purdue University so I learned about them there. Once I started getting more serious about painting I would always go pick out my papers in person. Long story short, I built a great relationship with them over years and since 2012 have helped manage their online presence and have even got to make my own “Justin Vining Logo” watermarked handmade papers.
Royal & Langnickel, when I was in law school I met someone who worked in their distribution warehouse, he made the introduction back in 2008-ish and I have had a quiet relationship with them for years. They have been behind the scenes very supportive and awesome to work with. Just last year they started an official ambassador program and they brought me on board.
I have been lucky enough to get the full tour of the production facilities in Apeldoorn (that’s me in the photo). The thing I was most impressed with from that day was how hand crafted every drop of Royal Talens paint is along with how high of a standard they hold their quality to. At every step in the process I met people who have worked for Royal Talens not just for 10 years, but often much longer, they know their jobs well and they take a tremendous pride in what they do. It was not at all what I expected, I was expecting way more automation & computer testing. I wish I could remember their names, but just one example, its not a robot testing the pigment size of your paints, its “Joe” who has worked there 25 years and with a simple test that I still don’t understand, he knows if it needs 20 more minutes on the mill or 30. A mind blowing level detail is paid in the production of this paint, I had no idea. I feel lucky to know that now and I take a great amount of pride using Royal Talens paints.
What living artists are you inspired by today?
Great question!! What people don’t know about me is I’m an avid art collector with easily 75+ pieces by other artists on display on the walls of my studio. Some obvious favorites: C.W. Mundy, Josh Clare, Jennifer McChristian, Mark Maggiori. Others whom I enjoy tremendously: Edward Sprafkin, Danny Griego, David Dibble, Matthew Cornell.
But I’d say my favorite painter right now is Dennis Doyle on the East Coast. His paintings are rock solid and his work ethic & passion for plein air painting is undeniable. I just made a trade with him and I am super excited to get my painting.
Locally in Indianapolis, I actively paint outside regularly with Benny Sanders, Jed Dorsey, Kyle Ragsdale, Nathan Foxton, Alicia Zanoni & so many others, these people have had an obvious direct impact on the objective quality of my work. I have learned a ton from them and am thankful to have them as friends.