"Between the Lions is an American animated/live-action/puppet children's television series designed to promote reading, In-between each educated segment would be a illustrated short this one reference to the series is called cliffhanger a Hiker that holds on for dear life. This piece made me think of how hard it is to carry on day after day."
- Justin Ellis
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Mixed Media on Canvas Chalk, Gesso, Watercolor
38" x 38"
“I feel that ArtLifting will allow other young black men who struggle with homelessness and a disability to be able to tap into my story as an artist. I have a story that is unique but provides inspiration to millions, if not more.”
Justin’s mixed media art is as rich in color, layers and technique as it is in imagination and meaning. Growing up in Charlotte, creating art was a family affair. Justin’s father would often sit and draw with him, he and his brother would collaborate on their own comic strips, and his mom was a crafter. Justin knew he wanted to pursue art, so he attended Northwest School of the Arts for middle and high school, where he learned the art of collage and mixed media creation. From there, he attended The Art Institute of Raleigh, Durham and gained education in graphic design and marketing.
Due to the cost of schooling, Justin began working side jobs related to art to supplement the tuition cost. Working at local arts and craft stores, he dreamed of a day where he could one day release his work, but didn’t see this to be possible until the fateful day of June 10, 2019. Riots in Charlotte, NC erupted over questions of equality. Justin felt something in his spirit to create that day. He walked to South Brevard Street and began to paint on some panels in front of, what would become, an art gallery.
When Mrs. Monique and Mr. Douglas, came outside, Justin apologized for painting in front of their establishment. Instead of reprimanding him, they encouraged him to keep creating. For 2 weeks, Justin returned everyday to make the panels beautiful. Over that time, Mrs. Monique and Mr. Douglas learned more about Justin: he was an artist at heart, but lost his job recently and was between homes as well. They asked for his art portfolio, which he gladly showed them, and from there, they and the Owner Jason Wolf, offered him a spot in The Brooklyn Collective as a resident artist.
With support, guidance and space to create, Justin’s art flourished. He explains, “Being a part of the Brooklyn Collective has helped my confidence bloom. Having the love and support to keep dreaming has propelled my artistic career.” Justin began believing in himself and his practice, expanding on styles and techniques he learned previously.
Justin’s style is ever evolving, but has signature elements that make his work stand out. He loves to mix mediums and materials to make unique compositions. “I love using acrylic on top of spray paint to reveal patterns and shapes. I love collage and mixing colors that wouldn’t usually be combined in a composition.I love mixing abstract shapes and oil pastels to reveal a rush of passion to the eyes,” Justin shares.
These different combinations excite Justin and connect to what he loves most about being a creator: that he can always grow and develop as an artist. The freedom to interchange the styles, mediums and colors he uses makes for endless possibilities and opportunity for improvement.
When starting a new piece, Justin throws himself into the work. Blasting his favorite music and feeling the paint and pastels between his fingers, he becomes filled with inspiration. His artwork is emotionally charged. He explains, “If I’m sad, I create through that tank. If I’m happy, I love to use shapes and figures to spark nostalgia.” This organic process has led Justin’s art to be accepted into a variety of galleries in the last 3 years, including the Mint Museum, Sozo Art Gallery, Art Basel Miami, as well as his first solo show, coming in winter 2023.
He is excited to partner with ArtLifting to increase exposure of his work and help him grow into an internationally recognized artist. He loves the family he has made in Mrs. Monique and Mr. Douglas’ studio, the Brooklyn Collective, as well as all of the community projects he’s been able to contribute to. Justin dreams of having his work turned into a cartoon or animated series one day, unleashing the power of his creativity and imagination onto others.
ArtLifting champions artists impacted by homelessness or disabilities through the celebration and sale of their artwork. Learn more here.