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12/03/2013: WICKED WHIMSY: ADC MEMBER JUSTIN WINSLOW
In our new Member2Member series, ADC Member Jonathan Walsh profiles ADC Member/Illustrator Justin Winslow.
Math. Did the word make you shudder? For many creatives, the left-brain work of mathematics is antithetical to the unrestrained right-brain work of creativity. Yet, the lines, curves, and geometric shapes that make up so much of design, are, at their core, representations of pure mathematical concepts. In writing, a ball flying through the air is said to “describe” a perfect arc; “described” instead of “made” because the moment the concept of a perfect arc (y=x2) is put to paper, its perfection is compromised. The grain of our Bristol, the flow of ink from our pens, the microscopic twitches of our fingers mean that, for artists, true, mathematical perfection, is always out of reach. Or at least it used to be: the advent of desktop publishing and, beginning in the late 1980s, commercially available vector graphics editors, meant that art directors, designers, and illustrators gained the ability to bend mathematics to their will to create a level of smoothness, grace, and perfection that were previously unattainable. The spread of this mathematically perfect aesthetic is evident on televisions, subway ads, and a growing number of device screens throughout the world. But, to designer, illustrator, and ADC member Justin Winslow, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing.
Winslow’s vivid line-work and rich palette are certainly charming. His cover for Michael Montlack’s book of poems, Cool Limbo (NYQ Books, 2011), captures the stillness of an afternoon by the pool, the piece’s long lines giving life to a lithe beauty reclining in a beach chair at the center of the work. But, looking closer, details emerge that add an edge that is unique to Winslow to the image. The woman on the cover, a child of the 1970s judging by her feathered Farrah Fawcett hairstyle and butterfly tattoo, is surrounded by crushed beer cans and cigarette butts; flipping to the back cover reveals a bottle of Jack Daniels laying on its side. This is all being watched by a boy, pale, freckled, and wearing waterwings as he bobs in the aquamarine water of the pool, his mouth agape. “I like work that is fun and interesting, creative and weird, or has a dirty, dark sense of humor to it,” says Winslow, “but what I hope is conveyed there is that there is humor, yes, but that there's still a nice, compelling image” at the heart of it.
“Since 2008 I've been mostly freelance, and have been really enjoying it,” says Winslow. Balancing creativity with the constant need to self-promote, however, he says can be challenging. “Freelancing does take a lot out of you, but it's exciting, and I think my personality does well with it,” he says. “I get so bored with things so easily, and kind of need to move on and do something new, and creative, and challenging, and that's what freelancing is.” In terms of finding the right mix of the provocative and professional, Winslow cites artist Gary Taxali as an inspiration. “He's one of those illustrators who has an aesthetic and a visual language that works well both commercially and in the fine art world,” he says. “That's what I admire about him: he has that duality. I think every New York designer or illustrator tries to do that.” But that, says Winslow, can get at the crux of the challenge: “Because sometimes it doesn't work, sometimes you have to draw the line and know where to stop, be professional and not go too dark or perverse, not go to the inappropriate or obscene.” Though he loves the subversive, Winslow always makes sure that none of his pieces give the impression that, “oh, this person is incapable of doing something professional, buttoned up,” he says.
“I think you definitely fly by the seat of your pants more when you're a freelancer,” says Winslow. “ It's been a really weird journey, but it's been fun, and I've been loving it.”
If you’d like to see more of Justin Winslow’s work, please visit justinwinslow.com
If you’re an ADC member and want to share your story, upcoming event or a new project, or would like to tell another ADC member’s story, contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!
Jonathan R. Walsh is a writer living in Brooklyn. He rides a 1984 Schwinn Tempo, and wears a denim jacket.