EK Interview: Justin Cherry

Justin Cherry‘s work is the stuff of dreams, of nightmares and of everything in between.  It is mystical and fantastic.  It draws you in with an eerie sense that you’ve passed into a place that is haunted, but it’s so tempting to keep going.  Drawing on lore and myth for inspiration Justin crafts his art from the land of Southern California.  Read his words and go deeper:

Introduce yourself.

My name is Justin Cherry.  I’m an artist currently living in Southern California.  By day I work in videogames as an Art Director; by night I am a steward of the gloom. 😉

Where was your favorite place growing up?

My favorite place growing up were the woods near my friend’s house. I spent many hours pretending to have special powers, building tree forts, and writing stories about our activities.

art blog - Justin Cherry - Empty Kingdom

art blog - Justin Cherry - Empty Kingdom

How do you decide that a piece is finished?  Have you ever gone back to a piece after you thought you were done with it?

Haha, a piece is finished when I’m sick of looking at it!  Often, I will be mentally done with it long before I have gotten anywhere near actually finishing it. This is usually because the aspect that I was looking to portray in the image is already “done” or “has passed” in my head.  Finishing pictures is just a lesson in patience for me.  I have not gone back and edited a piece that was finished, unless it was for the purposes of color correction for print.

What is your favorite of your pieces and why?

Well, this is a tough question.  I’d probably have to go with “The Opera Tree”.  Even though I don’t think the technique in the image is particularly greatI do think that the soul of the picture is intriguing.  If I were to redo any image, I’d pick that one.

art blog - Justin Cherry - Empty Kingdom

Tell us about “The Walkers”.  Where did you get the idea?

“The Walkers” is self portrait of sorts.  I was feeling particularly feeble and disgusted with myself at that point in my life — like a mundane King of the Damned.  The image represents those aspects of me; the small inept hands trying to clean up vomit of good intended words that come out as flowers and blood, etc.

art blog - Justin Cherry - Empty Kingdom


What media do you use?  What media have you experimented with?  How did you decide to settle on the media you currently employ?

I use pencil and paper for the initial sketch (Strathmore pads, Berol Mirado pencils) and then Photoshop for the “painting” process.  When I was younger I was enthralled with oil paints, and as a personal pleasure I will do that from time to time.  However, my “go-to” media is Photoshop; it’s quick, clean, and super fast to iterate with.

How have you matured, personally and artistically, since you first decided you wanted to be an artist?

Of course!  I knew I wanted to be an artist when I was 5 or 6.  So inevitably my art has grown up with me.  I’d say for anyone who really does art as a passion, it always will.  Art is a representation of one’s ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and personality – which evolve over time.

What is your favorite animal to paint and why?

Interestingly enough I haven’t painted the same animal repeatedly in my images.  I like wolves, sea animals, and birds, but I really like the aspects of them that tie them to this world at an ancient state. Like a primal memory – not necessarily the animal itself, or how we’ve changed what it means socially.

art blog - Justin Cherry - Empty Kingdom

What myths, legends or stories have influenced your work?

My work is all about myths, legends, and dreams, so I’ve drawn inspiration from a variety of sources.  Mainly, the books of the dead (Celtic, Tibetan, and Egyptian), books about demonology (African, Christian (Goetia), and Hindu), poetry/spirituality (Rumi, Osho), and also creation stories (Poetic Edda, The Veda).

What artists have influenced you?  If you could only chose one to spend a month with who would it be and why?

Eiko Ishioka was my greatest influence.  I saw Bram Stoker’s Dracula when I was about 11 or so and I fell in love with her designs.  My mom had the costume book by Eiko Ishioka and I used to look at it and draw.  I was really sad to find out that she died recently.  It was like having a great teacher or mentor pass away.  I think though, if I were to choose to spend a month with someone I would pick Rumi or Osho.  They had such an amazing view of the world that it would be awesome to just listen to them talk.

By the end of 2012 what do you hope to have finished?

I really want to more prolific with my personal art.  For the last 5 years I’ve done very little art. Like, shamefully very little.  My mental tone has been shifting recently and I am excited to show this new direction.

art blog - Justin Cherry - Empty Kingdom

Who is your alter ego?

My alter ego?  I don’t know.  To me, it is disguised as everything, and also nothing.  Like a perpetual dream that has no beginning nor end, always just out of view, and easily forgotten.