EK Interview: Justin Hopkins

Justin Hopkins - Empty Kingdom - Art Blog

Justin Hopkins‘s paintings are big and loud. There’s a lot going on in and behind them. Check out Justin’s interview to take a peek at what’s going on behind the oil.

Tell us a little about yourself, what was it like growing up in Washington? Where did you go when you needed to be alone?
Mukilteo is a town so quiet and quaint it has a lighthouse and a ferry boat that look like it could have been painted by Thomas Kincaid.

I grew up in an artistic household. Both of my parents are very accomplished artists in their respective fields. My dad was an illustrator. He painted this:

(Chris Hopkins)

My mom is a brilliant sculptor. She made this:

There was a trail that snaked through the woods to get to the beach and I used to go down there to be alone.

Justin Hopkins - Empty Kingdom - Art Blog

You’ve been drawing since the age of six, and doing corporate advertising since fourteen, how has your eye changed since then? Much of our innate creativity and impulsive imagination wanes as we age, like the urge to pretend a stick is a sword, would you say the same has happened in respect to your approach to art? Or in respect to the way you perceive and consume art?

I don’t think your imagination should diminish at all as you age. You accumulate more experience, intelligence and social standards in which to frame your imagination. Further life experience gives you the opportunity to widen the creative net you are able to cast.

Justin Hopkins - Empty Kingdom - Art Blog

After working with a myriad of different media, why did you settle on oils? What does the medium, the feel, the smell and everything else distinct about oils, hold for you? Or is it simply that you appreciate the aesthetic of oils the most?
I connect with it the most personally. My dad is an oil painter and all of my heroes growing up were illustrators who worked with oils. I also appreciate the emotional bandwidth you can get in the actual painting phase. Oils allow you to be both brutally violent as well as subtle and thoughtful.

Justin Hopkins - Empty Kingdom - Art Blog

Where are the legs coming from in Blue and Pink and Green? Why did you choose to focus on the mid thigh down? Is there a part of the body you prefer to paint or illustrate, do they differ by media?
“People like You”?

Sometimes the parts you leave out are more important than the parts you leave in. The initial idea came from an old photo my hyper talented friend, Matthew Pandolfe, took as a teenager. I only painted the legs because it allowed the viewer to decide whether the narrative was sinister (a person hanging) or lighthearted (caught in midair during a jump). The painting in itself is pretty neutral.

Justin Hopkins - Empty Kingdom - Art Blog

Many of your paintings blur fine, precise strokes with thick, broad ones. What do they mean to you emotionally? Is the difference significant? What is each meant to pull from or say to the viewer and are they meant to work together or against each other emotionally and visually?

A lot of my philosophy in painting comes from post punk and free jazz. The way beautiful virtuosity supports an equally beautiful animalistic violence always resonated with me. They are more powerful together than a apart. I think its important to show respect for the craft and total irreverence at the same time.

Justin Hopkins - Empty Kingdom - Art Blog

In your piece Gild, the gold seems to float on top of the image almost as an afterthought, can you tell us what your motivation was to use the leaf? The man’s head is open as if the gold leaf is either then contents of his mind or possibly some reflection of his persona, a deitization almost. How do you respond when people tell you what they think of your work and it is completely different than what you sought to achieve? That’s presuming you imbue each piece with a great deal of thought and meaning, is that assumption false?

The drawing started out as just a portrait of an old mugshot I found online. The haphazard gold leaf is kind of a reference to the halos in paintings of saints and important religious figures by the old masters. Im not sure that piece is totally successful but there is something about it I like.

Justin Hopkins - Empty Kingdom - Art Blog

What are you working on next? What’s in store now that you’re focusing on oils? Where do you intend to go with the medium?
I am currently in the process of heavy experimentation in preparation for some upcoming shows. Mostly I just want to get better at painting.

What’s your favorite sandwich?