By Shannon J. Winslow-Claunch
The big, bold colors in three-dimensional spikes literally jut off the canvas, inviting observers to step inside, get lost in the subject matter and perhaps even concoct their own delightful and imaginative adventure. The swirls of contrasting paint, combined with the unique texture of Justin’s pallet knife beckon those who appreciate fine things to be inspired by creation and by the creator. It is that correlation — between artist, nature and spiritual awareness — that Justin represents.
The latest evolution of his career is about becoming a better version of himself and creating pieces that have deeper meaning. This stage of his artistic journey is a homecoming of sorts, as he seeks to invite those who love his work to visit him at his original artist’s homestead and studio in Blue Mountain Beach.
The former chef and furniture maker has built a brand of accessibility at his gallery in Seaside over the past five years and before that in Rosemary Beach. Now painting for over 14 years, Justin, age 44, has become as much of an attraction as the paintings he creates. His shoes become their own piece of art after a year, and require replacing annually because they’re so heavy with vibrant paint blobs, and his pants become so dappled with gooey paint that he must replace them weekly. Vacationers come back year after year to see him at work and to meet the artist.
The ever humble and kind Justin often lets a child assist him in making a flower petal on canvas while their parents shop to find the perfect piece to hang on their wall— the perfect center piece that inspires the decor of the room or even their entire home.
“Two year old children will sit for an hour, or even two, to watch me sculpt and paint,” said Justin. “In a modern era where primitive art seems to be replaced by technology, I am enamored that children would do that.”
He built a home and raised his family among the new urbanism development style of walkable communities of South Walton. As he explores the outdoors through surfing, paddling, hiking and biking, Justin has embraced, and in some ways has defined the culture of 30A. “Justin created his own path in the work and in the life that he built for himself and has become a true legacy in the making,” said gallery director, Christy Milliken.
His son, Justin Jr., is now at college in Colorado, and his daughter Aria is 15. He built his family’s home in Blue Mountain Beach nearly twenty years ago, at 21 Blue Gulf Drive. At the time, Justin was a chef but his wife, painter Billie Gaffrey needed a place to work that was close to their children. She and Justin have since divorced but remain friends and supporters of one another.
The location — Justin’s family home upstairs and his studio below — is a treat for visitors to experience, and the studio with gallery is open to the public.
Like a quaint bungalow set among oaks laden with Spanish moss, the Gaffrey Blue Mountain Beach studio invites creativity and peace to play with whimsy and nature.
Justin has become the iconic 30A artist for many who seek beach inspiration in decorating their vacation or city home. Known for capturing florals, landscapes, water-scenes, Justin has now begun creating things such as nests and expansive horses, with a new technique of rolling, drying and sculpting the thick acrylic paint (which he gets from an undisclosed and exclusive source) into branches or sticks, creating figures that stand six to eight inches off the panel.
He uses 2,000 pounds of the paint every six weeks, and he has kept up a fervent pace over the past eight years, producing approximately 500 paintings each year.
But, his career and his focus are changing. Ten years ago, Justin was learning his craft but now he is reaching deeper to create a body of work that challenges the consumer’s connection to the art.
Now, Justin’s art is shifting into a self exploration of his heart, incorporating poetry and depth, maximizing the ability of his medium. By incorporating poems and sculpture, his vulnerable spirit is awakening and touching people in a new way. One such piece on exhibit entitled Namaste depicts a sculpted human skeletal rib cage filled with bright flowers. The poem Justin wrote to accompany the piece is about shedding the flesh and revealing the spirit; the beauty within. Namaste and other paintings like it are pushing the limits of what Justin’s paint and his imagination can do.
Ultimately the process is less about quantity and more about quality. “I don’t want to just create something beautiful, I want to create something that means something beautiful,” said Justin. Through the natural evolution and consistency of the Justin Gaffrey brand, a new 5,200 square foot warehouse has just been built in Blue Mountain Beach. The space will be used for rotating exhibits, holding inventory, as a studio for creating larger sculpted works and to photograph pieces for the web in 3-D which will be featured on their new website currently in production with Cornerstone Marketing.
Have you ever visited Justin Gaffrey Gallery in Blue Mountain Beach? Open to the public, the gallery features some of 30A’s most iconic images… and some unexpected treasures:
Posted by 30A on Tuesday, 21 August 2018
The sheer quantity and consisitent patronage of global travelers who come to 30A has been Justin’s recipe for success. Through world-wide accessibility of his brand online, he receives email purchase requests every day from around the globe. That success has been the driving source behind his artistic goals but ultimately, Justin strives to produce fewer but more meaningful pieces.
Milliken points out that the transition of adding value to the brand benefits everyone who has purchased Justin’s work over the years. “We are now growing in a new way that we can increase the value of the market, reaching out globally to do more meaningful works and as with other maturing artists, the demand scarcity of work improves the brand’s value,” said Milliken. “I believe that the art/artist preservation, growth and legacy is the ultimate form of customer care to our collectors who have supported Justin from the beginning and continue to support and enhance his growth.”
While Milliken and her team continue to plan for and travel to shows around the U.S. they are beginning to refine their travel to more art related venues. Through a recent partnership with Cornerstone Publishing, Justin is scheduled for an art show in Ireland in August, and with global attention of Justin’s work, Milliken is working on a long term strategy for that interest and making plans to publish a book about Justin.