Visual artist Austin Blue uses vibrant colors, stark patterns, and defined geometric shapes to generate work so distinguishable he doesn’t have to sign it for you to know it’s his. The artist’s work, often involving characters so lively they nearly seem animated, jumps off whatever surface it’s painted on, whether it be a canvas, city wall, stop sign, or even an electrical box.
Born and raised in San Francisco before making Atlanta his home five years ago, Blue has been steadily making his mark, literally and figuratively, in the local arts community, most recently completing a mural for the annual Forward Warrior project.
Here, CommonCreativ chats with Blue about his aversion to complacency, what exciting projects he’s working on next, and his work’s ability to connect inaudibly through color and body language.
CommonCreativ: What initially sparked your interest in being an artist?
Austin Blue: My interest in being an artist started pretty early in my life from things like comic books, animation, and my dad’s personal interest in art. Once I realized that I needed to take my work more seriously, I decided that I would pursue a career in visual art. That decision was officially made three years ago when I stopped working in only black and white.
CC: How did you develop your personal style?
AB: I think I just tried several things that I thought would be cool until I finally created something that felt like me. Lots of trial and error for sure. The more I played with color, space, and subjects the more comfortable I felt. Now whenever I create, I try to see what I can do to challenge myself while sticking to my aesthetic.
CC: What inspires your work?
AB: Everything inspires my work. I know that sounds hella corny, but I’ve had inspiration strike in such different situations. It could be from me reading a magazine, a certain phrase said in a conversation, or just observing my surroundings or nature. One thing I will say is getting out there and expanding your knowledge of whatever it is that you want to be a part of is major. Everyone should explore and avoid complacency.
CC: Tell me about your creative process.
AB: My process varies. At times I’ll have an exact image in my head of what I want to make and other times the image will be more vague, only revealing itself when I start sketching. I used to hand-paint my mockups, and I occasionally still do, but now that I’m using [Adobe] Illustrator I have a bit more control over the process.
CC: What message do you hope your work conveys?
AB: I want people to see my work and feel inspired to follow their heart, and commit fully to whatever endeavors they may have. I want my work to promote energy — we are all capable of so much more than what we’re already doing.
CC: What project or piece are you most proud of creating?
AB: I would have to say my most recent mural for Forward Warrior 2017 is what I’m most proud of. It was my second wall mural, and it’s the most detail I’ve painted on that scale so, in a way, I was testing myself.
CC: How did you become active in the Forward Warrior project, and how did you decide on your piece?
AB: I had known of and been a fan of Peter Ferrari’s work for a while and had seen on Instagram that he [recently] opened up Facet Gallery. I decided to check out Facet and meet Peter formally since we only knew each other through Instagram. After speaking for a bit I was asked if I wanted to be a part of the event, to which I replied ‘yes’ of course. As for the piece, there had been a picture in my animals folder that I’d been wanting to use for a while — it was of a polar bear sitting upright. I sketched the figure and eventually formed everything around it. When it was started it [wasn’t] specifically for the event, but once it finished I knew it was the one.
AB: My brother Connor (Zane is his middle name, as Blue is mine) relates to my art in the sense that his autism restricts a lot of his communication skills, but deep down there are so many layers to him that come out in other ways. I view Zane similarly, a seemingly inaudible character that also communicates in other ways — in his case, color and body language.
CC: What projects are you looking forward to next?
AB: I’m looking forward to a lot of things. I’ll be painting an [electrical] box downtown in August for the City of Atlanta, and I’ll be working on a live painting in Nashville for Deep Tropics. Oh! A big one is a project that I’ve recently become the executive director of, called Stacks Squares Mural Project. It’s a new mural initiative on 10 7-by-7-foot squares on the back of the Cotton Factory Lofts.
We’re going to make it a rotating 10 artist roster and encourage the community, especially those from the area, to be involved and have the opportunity to create a piece of public art. That’s very exciting to watch grow and be a part of, so that has me pretty damn hyped — 2017 is gonna be a good year.