21 Under 31 | Justin Hess


ART EDUCATION: I began to study painting at Ventura College. After graduating I moved to San Francisco, where I continued my studies in painting at the Academy of Art University. I then spent three years at the Florence Academy of Art in Italy.

STYLE: I imagine that if one were to categorize my style, they could say that I’m a fine-art painter in the classical realist tradition.

Composition With Oxidized Copper Bowl & Onions, oil, 14 x 20.

INSPIRATION FOR YOUR WINNING PAINTING: My still-life paintings are often influenced by the great Danish-born painter Soren-Emil Carlsen. His subtle variations of line and sensitivity to value, color, and choice of simple everyday objects in his compositions has made him, for me, one of the greatest painters in this particular genre. With this painting, I set out to try to achieve a truly believable sense of atmosphere and space while working with objects in a higher key and a limited value range. Then I wanted to place a darker, more dramatic and colorful object in the middle of these subtle values and still maintain a sense of unity. Through varying textures and the use of line variations and subtle temperature shifts, my hopes were to keep the viewer’s eye interested and constantly moving around the picture plane.

BEST ADVICE RECEIVED: It came from a friend and former instructor who always said, “A painting is only as strong as its weakest part.” This constantly resides in my mind while I work, pushing me to never be satisfied and always to try to critique my work objectively, while viewing it as a whole and from a distance.

ONE THING MOST PEOPLE DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU: Most people are unaware that I make almost everything I use, from oil paints and painting mediums to traditional lead-based, oil-ground canvases and frames. This process, I believe, gives the painter complete control over the finished product, resulting in a truly unique and one-of-a-kind painting.

FUTURE GOALS: I have recently relocated to San Francisco, where I will be setting up a small atelier offering workshops and private instruction in the classical realist tradition. I will also have a materials manual in print this fall with step-by-step demonstrations on how to make your own oil paints, canvases, and frames.

PRICE RANGE: $1,000 to $12,000.

REPRESENTATION: W.H. Patterson, London, England; www.jhessfineart.com.

Featured in September 2011.