An Interview with Justin Wheatley

Justin Wheatley's characteristic style has allowed him to beautifully bridge the gap between the simplicities of everyday life and the complexity of gospel truth. His paintings inspire while provoking deep reflection on one's role in the world around them. After studying painting at Utah State, Justin has traveled the world looking for inspiration and now finds it teaching high school art and living among a tightly knit community of LDS artists in Salt Lake City. 

Justin Wheatley's characteristic style has allowed him to beautifully bridge the gap between the simplicities of everyday life and the complexity of gospel truth. His paintings inspire while provoking deep reflection on one's role in the world around them. After studying painting at Utah State, Justin has traveled the world looking for inspiration and now finds it teaching high school art and living among a tightly knit community of LDS artists in Salt Lake City. 

I've wanted to be an artist since second grade. My mom has always encouraged me to explore and create. I had an incredible teacher, Mrs. Green, who would let me and a friend go to the back of the room and draw when we finished our work. 

Justin Wheatley (b. 1980) A Beacon in the Waves, 2016, Acrylic on Panel

Justin Wheatley (b. 1980) A Beacon in the Waves, 2016, Acrylic on Panel

>One of my biggest artistic influences happened when I was studying abroad in Germany and I came across a painting by Lyonel Feininger that stopped me in my tracks. Ever since he has been a favorite. He had an ability to divide natural space with geometric lines and shapes that really affected the way I look at things. I admire the work of Richard Diebenkorn, Mark Bradford, Lyonel Fieninger, Paul Klee, and Robert Smithson. After that I studied painting at Utah State University under Chris Terry and Jane Catlin.

>I mostly use acrylic paint. It works well with building up layers of color. I also love to do mixed media pieces, using photography, collage and acrylic. The oil paints, which I also love, come out when I paint people. Recently, I've been doing a series of paintings about my relationship with the Great Salt Lake. I grew up by it and it has always been a special place in a fun and spiritual way.

Justin Wheatley (b. 1980) Firm Foundation, 2015, Acrylic on Panel

Justin Wheatley (b. 1980) Firm Foundation, 2015, Acrylic on Panel

>I'm very interested in the idea of testimony. How does a testimony develop, how is it maintained, how is it sometimes lost, etc. I'm also interested in the importance of home. "Firm Foundation" is a combination of the two. I started doing sketches of homes that were relating to each other as if they were people. In one of the sketches, I drew a few homes stacked on top of each other, tipping to and fro while the house on the bottom stood firm. The sketch stuck with me and I decided to take it a step further and paint it. I built a bunch of paper houses, about an inch and a half tall each and little supports so I could glue them on top of each other. Once I had a stack, I took photographs of the houses from different angles and under different light. From the photographs, I did a large scale drawing on a panel and painted it. I love the meaning(s) that this painting carries. For me, it was representative of relying on someone with a firm testimony while learning to balance your life in order to gain one of your own. I heard other people mention that you can only rely on someone else for so long before you tumble off the foundation. One person said that it is important to provide the strength for your family until they are ready.

Justin Wheatley (b. 1980) The Prodigal, 2016, Acrylic on Panel

Justin Wheatley (b. 1980) The Prodigal, 2016, Acrylic on Panel

>I teach high school art, so a good part of the day is spent with students. When school is over, I spend a few hours painting. Being with students all day is a great way to get me in the zone for painting and I never have problems using that time wisely. During the summer I rent a studio. I try to get some exercise and time in with my girls before heading out to paint. It's a day full of sports radio, NPR, and painting until 4:00 or 5:00. 

>Some of the best advice I could give is to find other artists that you can get together with on a regular basis. I do a monthly critique with friends from college and it has produced an incredible amount of valuable input and opportunities. We are going on ten years and there's no sign it will stop. It's too valuable to all of us. 

>My ideal viewer is someone who will take the time to consider the purpose of the story being told without being concerned about what it means to me. I'm happy to explain what I was thinking, but if someone can draw their own personal meaning, then it's a success. Ideally, they would tell me what they think rather than ask me a question. Having said that, I'm happy to answer any questions someone might have.

Justin Wheatley (b. 1980) The Man and the Horizon, 2016, Acrylic on Panel

Justin Wheatley (b. 1980) The Man and the Horizon, 2016, Acrylic on Panel

>I've come up with this theory about the "curse of an artist." Creating things and exploring new ideas is not something that an artist can escape. There are few moments without thinking about the next project. I guess the worst part could be the best part too. But. if there is a single person that finds some sort of solace or understanding in one of my works after I am gone, I'll be perfectly content with what I did while I was here.

Online: www.justinwheatley.com

Instagram: @justinwheatleyart