Justin Lees, a Newcastle-based, self-taught painter, sculptor, designer, and photographer, has flourished as an artist since 2004, captivating audiences with over 10 solo exhibitions. His work, particularly his vibrant oil paintings, embodies the chaos and harmony of life with emotional depth and vivid expressionism. Following a significant hiatus, Lees returned to the art scene triumphantly in 2019, selling out exhibitions and becoming an HMRI Artist in Residence. In 2022, he realised a dream by opening Wester Gallery. His pieces, now spread across private collections in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and Europe, continue to touch lives, confirming his status as a significant figure in contemporary art.
1. 2019 HMRI Artist in Residence
2. 3 Sold out solo exhibitions/collections
3. Solo exhibition featuring 20 works, 108 page book and small documentary
What medium do you work with, and why have you chosen them?
I work mostly in oil, however I use acrylic, spray paint, pastels, charcoal etc to build layers and add features. I love working with oil, how you can manipulate the paint and the textures of the finished product.
How does your artwork get from initial concept to exhibition stage?
Usually I will find a concept to base my works on, from there I will either search or photograph reference materials. start with some sketches, ideas in my visual diary. From there I create a playlist to go along with the works, and usually let that play a major role in the colour pallet and the intensity of the brush strokes. I recall an interview the singer from my favourite band once said that during the recording process of his vocals, he covers the walls with pictures of his favourite singers, or the singers he wants to channel in process. I kind of do the same and cover parts of the studio with print outs of my favourite artists works, or works that i'm finding inspiring at the particular time. Over time these may change up a bit as well as some of the songs on the playlist.
Can you tell us a little more about your creative working environment/studio?
I have a small studio close by to my house which is great. I've dubbed it "The Hell Hole", its small, and gets very hot in the middle of summer. It has a red velvet armchair, and a couple of stools. Art books and magazines. A small little boombox in the on a side table. a fold up table in the middle and canvas on all 4 walls around me.