Interview: The Space Race, 2046 Print Shop, and The Art of Justin Van Genderen
When you go to 2046 Print Shop, you’re immediately part of the space race & Justin Van Genderen’s world of science and nature. His art prints are so specifically inspired, giving a platform to subjects many of us are astounded by and infinitely interested in. Whether physics, nature, or space, he’s tapping into an insatiable social appetite, and quite frankly, one of the more focused design sensibilities you’ll find.
Creating screen prints, giclees, and t-shirts as a delivery mechanism for his creative ideas, Justin is also inextricably linked to a world of art that embraces new tools, digital or otherwise, and is driven to build his own creative lifestyle business in a way that allows him to connect with fans based on an appreciation of subject matters that are so much bigger than any of us.
And if I had to identify a unitive thread, that would be it.
While Justin is able to convey design skills through the 2046 Print Shop, it’s the way his interests & aesthetic comes together in a way that connects. We love the way that co-mingles art, design, and science. Although these things may seem separate, it couldn’t be further from the truth. At IPMM, we value education that pushes boundaries and is interdisciplinary.
Read on to discover one of Chicago’s very own, Justin Van Genderen.
Evan: Dude, great to connect! You’re in Chicago now, but where are you from originally? (If Chicago…) What neighborhood or suburb, and what made you stay?
Justin: I was born and raised in northern New Jersey. I spent my college years in west MI at a small liberal arts college. After college I moved to Chicago, which was about 12 years ago now. I love being in a diverse city with so much history and culture.
We love the blurb in the header on your website… “It started with an obsession with the early days of the space race” … tell us more.
Well, I would say that’s how my interests normally go, I come across something that sparks an interest, and then I go all in.
I completely relate.
For the series of space race posters, I came across some old Life Magazine images of astronauts from the early days of NASA. The pictures were a pretty raw, looking at men entering a complete unknown. I started to hunt down any documentary on the space race and the beginnings of NASA, astronauts and cosmonauts. From there, the interest spread into science, theoretical physics and more. That’s how I came to 2046 Print Shop.
I’m glad you mentioned that…You design around theoretical physics and the park system too, how do you see those as interrelated? Or is it really more a matter of creating art around different categories of natural phenomena that inspires you?
When I first started to create these science posters I wanted to have a category or series name for all the prints. I ended up settling on Force & Nature. I viewed the two as flip sides to the same coin – the “Force” representing physics and the fundamental forces that have shaped the universe and “Nature” representing the physical world, matter. I’ve been accused of being a reductionist so I think it was an attempt to include everything at it’s base level. I have no background in science or physics beyond what I learned in High School & college, so I wanted to start at the bottom and move my way up.
Right on. I love the concept. Which brings me to the aesthetics… You’ve certainly landed on a clean, geometric style, would you consider yourself a graphic designer at heart?
Yup. My background is in graphic design. I am currently a freelance designer and have spent the better half of the past 15 years doing graphic design in some form or another.
Have you created in any other mediums?
I’ve done a fair bit of photography, but no other fine arts since college really. I got a BFA degree so most of my formal education was in mediums like painting, drawing and pottery.
Give us the timeline of your art making career. Did you go to school for art?
I was pretty active drawer in my youth, but I steered more towards computer art when I discovered Photoshop. I received a BFA degree from a small liberal arts school in west Michigan. After graduating I worked in various advertising departments until eventually going freelance a little over 6 years ago.
I saw that you create both screen prints and giclees for the 2046 Print Shop, while some often come down on either side of that divide, you embrace both, as does IPaintMyMind. Why is that?
While I always prefer screen prints it just doesn’t do a great job with thousands of colors. In the end I view printing as just another tool, while I may favor some methods, it’s the idea or conversation you are creating that matters most.
Totally. We’re not at all dichotomous about what we feature – that would only feel limiting, when as you say, some methods are better for certain applications.
What’s a typical day for you look like?
I wake up between 8:30/9 and start working pretty quickly after. I’ll spend most my morning answering emails and communicating with folks. After that I head to my office where I will get to work designing, editing or composing whatever my daily task is. This could range from logo design to poster design depending on what I’ve got going on. This will normally take me through the rest of the work day. I’m a bit of a night owl, so I may jump back on my computer around 10/11 and finish up a few more things before going to bed.
What artists were formative inspirations for you growing up, or as you developed your own creative career?
When I was younger I was a pretty big movie and comic book kid. I got lots of inspiration from comic artists like Jim Lee, Whilce Portacio, Dale Keown among others. I was also drawn to some great visual directors, Stanley Kubrick, David Fincher, Martin Scorsese, Spielberg, Spike Jonze, Jonathan Glazer to name a few.
What do you think has changed about artists creating, marketing, and selling their own work with the acceleration of e-commerce? Do you get more orders through your own site or third party platforms?
Since I am some what new to the world of e-commerce I’m not sure what has changed, it does seem that more and more artists are doing the DIY thing. If you are going to try and sell your own art you have to be artist, marketer, advertiser all in one. I started my own e-commerce shop a couple years ago, but most of my sales are still through galleries.
I’ve been learning more graphic design these days, and it’s got me thinking about fonts and spacing constantly! Everything I see is a case study. Are you ever able to turn off that switch in your brain?
Ha, it’s no easy task, I still see myself calling out font names to my friends. They could care less of course. I think I’ve gotten to a place where bad design doesn’t bother me too much, but I don’t know if I’ll ever stop noticing it.
Was there one person that encouraged your artistic practice at a particular point that made you feel like you could actually turn your art into your life’s work?
Both my parents were very encouraging when it came to my artwork/graphic design work. Without their encouragement I don’t think I would have even thought to pursue a career in art/design.
Thanks for the time, Justin!
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