The Great Discontent

The Great Discontent

TGD issue 4 Order #4
Justin Maller

Justin Maller

  • artist
  • designer
  • illustrator

Justin Maller is an Australian-born, New York-based freelance illustrator and art director. In 2002, he founded Depthcore, an international modern art collective, and he has since produced illustrations and concept art for an array of companies and publications worldwide, including Nike, Verizon, The Grammys, ESPN, Harper Collins, Under Armour, and Coca-Cola. Justin also works on various side projects, including his Facets series.

Interview

So what has your path been? And, for our readers who might not know, what are you up to right now?

I started digital art an unbelievably long time ago in 1998—that feels like a different century. My friend had given me a copy of Photoshop 4, which he had burned onto a fancy CD with a bronze top that he printed “Photoshop 4” onto. (laughing) Here’s a side note: I could totally do everything that I do now with the software I started out with—the very first 3-D program I had and Photoshop 4—if I had to. People ask me all the time, “What software do you use?” That’s utterly irrelevant. You need nothing—the easiest, cheapest, shittiest thing you can get is enough. If it does layers, then that’s mostly all you need. Anyway, my friend gave me the disc and I fucked around making websites and terrible little avatar logos. I got more serious about it during my last year of high school in 2001 when I found deviantART. If you want to get real old, do you know who deaddreamer is?

No.

He was one of the first big digital artists to realize that if you had Photoshop, you could do mad shit with it—it wasn’t just for tweaking photos. I found his website and was like, “Whoa!” There was a Photoshop plugin called Eye Candy and I was going nuts with that. But when I saw his site and realized you could make stuff without relying on filters, that was a revelation. And through his website, I found deviantART.

So I got really into deviantART because I was 18 and didn’t really have anything better to do. I was living in Australia and staying up till 1am making digital art. In Australia, your final year of school is when you have to work really hard. I was at an accelerated high school where all these kids were studying to be doctors, lawyers, and all that shit, but I lost a lot of my motivation to excel in academics—I just wanted to do art.

After high school, I went to university and studied creative writing and theatre because it was 2001 and there were no digital art classes. I took an advanced photography class and they barely had Photoshop—I did learn how to process film and work in the darkroom though, so it wasn’t all bad! I got a degree in creative writing, and it’s been very useful. (laughing) By the time I dragged my ass through university, I had a retail job, which I continued working for another year after school before I was able to do digital art full-time.

Meanwhile, I had started Depthcore in 2002 when I thought I was great at abstract digital art—I was utterly terrible at it, but the standard wasn’t very high.

Tina: So, you were doing a retail job and had started Depthcore, and were you also freelancing at the time, as in, were you getting paid to do work?

I was mostly just making art. Freelance jobs started coming in during my last year of university, and they were not good ones. They were not companies that said to me, “Justin, you’re the man. Come and do this campaign for us. We will take you and your dreams to a wonderful place!” (all laughing) They were companies producing vinyl cases for gaming computers and things like that. One offered to give me $1,500 for five designs, and that was enough for me to buy my first serious computer. I took all the money from that first job and bought a computer and monitor and stuff so I could be better at what I do.

Small jobs like that were coming in and I was writing a lot as well. I wrote for Computer Arts and because the Australian dollar was so weak back then, I actually got paid a reasonable amount of money to write tutorials. If I wrote one a month, it was enough to live on, so that’s what I did. I wrote articles and did really, really terrible freelance work.

Tina: Okay. And you started Depthcore because you thought it would be a cool thing to do?

Yeah.

Tina: Did you have any idea that it would become what it has?

No. In that first year when I started taking digital art seriously, there were art collectives that I wanted to be a part of. Depthcore came about because they all rejected me, so I thought, “Fuck you! I’m going to start my own. I don’t need you motherfuckers.” (all laughing) Back then, people were making some dark, gothic stuff, and I was doing more eye candy abstract stuff because that’s all I knew how to do. I started Depthcore and there was this huge response to it. In terms of audience reach, Depthcore was actually much bigger when we first started it. There were no aggregators like social media back then, so if you wanted content, you had to go where the content was. Depthcore was an aggregator of sorts in that it took really good artists and put their work into a chapter to digest on the go. Wow, how did I get there? I told you I ramble. (laughing)

Tina: You were saying how you started Depthcore and were doing retail work—

Depthcore was before retail—it was just after high school.

Tina: Got it.

In 2006, during my last year of university, I started getting freelance work. I was living on no money at the time, but I didn’t give a shit because I was happy to not have to work a real job. DC Shoes hit me up for some stuff, but none of it was high-profile. It wasn’t like I became this overnight sensation and things were awesome.

Tina: That’s the story we’re trying to tell. People have a fantasy—

Exactly. People think everyone is going to be Chuck Anderson and go from high school to ruling the world, working with huge brands, and raking it in. It’s not like that. Chuck made it like that because he had so much belief in himself and he pushed so hard. He deserves everything he got, but that’s not normally how it works. This isn’t the music industry where you break overnight. It’s a slog. I made less than $40,000 the first two years, but I was happy.

In 2008, I got a couple of big jobs out of nowhere. A mate of mine who runs a company in San Francisco hit me up to do a piece for a video game and it was in American dollars, which was worth double in Australia at the time. It was a big payday for me and I couldn’t believe it. I thought, “Wow! This is the real fucking thing.”

Then I had one night out with my friend Brian from DC Shoes in California. He had hired me to do concept work the year before, and he was in Melbourne and hit me up. I was out with my mates from my job because we used to go out on Thursday, let loose, eat schnitzel—it was fun. When Brian asked me to come out and have a drink, I thought, “You know what? I should go.” That was the best decision I’ve ever made, and it’s an example of how one stupid thing can change your life. I went and hung out with Brian, who is a lovely guy, and we had a few beers, talked about everything, and had a great night.

Later, Brian told me he had a friend he wanted me to meet: Marco, who was the Senior Vice President of McCann Erickson, and the Senior Creative Director on the Verizon account. Brian introduced us by email and we had a few exchanges. Marco said, “Listen, I’m going to try to sell some of your work on this pitch I’m doing. Can you do this and this for me?” I said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” and did a couple pieces for him. I had no idea who Verizon was; they’re not big in Australia. I got the job and it was the biggest project I’ve ever done to date. I did Verizon’s campaign for a whole year—all the Verizon trucks you see driving around still have my artwork on them.

Artists should know to do this: go out with people and just be a fucking human. I’ve had people come up to me and I can tell they’re just trying to network—there’s no interest in having a genuine conversation or starting a friendship. I’ve got no time for that. I like meeting people and making new friends; I’m happy to be your friend and do anything I can for you, but if I can tell you’re just trying to use me, then I don’t want to know about you. Networking is bullshit, and people need to learn the value of making a real connection and creating a real friendship with people.

Jewels
Jewels—experimental, portrait-based illustration; photography by Chris Knight

Tina: What year was that?

The Verizon campaign was 2008–2009.

Tina: That’s amazing. And it happened because you went out for drinks.

Yeah, all because I agreed to go out. I wouldn’t have had the intro to Marco if I hadn’t gone out with Brian that night—and all I did was go out and have a good time and be a person. Marco and I worked together on that campaign for a full year and that was the first time I made good money. A note to my 26-year-old-self: it’s not going to be like that every year, maybe save a little bit of it, mate.

That gave me enough money to come to America. In Australia, traveling is a really big thing. Everyone just goes and fucks off for a year, but I never did that because I was focused on being a digital artist. I thought you really had to work hard, and I was correct. You can’t just disappear for six months at the beginning of your career. Anyway, I came to New York for what was supposed to be six months, but I met my girlfriend, Ting, and now I’m still here.

Tina: Did you come here for work?

No, I was coming to travel and meet some of the people I had worked with in the years prior. I met a lot of them here in NYC, and then in LA and San Francisco. Then I met Ting and my plans to go back to Australia sort of went out the window.

I’ve been here for four years now and each year has been different. There was that first year that was ridiculously busy; the second year was a little down; and the third year was back up. That year I did concept illustrations for the Wachowskis’ new movie—I’ve done that twice now and it’s the coolest thing ever. I had gotten an email from someone named John Gaeta who was inquiring about work from a Gmail address. I thought, “Who is this schmuck inquiring about work from a Gmail address?” I work for Verizon! So I searched for “John Gaeta” on Google and that motherfucker has won Oscars; he invented “Bullet Time.” He’s a genius, and he has a Gmail address that he emails people from and I am an asshole. I’ve done the most fun, cool, rewarding shit for him, but nobody will ever see it because it’s concept work.

That’s great. Did you have an “aha” moment when you knew what you wanted to focus on?

I always knew that I wanted to do digital art, but it was ridiculous. It was like saying I wanted to be a professional pogoist. When I started, there was nothing: almost no blogs, no tutorials, barely any magazines. Saying you wanted to do that professionally was ludicrous. There was no career path.

I realized it was possible one week when I didn’t have time to go to my retail job because I had too much freelance work to do. Yet I kept my job because I’m sensible when it comes to money, and I wanted to be practical about it. Then the manager shifted me to Tuesdays without telling me—I had been working Thursdays for over a year. He called me and asked, “Where are you?” I told him I had a deadline and couldn’t come in. The next time I came in he told me it was my responsibility to check the schedule. I told him I’d been working the same shift for a year and that I was done—that was my last shift and it felt really good.

Another realization was when I quit writing tutorials. I was working with an editor who was being totally unreasonable and I thought, “Fuck this.” At that time, I had enough commercial work coming in that I felt I didn’t need to give my secrets away anymore. To this day, I have a pretty negative view of tutorials, and I get asked for them all the time. It drives me insane because I feel it’s a bit of an entitled attitude. It’s like if you have a guitarist from a band your admire, and you email him directly to ask him to teach you guitar personally. Isn’t it enough that he’s spending his life creating art for you to enjoy?

Ryan: I feel like there was a place for that back when the Internet was just starting to really boom and people were figuring out what could be done. But nowadays there’s less and less of that, and rightly so. Just experiment and do shit. There are still plenty of old things to learn from.

That’s right. All the fundamentals are out there. I’ve written so many tutorials that break down the core of my process. People ask me for really specific stuff on how to do every single aspect of my work and I’m not into it. The thing with digital art is that it is a skill set you learn and develop by yourself. If I show you the steps I go through to do my art, you could probably do it, but why would you even want to make art that looks like mine when you could be spending time working on your own style?

So, what kind of work are you doing now?

These days it’s mostly advertising, apparel, and music industry stuff. I actually got nominated for an ARIA Award for my Bliss n Eso album cover art, which is like the GRAMMYs in Australia, and my parents are pretty proud of that. I’m starting a couple of projects soon for shoe companies, which I’m really excited about, considering that I’m a reformed sneakerhead.

LeBron illustration
Apparel work for Nike / LeBron; 2012
Pyramids illustration
Pyramids—created for Depthcore Collective; 2012

Ryan: Awesome. Was creativity part of your childhood when you were younger? Were you drawn to the types of things you’re doing now?

Not at all. When I was a kid, I wrote a lot, and that’s what I thought I was going to do. The digital art thing blindsided me. I had been in plays and was writing constantly, which is why I went to college for it. I still love acting.

Tina: Have you done any acting here?

No. It’s such a time commitment. I was just okay as an actor, but I don’t think I had much versatility. The plays I did in school were some of the most fun I’ve had, though.

Music is also a huge part of my life; I’ve played drums since I was 13 and was in heaps of school bands. My passions have always been books, music, and sports—never art. I like art a lot, and I like making art, but it’s not what inspires me to make anything. I don’t understand how it is for some people—it’s what they do and it fuels what they do.

Tina: If you only draw inspiration from the thing you do for work, then there’s not enough diversity. You need to go out and experience life to be inspired.

Maybe that’s why some people suffer from artist’s block? I never do. I’m on day 252 of the Facets project and I’ve never run out of ideas, because life doesn’t stop.

Have you had any mentors along the way?

I’ve never had a mentor, but I’ve always wanted one. It would have been good and it might have prevented me from making a lot of the mistakes I’ve made.

I do have my dad, who is my sage. He was pretty disappointed that I went into art for a living because I was quite clever when I was younger and he wanted me to do law or business, not creative writing. In retrospect, it’s really good that this digital art thing worked out because I would have been fucked. Do you know what a degree in creative writing qualifies you to do? It qualifies you to work in a cafe. My dad was right to be concerned, but he underestimated my work ethic and how far I was willing to go to make this happen. When I was able to tell him the specifics of that Verizon job, he was really happy, not just from a financial perspective, but because he knew I’d made a life choice that could be sustainable for my future. He’s been very supportive ever since.

Tina: Do people reach out to you asking you to be a mentor to them, and because you have Depthcore, does that put you into a position to mentor others?

A little bit. Not as much anymore, but in the past, people from Depthcore have reached out about how to quote a job or handle a specific situation, and I’ve always been honest with them. They’re my friends and Depthcore is like a little family.

Have you taken a big risk to move forward?

Not really. I do things when I’ve made sure they’re a sure thing and are practical. I’m pretty risk-adverse.

Tina: That’s interesting to hear, because I don’t think that taking a big risk is always necessary. Sometimes it is, but it just depends on the person. Sometimes there is no big risk.

Like I said, I didn’t quit my day job until I knew I could support myself. I didn’t leave Australia until I knew that I could afford to travel and live well. I’m very practical when it comes to my career. I’ve put too much time into it to fuck around with it, and I also haven’t been presented with an opportunity to take a huge risk.

Ryan: It’s interesting that some people are very practical and calculated when they take risks, yet other people fly by the seat of their pants and it seems to work out—

Tina: Yeah, like Joshua Davis, who up and moved to New York with no money.

Josh is amazing. Can I tell you a story about him?

Yeah.

I should have shared this when you asked me about my path. One of the important things for me was finding Josh’s work. It was 1999, the second year I had Photoshop. I was messing around with it, and I wasn’t good at all, but I was curious. I was 16 years old, Googling stuff on the Internet, and I found hell.com. Do you know what that is?

No.

You should ask Josh about that shit. It was this underground website that was referred to as a parallel web. You went to the site and this weird sign with symbols came up. If you found the link and clicked it, a message popped up saying, “This is a parallel web—you are not welcome.” What you had to do was go in and view the source and there was a URL hidden in the code. If you clicked on it, then it took you to a listing of all these digital artists. One of them was maruto, which was Josh’s alias back then when he did the once upon a forest site. It was a beautiful Flash website with music and animation that changed with the seasons. I thought, “You can fucking do that with a computer?” That was the first time it lodged in my head that I could create all the bullshit I was thinking up, even though I didn’t act on it for years.

Years later, I met Josh. He is ridiculously cool and has stayed so relevant and ahead of the game for so long. If there was ever an artist I’d list as an inspiration, it would be Josh. Not that my work takes cues from his, but his creativity was something I saw that fired my imagination and has stayed with me.

Facets - Mufasa
Mufasa—personal work from the Facets project, which features a new piece daily; 2013

Are your family and friends supportive of what you do?

Yeah. Of course. My family is incredibly supportive, but they have less of an understanding of what I do than my friends because they have less of an understanding of the tools I use. My friends get it and understand a little about how hard it is to do, so they can appreciate it a little more, especially here in New York where most of my friends are illustrators and photographers. Out of all of my friends in Australia, I’m the only one doing a creative career; here, all my friends are doing something creative.

Ryan: Is it not as commonplace to do a creative career in Australia?

It’s just not what I grew up with, I guess. I mentioned my mates from high school, who were all clever kids. One of my best mates works in the government; another is in insurance; another friend works for the biggest bank in Australia; they’re all career guys, you know what I mean? We still have a lot in common, like music and sports, but the concept of being a professional creative never occurred to most of them. That was something I discovered very independently because I loved the Internet so much.

Tina: Yeah, we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing without the Internet. The friends we’ve met online that we’ve ended up connecting with in real life have been amazing. The Internet has allowed all of us to find each other.

Yeah. I was really stoked when you guys hit me up, by the way. I just sat back at my computer and appreciated the moment. (laughing) The interviews you’ve done look so great and you’ve featured so many people who I respect. You guys should get little class rings for everyone who’s been on the site.

Ryan: We should.

Tina: Yeah. That would be fun. So, do you feel a responsibility to contribute to something bigger than yourself?

Totally. I think the work that Brian Smith and I do with Depthcore is all about creating something bigger than ourselves. We’ve spent a large amount of energy and time on it—it takes so much energy to organize one artist; try 60 at a time. It’s like wrangling cats—I stole that line from Ting, so credit to her on that. But I feel like Depthcore has been the biggest thing I’ve done, and keeping it alive for 11 years isn’t bad, especially because 11 years on the Internet is like 100 years in real life. Sure, I’ve written tutorials and helped people learn the basics, but I think Depthcore has been what’s helped people realize what is possible over the years. What we were doing between 2002 and 2007 was show people what could be done with a computer, and it was ahead of the curve. I think there are definitely a few artists out there who might list Depthcore as one of the things that opened their eyes about what they could do with software and their imagination; it set a standard to aspire to. That’s a slightly grandiose thing to say, but we have so many incredible artists from many different countries, working across so many styles—we’ve reached a lot of people.

I had no idea it was going to become what it became, of course. When I started Depthcore, I was 18 years old, standing in my dad’s backyard, fuming over that rejection I’d gotten from an art collective. I was on the phone with the only other artist I knew in Australia, telling him, “We’ll start our own shit, man. We’ll call it Depthcore.” Don’t name shit when you’re 18 years old: if you’re 18, then you’re not allowed to name anything. Find an older person to help you, because you never know if you’re going to be saddled with that shit for 12 fucking years. Don’t name things! Depthcore: how could it be worse?

Ryan: I love it because you have been doing it so long and it reminds me of the early Internet days.

We are a relic from those days, right?

Ryan: But you’re still going, unlike most other things from that time.

Yeah. The familial aspect is what has sustained us as a community for so long. We’ve gotten lucky with the personality makeup of the artists we’ve attracted and accepted over the years.

Tina: It’s a community of people from all over the world coming together and supporting each other. That’s a lifeline for people.

Yes. A lot of these guys had never met another digital artist before Depthcore. Actually, one of my very proudest accomplishments was when two Depthcore members got married to each other. That’s some real shit. I created an avenue where people could make a connection like that.

Amazing! Are you creatively satisfied?

In terms of having an outlet to express creativity, yeah. Totally. If you ever want to be satisfied creatively, then put an expectation on yourself to make a complete piece of art every day, like I’ve been doing with the Facets project. Through that, I have an avenue to explore whatever stupid idea pops into my head. Today I was in the dog park, letting Frank run around, and instead of talking with the other dog owners like I usually do, I decided to listen to some Neil Young. I listened to “Heart of Gold” and “Old Man” on loop. “Heart of Gold” struck a chord with me, and I decided to make an actual gold heart for today’s piece; it’s halfway done and I have to go home tipsy and finish it tonight. My only rule with Facets is that it has to be done before I go to sleep. Having an expectation to deliver is a good way to focus your energy, and that time parameter makes for a very defined creative outlet.

A lot of the jobs I do these days allow me quite a bit of creative freedom, and what’s great is that this Facets project has lead to so much more work in a style that’s still new and fresh to me. The geometric style I’ve developed is pretty far removed from my previous stuff and is way more illustrative. Kids, if you want a good way to grow your profile as well as your abilities, show people something new every day; they tend to respond well to that! Doing this project has won me a new audience and has been professionally rewarding as well, but as with everything I’ve done with my career, I did it for myself first and the commercial aspect followed. When people hit you up to do work, it’s usually months or years after when you first did it for yourself. For some reason this Facets stuff has caught on faster than anything else.

There’s some good advice in there. What else would you say to a young person starting out?

The most important thing to do, especially in the beginning, is just to make work for yourself—work that pleases you and has no bigger agenda than to make you happy. I think that too many people start out trying to make work that will appeal on a commercial level. There’s certainly a point where it’s important to show the application your skill can have in a commercial environment—there’s nothing wrong with that. But in the beginning, when you’re building your skill set and developing your personal voice as an artist, you have to do it for yourself, for your own pleasure.

The other thing is that I think people have an exaggerated expectation of the timeline that their creative career will unfold in. This doesn’t happen in six weeks or six months; like any other career, it takes years. You work a shitty job, do artwork on the side, and get better on your own time while you experiment. I feel like that approach is somewhat lost.

Also, doing tutorial after tutorial and devouring every blog under the sun is not a surefire way to accelerate your development—it’s a good way to make your work look like everyone else’s and end up with a generic blend of shit with nothing to delineate you from the next guy. Why take these cues from someone else? Don’t let someone else define your visual lexicon or your artistic approach. Find new places, create new approaches! Whoa, I didn’t mean to go there that quickly.

Ryan: That’s some of the best, and certainly most direct, advice we’ve heard.

I think some people would say just to carry around a notebook wherever you go and find what inspires you—fuck that! I hate the whole concept of inspiration. Read no blogs, do no tutorials, buy no magazines. Stop looking for inspiration and just be you—everything else will come from that.

Reso album cover
Cover artwork for Reso’s 2012 album, Tangram

“I do love New York, but it has little bearing on what I do as a freelancer on a daily basis. Very little of it is location-dependent…The mindset that you need to be somewhere to do something is a self-imposed limitation. You can do anything, from anywhere.”

That’s really good advice. So, you said you’re in Brooklyn. How does living there impact you creatively?

Where I live has no impact on what I do. The life I lead impacts what I do. I live a great life in Brooklyn and have wonderful friends, which I wouldn’t trade for anything, but I was doing this in Melbourne, too. I like Brooklyn well enough, but I don’t go to art openings—that’s not what feeds my art. I have the most fun sitting at home with my girlfriend, our dog, and my mates, having a beer, watching sports, and talking shit. That’s what I love, and I can do that anywhere in the world.

I do love New York, but it has little bearing on what I do as a freelancer on a daily basis. Very little of it is location-dependent, so I don’t agree with the idea that you need move to a place to have a creative career. I think a lot of people will say that New York is a creative city and everyone is an artist and it’s so motivating, but the mindset that you need to be somewhere to do something is a self-imposed limitation.

Ryan: We totally agree with that, but the second part of that question is about community. We like New York, but for us, it’s the people here that make it so great. I’m curious if being part of a creative community is important to you and if that’s something you’ve found here?

I’ve always had creative people around me because of Depthcore, which has connected all of us across vast physical boundaries. Being able to interact with like-minded people is definitely important. It’s great to have people to bounce ideas off of and also to work through difficult career stuff with. That’s what we’ve done together, and we’ve grown from being students to moderately talented hobbyists to pretty good hobbyists to professionals to sought after professionals. We’ve supported each other through that evolution, and I don’t know what we would have done without each other, but I don’t think you necessarily have to have physical proximity to be a part of that kind of community.

Maybe I take it for granted, though, because I’ve always had that network of support online, no matter where I was and it’s all I’ve ever known. If you need to have that in person, then I guess that New York is the place to do that. Although nearly all of my friends in New York are creative and that’s what brought us together initially, we’ve stayed friends because we have similarities as people, not as professionals.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I wake up, walk Frank, come home, and do administrative stuff in the early morning: invoices, emailing, and catching up on reading. I also check out sports box scores and recaps. If it’s a workout day, I’ll work out. Then I get myself lunch. I go back to work and start my Facet piece for the day and then move on to client work for the rest of the day until 7pm. Then I walk Frank again and whenever Ting gets home, my workday is done—it’s time to hang out, cook dinner, and see friends or just watch Bob’s Burgers together on the couch.

What music are you listening to right now?

Lots of old and new stuff. Lorde and Neil Young lately. I’ve also been listening to Metallica, SBTRKT, Washed Out, FKA Twigs, and Kendrick Lamar. I listen to a lot of instrumental stuff as well, like Teen Daze and Tycho.

Ryan: We’d be good music buddies. What are your favorite TV shows and movies?

I watch TV while I work to keep me company, so I’ve literally seen everything. Sopranos is an easy choice. I also like Bored to Death, Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Louie, Breaking Bad , and The Wire.

Movies are tough. In Australia, I have 500 DVDs that I collected—remember that retail job I talked about? I spent a lot of that money on DVDs. There’s the obvious stuff like The Matrix, Pulp Fiction, The Big Lebowski. One of my favorites is Meet Joe Black, which is this beautiful, slow, dark, comedic take on death. Also, my favorite Disney movie is The Emperor’s New Groove, which was a defining moment for the immortal David Spade. I’ll roll with those five. Oh, and Anchorman!

Do you have a favorite book?

That’s even tougher than the last question. I love to read. I can’t name a favorite, but I can name a few: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami, Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, and Candy by Luke Davies. The Song of Ice and Fire books were great. Right now, I’m reading the Silo Saga by Hugh Howey.

Tina: Do you have a favorite book from childhood?

I read a lot of Enid Blyton, who was one of the great English children’s book authors. She has a lot of series that I loved, like The Secret Seven and The Adventurous Four books. I also loved Murray Ball’s Footrot Flats comics when I was a kid.

Your favorite food?

This is going to be really boring, but I really like sandwiches—bacon and egg sandwiches with cheese, avocado, tomato. I have simple tastes.

Do you want to know what I’m best at cooking, though?

Yes!

Chicken breast. I do a few different marinades and then grill it up on my barbecue. I’ve got my timing down, and it comes out really nice and tender.

When can we come over?

Anytime. Come over and I’ll make you some chicken. I’ve got the recipe down.

Alright. There’s one last question. What kind of legacy do you want to leave?

I think that’s a reductive concept to bear in mind as someone who is currently in the middle of his career. What I’m doing is taking shape as I go, and I don’t actively think about what it will amount to when I’m done. Ultimately, I want to spend my days making work that pleases me and is fun to create. I suppose that the sum total of that, whatever it is, will be my legacy, but I’m not actively worrying about what that will look like.

Tina: Have you thought about the legacy you might want to leave personally?

No. I try to be a good person and take care of the people around me. I’m not trying to be the greatest or the biggest or the shiniest; I’m just trying to be a decent bloke.interview close

Justin and his dog, Frank
Justin and his Shiba Inu, Frank, walking around Williamsburg, Brooklyn; photo by Ryan Essmaker