Justin Teisl : Artist You Should Know
The “Artist You Should Know” series highlights local artists before they exhibit their work somewhere awesome, it’s our way of supporting the creative community and helping to keep San Francisco a strange and wonderful place. Meet artist Justin Teisl, and see his work at the SFWA Gallery April 4th – May 6th.
Name: Justin Teisl
Medium(s): Epoxy resin, acrylic, oil, ink, paper, etc. All of my work starts with an abstract background, made with paint and lots of resin, that includes flowing streaks of paint that often recall the cosmos or an atmospheric fog. That background is covered with thick clear resin, and then on the very top I use either paint or ink to create the image layer- trees and sky.
What was your first job in San Francisco? I started working as a barista for Four Barrel Coffee right after I moved here in 2008. I still work there actually, part time as a barista, and also as the curator of the art shows we host at our cafes. It has been a great company to work for, and I’m so happy that they’ve given me the chance to bring my passion for art into my employment.
I’m a sophisticated graduate with a BFA or FUCK art school! A little from column A, a little from column B… I do have a BFA, and I’m really glad that I do. I decided long ago that grad school wasn’t for me, and although I now could see myself going for it, I probably will stay the course that I’m on, which involves tons of time making art, and plenty of time engaging with the local art scene.
What still inspires you about San Francisco? A quick look at my body of artwork should tell you that our natural surroundings are hugely important to me. Golden Gate Park is as beautiful as it ever was. The skies here are an endless source of inspiration, especially at sunset (and the rare sunrise that I witness). Even though I don’t paint people, the people of SF are a source of inspiration for me as well. I think a lot about how people interact with nature and how people think about nature.
Let’s talk politics, are you a liberal or a super duper liberal? Oh I’d have to admit I’m pretty duper liberal. Not only do I crave equal rights/respect/freedom/pay for all types of people, I want to see more respect for our animal neighbors as well. There’s no good reason not to spread our compassion and empathy to non-human animals. They experience pain and suffering no less than we do, and we need to stop torturing and killing them needlessly. There is plenty other delicious food to eat!
What was your last great night out in San Francisco? This last Saturday I attended ArtSpan’s annual Benefit Auction. ArtSpan is a great San Francisco arts organization, and this was their biggest fundraising event of the year. Along with some 120 other local artists, I donated a piece that they auctioned off to help them run their year round programs that connect artists with buyers and the rest of the community. And importantly, ArtSpan throws a great party! It was an awesome night away from the studio, talking with other artists and art supporters.
How has the city changed? Let me count the ways! I’ll just discuss a bit about the art world. Obviously a lot of artists have been priced out of San Francisco, and even the Bay Area. I’ve seen a lot of artists move away, but fortunately I’ve witnessed the hard fact that a lot of artists are able to stick around. The ones that do stay are resilient, determined, and therefore better suited to success. The art scene is actually looking really good.
What are you trying to communicate through your art lately? I’m always dealing with at least two main issues: an artist’s relationship with landscape painting, and humankind’s relationship with nature. Lately, unfortunately, it seems like we need to even more urgently remind each other of the importance of respecting and preserving the environment. In my paintings I often do things the hard way, not the quick or easy way. Instead of painting the leaves and branches of a tree directly, I’ll paint each little shape that’s between the branches instead, which eventually reveals the tree that I’m painting. It’s a lot harder and more time consuming to work this way, but the result is better. I’d like to see our society move away from seeking quick results and towards thoughtful, responsible long term policies.
What does it take to make it as an artist in SF these days? First and foremost, dedication and passion. Usually, a day or night job. Patience, and an understanding of the art world. I don’t think anyone is making it by accident or getting lucky. I think successful artists are the ones who work really hard, believe in themselves and constantly challenge themselves. The art scene is very competitive, and San Francisco has a greater density of artists than any or almost any other US city. Artists willing to push hard, make mistakes, and maybe most importantly learn from mistakes, are the ones likely to ‘make it’.
Any SF artists you think are outstanding right now? I’ve become a huge fan of David Choong Lee. His recent paintings have pushed in many interesting directions: abstraction, fantasy/sci-fi, figures, surrealism… I find that he pushes just enough in any given direction, and leaves me both engaged and intriguingly confused. He uses his very broad color palette wisely as well. I’ve always really admired Paul Madonna for his really intelligent drawing skills. He draws from life, he draws places he visits and represents them as they are and as he sees them, and he draws and understands light in a really beautiful way. With his continued commentary on his and our surroundings, as many are familiar with through his ‘All Over Coffee’ series, he has become a definitive voice of the changing San Francisco.
Favorite Gallery right now? I’ve had the pleasure to show some work at Jules Maeght Gallery in Hayes Valley, and they have impressed me with their shows and their sense of perspective in San Francisco and in the art world. The gallery is a family extension of The Maeght Foundation and Maeght Gallery in France, and brings an established history of art curation to San Francisco. They are committed to showcasing both emerging artists as well as internationally famous art icons, often side by side. I think this is an intelligent and successful game plan that suits San Francisco very well.
What’s coming up for you?
One of my most recent paintings, which I also consider one of my most successful, will be on display in a group show called ‘Natural Wonders’ at The San Francisco Women Artists Gallery. The painting of mine is called ‘Grounded, Golden’ and is the first in a series of negative space paintings on resin with a view of the sky and trees seen from a ‘looking up’ perspective in Golden Gate Park. The show runs April 4th through May 6th, with an opening reception the evening of the 6th.