Category: In The Artist's Studio

Q & A with Justin Wheatley

At the intersection of nature and architecture, the paintings of Utah-based artist Justin Wheatley exude tranquility. Working as both an artist and a teacher, his inspiration comes from many sources. 


Tell us about your background. When did you start creating art?

I’ve always been an artist. My earliest memory of creating art was in the back of my second grade classroom with a friend. We worked hard to get the approval of our teacher and she would let us go back there and draw whatever we wanted. I think this was the beginning of my appreciation for art and for teachers. In junior high, I decided I wanted to do both of those things for the rest of my life. Now I create and teach art and I love it.



Can you describe your creative process for us?

One of the most important classes I took in college was basic photography. The class focused on composition and value. I remember looking at a photo that a classmate developed and being shocked at the placement of the focal point at the extreme top of the image. I loved it. Photography continues to be an integral part of my work. I take thousands of photos every year and spend a good amount of time combing through them, looking for interesting compositions that can be cropped from each picture.

When I am ready to start painting, I will scroll through the cropped images and select what I want to paint. The image is mostly used for the structure of the painting’s composition. Once it is sketched on the panel or canvas, I’ll begin filling in areas with colors that I feel work well together. Though structured, the paintings are fairly intuitive as to how the colors fill in the space.


Barn at Palmer’s Farm, Acrylic on Canvas, 48 x 36 inches


What does a typical day in the studio look like for you?

During the summer, when I can paint full time, I’m in the studio by 9:00 am and there until 4:00 or 5:00 pm. I’ll take a break to eat lunch with my family and then head back to work. I try to keep planning away from the studio so I can focus on painting while I’m there. I’m usually working on at least three paintings at once, rotating them from the studio to the outside patio so they can dry quicker. At the end of the day, I clean up and refill my sour cream container with fresh water for cleaning brushes so it’s ready, and I can get right to work the next morning.



What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re not painting?

I love spending time with my wife and four girls. We are outside as much as we can be. That might just be in the yard or up a canyon. As I consider my day outside the studio, I went for a run, placed flags for flag day in the yards of our neighbors with my oldest daughter, had a critique with an artist friend, played pickle ball, catch, and Boggle with the girls, volunteered with a church youth group, watered the garden, and had a nice chat with my wife about everything. It was a good day.



What do you hope viewers see in your work?

I hope they see something that evokes an emotion that wasn’t there prior to initial viewing. I hope they see a composition that they are not used to. I hope they are intrigued by the use of color. As an artist, it is a privilege to have people take the time to consider my work. They may walk away intrigued or bewildered. Those are both responses that I accept and appreciate.


Getting Closer, Acrylic on Canvas, 26 x 48 inches


Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

I teach high school art at an alternative high school, where students are behind in credit for many reasons. I often get asked when I am going to quit and focus just on creating art. The truth is, I love teaching and it brings balance to my studio practice. My students inspire me, and I hope to inspire them.