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Interview with an Artist: Justin Bua

Today I have a special artist to introduce to you.  His name is Justin Bua.  I was able to get an exclusive interview with him, so keep reading to learn more about his art.. in his own words!

From his website, “Justin BUA is an award winning urban artist. His DJ poster has sold more than any other print of our era. His celebratory paintings of hip hop imagery document turntable, b-boy, MC and graffiti culture. BUA is one of the most recognized urban artists of all time as he has sold million of prints across the globe. Today he travels the world doing art shows and demonstrations and is a member of the prestigious United States Stamp Committee.”

The DJ, by Justin Bua

Many of his artworks show hip hop artists, but this is one of his latest paintings.

Tom Petty, by Justin Bua

1.  I noticed some of your figures have exaggerated features– elongated limbs, large hands, etc.  Can you tell me about this?

I’ve always seen the world through an exaggerated perspective.  Growing up in NYC during the 80’s was pretty distorted.  As a kid I always looked up to the ginormous sky scrapers and wild architecture. The kids in my neighborhood were also out there as we used to subway surf, roof hop and do other out of this world urban games. It was a wild and dynamic time.

Radio Days, by Justin Bua

How do you decide what to exaggerate and why do you do so?

I exaggerate the background as the background was always a larger than life monolith and a character unto itself.  In terms of the figure I like to make sure that I find distorted elements whether its the hands, feet or facial features and blow them up or tweek it out of the perspective line.

2.  You have painted a lot of portraits of famous people.  Do they ask you to paint their portrait?  Or do you choose people that you like for one reason or another?

I often get commissioned by famous people but I like to paint people that inspire me from a visual perspective.  interesting faces, features, etc.  I’m a bit hesitant to do everyone’s portrait because like the great American painter John Singer Sargent once said, “Every time I paint a portrait I lost a friend”. Rarely is anyone a good sport when they are getting their portrait done.

King of Pop, by Justin Bua

3.  You have gone in many directions in your career.. from paintings to animations to a shoe and apparel line and even making your own organic chocolate bar!   What is your favorite accomplishment and what was the most fun to work on?

At the end of the day I want to be known as a great painter. I have an entrepreneurial spirit and I get bored easily but I am truly only decent at one thing… And that’s painting.

4.  If this is not too personal… It appears you have found many ways to make a living as an artist.. commissions, selling prints online, workshops, licensing (clothing/shoes) and books.  What is the main way you support yourself as an artist.. what is the “bread and butter” of your business?  What advice do you have for someone who wants to become a professional artist?

No matter what I do at the end of the year when I add up all of my monies it is usually always 70% from commissions and original art sales.  Making books, doing workshops is fun and inspiring but it’s not a business. I do those things because I want to feel alive and I want to give back.

In terms of becoming a professional artist, give it a shot. But don’t turn down illustrations and work. Remember Michelangelo made his money from commissions for other people as did Rubens, Rembrandt, Rockwell and all the greats. Do what you love and paint what you want but be flexible.

B-Girl, by Justin Bua

5.  How would you encourage young kids to develop their own personal style?

Life experience.  There is no substitute for hard work, dedication and living life.  Like Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.”

Beastie Boys, by Justin Bua

Thanks so much, Justin, for taking the time to answer my questions!

You can reach Justin Bua at the following places:


instagram @justinbua

Michael Jordan, by Justin Bua

What do you think of Justin Bua’s artwork?

How could you use his artwork in your classroom?  Share some ideas in the comments!

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About Marcia Beckett

Marcia is an elementary art teacher and loves painting, drawing, sculpture, art journaling and clay. Her blog, Art is Basic, features many exciting art projects for kids.

One Response to Interview with an Artist: Justin Bua

  1. Urooj says:

    Omg! Thank U for this. Not only do I love his work but I am on the verge of becoming an Art Teacher. I kept thinking how I can bring him into our world and walah I find this. Thank you so much for doing this.