Interview: Josh Universe

My name is Josh Universe and I’m representing Josh Universe Art Gallery.

What makes your artwork unique from other artists that you see?

My work is unique because it comes from me and my thought process. Everybody thinks differently, everybody’s thought process is different because we experience every day differently. So my work comes from how I experience the world through my eyes, and that’s what makes it unique from other artists, just as what makes theirs unique from mine.

What is success for you?

That is a tricky question. Early on my career course, success was how much my work could sell for, who might know it, the notoriety. But as I’ve matured and grown more and talked to more people, in my eyes, especially being here, success is the interactions you have with people, the reactions you have from people who vouch work, and the questions that arise from your work, making people stop mid stride and look at your work, in my opinion, small things like that are success for me.

You're in a unique position here or you placed yourself in a unique position, you're not only an artist but you're also the gallery owner representing yourself as the artist.


How does that translate with your work and how you connect with people?

Honestly, it’s better than I was expecting. I started out just an artist and I didn’t really think about it in a business standpoint. But ever since starting the gallery and things of that nature, you know, it opened up more opportunities such as being in this show, and I get to be here as the artist and as the representative so I can face-to-face talk with people and explain work. In my opinion, even going to different galleries and museums, meeting the artists is something you never do, it is something you never do. And so for people to come see the gallery and then say, “Oh, you’re the Josh Universe,” it’s like, yes, and they start asking questions and we get to talk on a more down to earth level. It’s amazing. It’s been great.

What were the challenges that you faced in your career?

The biggest challenges I faced early on in my career, because I’m originally from the south Mobile, Alabama, so the very bottom of the south. Down there, the mindset is totally different. Art and things, creative fields in general aren’t seen as important. So the biggest challenge, honestly, was getting my face and my name out there and finding the courage to even though I come from a place where a lot of people might think is dumb or not see what I see, keeping the faith and keeping the discipline and the ambition to keep going, keep going for what I know I want. That was the biggest challenge I feel like I faced as an artist and doing what I love.

What is the inspiration of your work and how does that inspiration translate to your canvas?

The inspiration from my work comes from my own day-to-day and life situations and things I’ve felt and experienced. I get most of my inspiration from things I’ve read or like I say, experiences I’ve gone through and how they’ve made me feel and how I want to translate that onto something tangible and a visual to give people an understanding of what I was feeling. And so I usually take those things in and I’ll take the—I love portraiture and I consider myself a surreal and portrait artist.

My mediums and my models for my portraits usually come from either people I know personally because I know them on a deeper level, and I know that what I’m feeling collides with the type of person that they are. Or I’ll use someone such as Rihanna, big figurehead in the urban community and in the world, because I feel like what she stands for collides with what I’m feeling at the moment. Honestly, that’s the base of where I pull my inspiration from.

Let's talk about scale. Do you like large pieces in general, do you like smart pieces? How do you pick the size on your canvas?

In my opinion, I’ve always said medium, I never saw them as big. But from everyone that always sees them, like these are pretty so I get it now they are larger pieces, but I’ve always flocked to larger pieces all along. I’ve been inspired by people like Murakami, who paint in large scale pieces throughout their entire career. And for me, I’ve always flocked to bigger canvases because in a joking manner, I tell people I have a lot to say. But I feel like if you’re drawn to it, you go to it, and I’ve always been drawn to larger scale pieces.

Why be an artist? Why today? Why not a doctor? Or NBA player?

That is a great question. That’s actually a question I asked myself a lot, especially because dealing with things like art career, entrepreneurship. You have many doubts, you have many thoughts of why do I even do this, why is this the career path I chose? There’s instant instability. Why not choose something more stable? I don’t believe there’s honestly one good answer for that. From the moment I was able to pick up a pencil, I was drawing and it’s always just been something that I did. So as far as making this a career, it felt like this is where I’m supposed to be.

So as far as making this a career, it just felt like something that was right. It felt like something that was always what my life’s purpose was. And every time I do a new piece or I’m in the process of making a piece, I feel fulfillment. And that fulfillment, I feel like not many people have today, because they are unfortunately doing or living a life that they did not want to live. So that is why I’m an artist, I feel the fulfillment and I feel like it’s right.

Where do you want to take your work as an artist? What's the future? What's Josh five years from now?

Josh five years from now, more mature, more seasoned, more understanding, and more known. Like I said, when I first started I was just an artist. But as time goes on and I get more mature, I see myself entering a more business aspect art. And where I say I had trouble breaking out or getting into a better position for myself, I want to help younger artists who experience the same thing get into these positions, get these different shows that they’re looking for, because I feel like that is something, I know that that is something that many struggle with. And if I can help where I didn’t get the help at the time, then I’m doing exactly what I need to be doing.