When I stepped inside Long Beach’s Dark Art Emporium, I found myself in a very small, yet beautiful establishment. It was clear that the people that ran the place were very enthusiastic about morbidity and creativity. I loved every inch of it. “Do you have any Justell Vonk?” I asked.
The man working there pointed me to five pieces with the ultra-recognizable style that I had made the trek for.
“She sent another as well, but I bought it for myself” he said sheepishly. “I had been following Justell for a while, and never would have guessed she’d agree to send some of her pieces here from overseas”. The two of us went back and forth, standing inside the heavily decorated gallery, discussing the bright-spirited and talented Russian artist with great enthusiasm.
Justell is a beautiful young woman, with the sort of softness to her looks and gentleness to her speech that would seems to suggest that she could have gone over well faking it through any life path. If you saw her on the street, you might not guess that she’s one of the most prominent dark artists of modern day. Her hands create images that exude a certain complexity in addition to their restriction of light, which have caused her family members to half-jokingly say that her hand is under Satan’s jurisdiction.
Justell, your art is so incredibly unique and intricate that I have to know where you get your conceptual inspiration. Do you dream of these images? or do you just let them unfold through your process?
Oh, thank you so much, Sarah!
The basic concepts come mostly from my dreams, but when I begin to work, the paper shows me all the details and the whole story.
Are you frightened in your dreams or is sleeping more of an passive and interesting experience for you?
It depends. Sometimes I wake up frightened, but that does not happen often. Mostly I’m intrigued by what I see. Although, in the morning I might feel somewhat disturbed after such visions.
Would you mind sharing a picture with us and explaining what happened in the dream that inspired the piece? Maybe telling us the story behind it?
My work process is not always the same. Sometimes the image of a future drawing begins its life in my dream, sometimes it’s just a vision I get a second before falling asleep and sometimes it can be a single word or a word combination I read or hear somewhere, that causes an image to appear in my head even being awake.
My last work titled “The New Reality” was born in my dreams, and it’s one of those works of mine where I’m transmitting a feeling rather than a story from the world of subconscious onto the paper.
I really enjoy that sensation in my dreams of not being able to separate myself from the environment I find myself in. I felt all the objects and even the air in this story: I was the darkness, as well as the hand and both creatures. As you can see there is not much action in this work. It’s much more about the atmosphere and my thoughts and the feelings.
When I begin to draw, I have only a pretty vague idea of what the final piece will look like. Creating art is pretty much about your intuition and listening to yourself, and letting the flow of the surrealistic visions find their place on paper. With this work I knew only the larger forms first. I knew there was a person with some intricate thoughts, there was a new beginning, as well as something unexpected and sensual. And all that was connected within one story. When I made the first outlines, I could hardly control the drawing anymore. I just let my hand to do the rest. I must confess I was pretty surprised to see the outcome.
Sometimes my drawings almost make me mad when they demand something like covering a huge field of paper with stippling or tiny lines, but at that point, your artwork is already full force and dictating something that there is no way you can protest.
The piece is beautiful! At first glance it seemed like two creatures, but now I’m not so sure if it was intended to be. Maybe a manifestation of a feeling of idea that was inside the figure that’s seated on the ground?
Thank you! Well, actually, there are three figures: the one with tentacles on its head, the one coming out from inside of it, and the one underneath the hand. It’s the feeling of being lost inside own feelings and desires, and not being able to separate the “real world” from the world you’ve created inside your head. Your world seems to be more real.
I think that’s a really important theme considering that all we have to observe reality are our senses, experiences, and what we assume everyone else can see too.
It’s also a bit about OCPD (obsessive–compulsive personality disorder), I guess.
Does your OCPD play a role in the creation of your art? There’s definitely a concentrated amount of detail in your work.
I guess it does. Recently, my older relatives told me in full seriousness that my drawings have so many details, and as that it’s not my nature, it must be Satan who rules my hand. (chuckles) I really liked that explanation. If I’m honest, sometimes I doubt my sanity while creating these pieces. I think some artists can relate to that, too.
Is your family disturbed by your artwork?
Well, I guess they are, but as I don’t communicate with them a lot in my real life, they tend to talk very little about my creations. I think they’re pretty scared of what I’m doing, and they don’t know how to react properly. They always try to cheer me up, though.
That’s very sweet that they’re unsure how to handle your endeavors, but they make an effort to connect with you. Have you always been drawn to darker culture and aesthetics?
I think I have. I remember as a kid I was really attracted to dark creatures described in the books. I would spend many hours re-reading the description of the witches’ sabbath from “Elementary Treaty Of Practical Magic” by Papus, which was a book from our family library. I don’t have any explanation of why I’ve been curious about such things. But I guess there is a certain connection between darkness and surrealism – I love mystery and dreams. That all makes me feel as if I’m almost always living in my own world. If I’m honest, I only rarely feel fully awake in this reality.
To follow or inquire about Justell’s gorgeous creations, follow her on some of the following platforms:
Facebook: Justell Vonk Art