With a love for “punk rock, iconography, teeth, branding, illustration, design, and all-around jackassery,” Justin Kamerer set out to become exactly what he was meant to be: an artist. Today, he operates under the pseudonym Angryblue, creating everything from album art to merchandise for clients ranging from Facebook to Paul McCartney. Today, he brings his gritty, surreal aesthetic to a new venture: Threadless Artist Shops. Learn more about Justin below, and check out his Artist Shop here!
Hey, Justin! Welcome to Artist Shops. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I live in Louisville Ky in a house full of cats, skulls, teeth, and art prints with my wife (MissHappyPink) who is also a printmaker & designer.
How did you originally get into art, and how did you manage to transform this passion into a career?
I’ve always drawn. I suppose that’s part of being an introverted person with a love for comics and music. My dad was an engineer and there was always photography, drafting, and screenprinting stuff around when I was younger. I remember when Photoshop broke ground by adding the ability to have layers, and I experimented with web design and Pagemaker in high school. I learned about the art world as a business through design. I then retaught myself how to draw after a stretch of not doing it for years, and then started talking to bands that would come through town.
Through that, I began working in merchandising for several years, and fell in love with printmaking. I started a printmaking company with my partner in art crime (Jeral Tidwell) and used all the stuff I learned about merchandising to make my own products and trying to treat myself as my most important client.
Becoming a professional artist isn’t easy. What kept you motivated?
Once I quit my job as a web designer, I didn’t give myself a plan B. Making my livelihood depend on becoming an artist was the smartest thing I could do. Ultimately, if something catastrophic were to happen, I know I could get a real person job, but for now I live the life of a simple down-to-earth art goblin.
Having peers and friends that keep you motivated, humble, and act as good sounding boards are all important.
It sounds like you produce a wide range of art for a wide range of clients. What steps did you take to develop such an extensive and compelling portfolio?
I just took on anything. The designer side of me loves problem-solving. Making something successful for a client is a rewarding challenge for me whether that client is Tina Turner, Ubisoft, Slipknot, Facebook or Microsoft. Doing my detailed illustrations is indulgent and like eating cake, but sometimes I need to face a challenge that my own business of Angryblue wouldn’t happen to bump into.
I’m about to go back into my portfolio and rework it to feature the work I want to attract, along with some of my favorite things, instead of it being a giant bucket that includes everything. I’m a little more selective now about which clients I’d like to engage with and where I’m interested in budgeting my time.
What words would you use to describe your aesthetic?
Esoteric, surreal, iconic, gritty. I aim for elegant, but don’t know if I always get there.
Bands seem to be a large part of your client base. What’s your personal relationship with music?
I grew up being fascinated by album art. Buying a record, CD, or tape, listening to and absorbing it while pouring through the album’s design or layout became a fundamental part of me appreciating artwork. Finding punk rock and discovering the stories and meanings behind songs as well as the personal beliefs summed up in visuals interested me. I wanted to know more. Seeing the creative people would design when releasing independant 7″ records while staying within their financial restrictions yielded really interesting results. Being able to contribute to that mystique is a huge treat for me.
Regardless of whether you’re designing for a musical client or not, how does music influence your artwork in general?
I’ve always made music. Seeing the creativity people find in food, sound, film, writing, etc. is all an awesome journey. Watching someone reach the point in their career where they go, “Alright, I know how to do this. How do I break what comes naturally to me and find another journey to progress?” is awesome.
Seeing that parallel makes me try to remember to have adventures on different paths.
You name “punk rock, iconography, and teeth” as three things you love. In what ways do you work these three things into a single piece? Also, what’s up with the teeth?
I love the whole DIY aesthetic. Problem-solving and figuring out how to create something with the resources at hand is important for any creative, and it’s an undercurrent of everything I do. Iconography is how most of my pieces end up. I did merchandising/t-shirt design for about ten years where everything needed to look solid as a standalone graphic. Throw in some gritty photocopy textures and a few teeth or tacos and you’re golden.
Really, the teeth thing: They just creep me out. So, I love them. We all have a decent amount of them, but for some reason, focusing on them seems weird, doesn’t it? Stop looking at me like that… what are those pliers for?!
Several of the pieces you chose for your Threadless Artist Shop feature animals and elements of nature. Do you often look to the outdoors for inspiration?
Since all of the artwork I make starts in the danky, dark depths of my basement that is lit only by one single slowly fizzling birthday candle, I long for the outdoors and sweet, sweet burning sunshine.
I love the elegance in nature. The natural engineering and purpose in nature born out of evolution is worth taking note. Then I mess it up by going, “Eh… I think this needs a third eye.”
Who is one artist that has made a memorable and lasting impact on your work?
Oh man. I could give a really long list. James Jean and Vania would be on there, but to make myself sound more interesting, I’ll point to the beautiful work of Wieslaw Walkuski.
What exciting ventures are ahead for you?
I don’t know yet. We’ll see what happens when I get there.
In the more immediate future: I need to schedule a return to Facebook HQ for another installation. I’m about to set up at a local music festival called Forecastle where I’m contributing art, and I’ll be at CincyComiCon in a few months. I’ve also got a queue of art prints and posters to make happen at the print shop. So… onto mixing up some inks and ruining some fresh clean paper!