Artist profile: Justin Vining 

click to enlarge Justin Vining, "La Crau" (detail)
  • Justin Vining, "La Crau" (detail)

I walked into Justin Vining's Broad Ripple studio a few weeks back to find the artist, watercolors and markers in hand, at work on a painting he calls “La Crau,” which is based on a Van Gogh painting of a peach orchard. The painting's swirling lines and bold colors echo Van Gogh; the reflection of a cityscape in a reflecting pool seems drawn from Vining's own biography.

Vining grew up on a family farm in northern Indiana. In 1999, when Vining was a senior in high school, his family sold the farm and auctioned off all equipment. “I can vividly remember that day,” Vining said. “Your barns being emptied and everything you have come to know disappearing in a day is not something easily forgotten.”

After earning his undergrad at Purdue, he headed to law school at Valparaiso University. “Before law schooI, I had no desire to be a professional artist,” he said. But once enrolled, Vining found himself surrounded by people who knew all about online targeted advertising and social media. They helped him realize that the Internet could enable him to make a living as an independent, working artist.

A U.S. wall map in Vining’s studio documents his success in using Facebook and Twitter to spread the word about his art. Each of the hundreds of pins — including one on Anchorage, Alaska — on the map points to a sale. Vining also works in graphic design — and just occasionally, makes use of his law degree to draw up contracts and other documents for friends and relatives.

click to enlarge Vining in his Broad Ripple studio. - DAN GROSSMAN

But the primary focus of this Oranje-exhibiting artist remains on creating, and selling his art. “I love participating in Oranje because of the diversity represented among the artists and musicians, as it greater than any other show I have done,” he said. “Because of this, it attracts a very diverse crowd and thus, I have the opportunity to get my artwork in front of a lot of people who otherwise would not have been exposed to my work.”

Those crowds will see another piece at the show — “Don't Park on The Curb” — that, like “La Crau,” refers to both his rural upbringing and present urban existence. It starts with a cloudscape with the shape of a hilly landscape. On one cloud you see a city skyline; on another, a single wooden farmhouse. And you might imagine Vining floating somewhere between the two.

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Dan Grossman

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