It's All in the Details with Justin Maas

Updated: Aug 26



When we have the opportunity to share a great story, we often strive to find a unique person. We look for people that are original and in their own way, making a difference in the world. We look for someone that inspires us to be a little more creative, take risks, and spread a little more joy. Someone that values the art of communication, and simply makes us smile. This is precisely how our team felt when we came across artist and author, Justin Maas. We smiled.


As a kid, Maas enjoyed drawing and found it to be a great way of communicating. Early on, Maas learned that art was a way to convey day-to-day images that were vivid in his thoughts.


Maas has worked in many mediums over the years. He shared that his  primary tools of choice are dry mediums such as pastel, graphite, charcoal. His educational journey briefly led him to both Milwaukee and Chicago. However, Maas ended up doing most of his post-secondary work at the University of British Columbia and the Alberta University of the Arts. Maas has a degree in visual communications.


"Like most kids, I always drew. Unlike most kids, I never stopped."

-Justin Maas



Checkout the Interview with  Justin Maasbelow.




Tell us a bit about yourself.

First and foremost, I am an artist - and I think it is safe to call myself primarily a "portrait & figurative artist." I have (and do) draw and paint other subjects (if only as backgrounds in my work) but overall I am most

interested in capturing the human face and form.


Like most kids, I always drew. Unlike most kids, I never stopped. I think that if given an opportunity, 99% of children do draw. It's really our most basic form of communication, but as we grow, other things begin to

take precedence: sports, school, activities, hobbies.

Artists are people who just always prioritized their art first.


What inspired you to start your business?

People often ask, "when did you become an artist," and I honestly don't think anyone "becomes" an artist. I think we all have stories to tell - artists just find a way to tell them. So it wasn't really a decision to 'start an art business" as it was more: I needed to create.


I have said many times over my life, "If I never sell another painting/drawing, I won't do anything differently. I'll keep drawing every chance I get."




What are the Pros and Cons of your Industry?

The obvious "pro" for a career as an artist is simply that you can do what you love to do. It's not all roses - many many stages of a painting are tedious and laborious, but I wake up every day wanting to draw.

Well, almost every day. Some days I just want to sit on the couch.

The "cons" are almost exclusively related to the business side - as in, it's extremely difficult to make a living as an artist. My country (Canada) has just under 37 million people. A little over 100,000 identify

themselves as artists, but the number of those who can support themselves or their families is staggeringly low.

What makes your work different?

I think my art tends to be different from the norm because I have a very unique style. The internet is notorious for people stealing others work and claiming it as their own, but my work is so well known now that I get alerted (usually within days if not hours) whenever someone does this. The funny thing about a unique style is that the most genuine ones come from within the artist.




What makes your work different?...continued...

When I was a young artist, I would spend hours and hours trying to "make a style" when one day someone was looking through my sketchbook and said, "I love your style." I was surprised because I didn't consider it a style. I thought, "that's just how I draw!" but of course, that IS our style. I spent the next stage of my career developing what was already there, rather than looking for something different.


If you could change the world, what would you change?

Changing the world is a heavy task for anyone, and as an artist, I'm not sure I have much insight. However, I do love to do is change people's perceptions of themselves. I often ask friends, acquaintances (and sometimes complete strangers!) to model for a portrait. They will often say, "why me?" When complete, they will often say, "you made me look beautiful," which honestly was just how I saw them. There is beauty everywhere and in everyone. I like to be able to bring that out in a portrait.



Do you do any philanthropic work?

Most of my philanthropic work comes in the form of art donations nowadays. I used to be a board member on a women's shelter committee when I lived in the big city, but since moving to a small town, I find that my art does the most good in this instance: various organizations but a lot for Crohn's and Colitis (a disease I suffer from).


What motivates you most within your work?

My motivation is definitely rooted in the desire to communicate. I want to show the little things - a shadow, a highlight - that I see that many don't notice or pay attention to. It's especially exhilarating when I create a painting or draw around one specific theme, and then people notice it. Like "Oh, I love that highlight on the tip of her nose," - which was, in fact, my primary goal when drawing that portrait.


Do you do any philanthropic work?

Most of my philanthropic work comes in the form of art donations nowadays. I used to be a board member on a women's shelter committee when I lived in the big city, but since moving to a small town, I find that my art does the most good in this instance: various organizations but a lot for Crohn's and Colitis (a disease I suffer from).


What motivates you most within your work?

My motivation is definitely rooted in the desire to communicate. I want to show the little things - a shadow, a highlight - that I see that many don't notice or pay attention to. It's especially exhilarating when I create a painting or draw around one specific theme, and then people notice it. Like "Oh, I love that highlight on the tip of her nose," - which was, in fact, my primary goal when drawing that portrait.


What advice would you give to aspiring artists?

My advice is simple to other artists: If you couldn't make a dime, would you still do it? If the answer is yes, then you're on the right path. Art careers can take, sadly, a lifetime. Carmen Herrera sold her first painting at age 89! She absolutely exploded after that, though, with MOMA acquiring several of her pieces. Instant success as a visual artist happens almost never - except in the movies.




Do you ever encounter challenges in your industry?

The biggest challenge for me is probably just keeping all my commissions straight. I often have months' worth of wait-lists, and I have to make sure I do them in the correct order and don't forget people. Sometimes I have works that I'm more (and less) interested in doing, so it's important not to push back some jobs in favor of others. Good organization is key!

Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?

Its hard for me to know where I'll be in 10 years. 2 years ago, I didn't know I'd be approached by a publisher to write a book. Who knows what opportunities will come in the meantime. But I take everything in stride and enjoy the journey. Recently, I did a project for Leslie David Baker (the actor who played Stanley on the office) - A few weeks ago, I didn't see that coming. I suppose that some of the exciting things about my line of work: you never know what's coming next!


Are you inspired by anyone?

I'm inspired by so many artists! The old masters like Sergeant, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Frans Hals, Mary Cassatt, and others. Modern artists like Daniel E Greene, Jeremy Lipking, David Kassan, are also of huge influence.

When we asked Maas about his greatest accomplishments, he shared that his family being healthy and happy, was fulfilling.


"Aside from art (all kinds), I mostly spend time with my wife and two daughters. I'm a homebody - family man - so I'm happy playing cards or riding bikes. I also love films and watch at least a few (new and ones I've seen before) every week." -Justin Maas


Maas also shared that his first book, "Drawing Realistic Pencil Portraits Step by Step," published by Penguin Random House, released last summer to be a rewarding experience.


"It only took about 6 months of work but really is the culmination of my whole life's work to this point. Being able to share that was very rewarding." -Justin Maas




Stay connected with Justin Maas on Social Media:


Website:  www.justinmaas.com

Daily Updates:  www.instagram.com/maas.art

Weekly tutorials:  www.patreon.com/maasart

Email:  maas.art@shaw.ca

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