Justin Bua redefines the frontier between fine art and street art

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Do you like street art? Do you like urban settings? Do you like music? Okay, if you answered yes to all of that, you will love the artist of this month!

I wanted to talk to you about one of my favorite ones nowadays: Justin BUA.

Justin Bua is an award-winning artist, author, speaker, and entrepreneur. Groundbreaking in his field, Mr. Bua is internationally known for his best-selling collection of fine art posters—The DJ being one of the most popular prints of all time.

I am quite sure you have seen this print at least once in your life, it is just iconic.

To give you a little bit more details about this artist, he was born in 1968 in New York City and he lived fully at a very young age the street life of the city. He attended the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Performing Arts and complemented his education on the streets by writing graffiti and performing worldwide with breakdancing crews. BUA went on to the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena (equivalent to Harvard for art students), California where he earned a B.F.A. and taught figure drawing at the University of Southern California for ten years.

I already knew the DJ painting but discovered more about the artist listening to the Art Attack podcast, which I advise strongly for every art junkies! And I was actually surprised to find out his favorite painter was Rembrandt, a very traditional Dutch artist.

Listening to his podcast, I decided to begin 101 drawing / illustration classes. Being a self taught artist, I realized you need a minimum of basis to be able to experiment afterwards. And that is exactly what Justin Bua is doing. His research of the shapes, human figures, composition is very original, and I think his impeccable technique allows him to be freer in his research. He once said “learning how to draw is a very painful thing, it’s like being an Olympic athlete”.

Coming from an artistic family, his mom was a successful painter and his grandfather was a sculptor, painter and famous letterer, so he had access to great art at a very early age.

“I had an interesting meld of subway car art and classical art” Bua once said in an interview. “I think ultimately my work is really defined by both cultures.”

Starting in the world of commercial art, BUA designed and illustrated many projects, CD covers, he also developed the look of the opening of EA Sports video games NBA Street and NFL Street.

His urban style speaks to many people, bringing nostalgia of the golden age of hip hop culture. Bua has an energetic and vocal fan base that ranges from high school skateboarders and college students across the globe to Hollywood actors like Robert De Niro for example.

He was a witness to the revolution of hip-hop, and has captured some of his favorite artists in paintings. From Nas to Mos Def, Q-Tip, Tupac and Biggie, Bua has shaped hip-hop culture with his paintbrushes.

“It also seems like hip-hop is forever evolving. We’ve caught on to what’s going on in Europe; hip-hop is being infused with dub and electronica.” Bua stated. “That’s what it is today and tomorrow it’ll be different. There’s always gonna be the underground scene, next Eminem and the next Odd Future is already on the way.”

The characters in his paintings are people of his surroundings, people he knew in NYC. His life experience.  Many of his characters are really interesting looking and coming from so many different places–Cubans, Puerto Ricans, blacks, whites, Jews… These faces of the faces of everyday people, I think that is why people can identify strongly with his paintings.

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