“My workspace is in a spare bedroom on the top floor at our home in De Pijp area of Amsterdam. Although it commonly spills out onto the tables and floors of the living room, staircases, kitchen, etc. I split my time between this space and working within various offices and agencies in Amsterdam.”
Justin Blyth is a multi-disciplinary Art Director, Designer and Animator working directly for clients within Amsterdam and worldwide. Since receiving a BFA from Art Center College of Design in 2004, he has served as both freelancer, staff member and collaborator to various motion graphics studios, advertising agencies, brands, boutiques and publications in Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Paris and Amsterdam. He travels whenever possible, and occasionally updates his blog Them Thangs.
FROM YOUR DESKS: How do you work?
JUSTIN BLYTH: Usually one of two ways. For client based or conceptual work I sketch and write down ideas in my moleskin. This can happen at home, on a train, or at the cafe. At some point I make a more refined drawing or go straight to the computer, collecting/creating the elements I need for the final product. That final product is either created entirely on the computer, or laid out digitally, then painted or collaged by hand. Often times my process also involves printing the work out, modifying it physically with xerox machines, collage and scanning it back in. Other times I may have a very loose idea where I’ll just sit down with a stack of books and magazines, start cutting things out and see what falls into place.
Sometimes you get those “happy mistakes” which change the work in a way I wouldn’t have thought to do at the computer.
FYD: What is your favorite sentimental object at your workspace and why?
JB: Probably a Colt 45 revolver that belonged to my father. It’s a tangible item with a unique weight and sound, and a lot of memories. I grew up in a household where guns were just sort of lying around, which is hard for some people to understand. Unfortunately I couldn’t bring that to Amsterdam with me. My favorite object of the moment is a simple piece of driftwood I found on a beach in Northern Washington. It reminds me of a great adventure, good friends, nature, the passing of time. It reminds me of not working, which I like.
FYD: What is your favorite work tool?
JB: My computer is the most robust and often used tool. I really enjoy working with paint and gouache. It’s not my specialty so it’s pretty hit or miss, but sometimes you get those “happy mistakes” which change the work in a way I wouldn’t have thought to do at the computer.
FYD: You appear to be collector of things. How do you curate your items?
JB: I’m a huge fan of the minimal aesthetic but my own life always seems to be the opposite. I have no idea what governs the things I buy as they tend to be useless items I neither need, nor can afford. A dream day for me is walking around aimlessly at a flea market or bargain barn. General categories that peak my attention are cult, mythos, hippy, military, cameras, watches, weapons, and old books/ magazines. It’s a bit like drugs. You give into the urge occasionally, but you don’t want to become a hoarder. Have you seen that show? It’s worse than intervention!
My favorite object of the moment is a simple piece of driftwood I found on a beach in Northern Washington.
FYD: You hail from LA and live in Amsterdam; what are their respective differences?
JB: Although I miss it sometimes, not having a car is great. My main vehicle here is a bicycle. The trains are awesome and I find myself traveling much more often than I did in the States. If we want to go to Paris for the weekend we jump on the train, pop a bottle of wine and watch a movie on the laptop. That’s something we really don’t have in California. Also, the general mentality of Europeans is different, it’s grown on me in ways difficult to explain.
FYD: When you travel, is there something you always bring home?
JB: I’m not one of those fridge magnet guys or anything. I buy stuff I can’t get at home. I guess I always come back with a Monocle magazine from the airport or train station.
JB: Sunglasses maybe? I’m always loosing them.
FYD: “People never have their best ideas sitting at their desk.” So where do we have them?
JB: I love that quote from the book Shine by Chris Barez-Brown. I think every aspiring artist would like to know the answer. For me they come from everywhere. A childhood memory, a quote from a film, a dream. They seem to hit me when I’m staring out the window of a train, laying in bed, etc… But they never come when I’m sitting at the computer needing them! When I’m not feeling creative I need to get up, step outside and switch things up before looking at that project again. Sitting and staring at the screen or looking at other people’s work isn’t gonna give me a better result.
FYD: You launched Them Thangs before everyone had a Tumblr account. What’s important about inspiration?
JB: A blog is like a mixtape. Picking all those songs, the artwork, the title. It’s your chance to say here’s the things I’m feeling, what mood I’m in, or what I’m interested in the moment. This is the story I’m trying to tell, in this order. And inevitably there are people who will see or hear that and say YES! Exactly! That is how I feel right now too! It can speak directly to them and maybe inspire them somehow.
A childhood memory, a quote from a film, a dream.
FYD: What is the best part about collaborating with friends? Is it the same tastes or different perspectives their work brings?
JB: It can be a blessing and a curse. It’s great to work with people you admire and see how it changes the aesthetic. It can be a big learning experience and a lot of fun. There are also times when it clearly isn’t working. Warhol and Basquiat were both amazing talents, they collaborated on a show and got ripped apart! (I like those paintings, for the record).