Colleen Houston, ArtWorks CEO and artistic director, has released the following statement about the recent passing of Cincinnati’s iconic comic artist, Justin Green. ArtWorks worked with Justin on four projects over two decades including hand painted signs for urban businesses in 2002, a neighborhood mural in Carthage, Ohio in 2008 and an illustrated card deck honoring Cincinnati’s Musical Legends, in partnership with Shake It Records in 2018.
“At ArtWorks, we are deeply saddened by the loss of one of our community’s greatest art icons, Justin Green. Justin is well regarded as one of the most significant underground comic artists and the ‘father of autobiographical comics’, a pioneer of his generation. I first met Justin the summer he began working at ArtWorks with Steve Powers and they were an unparalleled match. Justin made quite the mark on that project and the artists involved. Justin taught Steve and many youth apprentices time old sign painting techniques, using One Shot paint and ways for each artist to steady their hands using Mahl sticks. He also shared a wide musical knowledge and there were always library CDs in rotation in the studio at Essex that summer. Everyone who met Justin learned much more than treasured sign techniques but heard stories, jokes and advice on how to deal with the life’s challenges and especially those encountered in work for hire. Steve Powers recently shared his sentiments of how he thought of Justin as a father after that summer.
In 2002, Justin was selected from nearly 100 artists who submitted designs in response to a community wide call-to-artist process hosted by ArtWorks. His award winning design became the Hamilton County Flag, adopted in 2002. Justin took on more projects with ArtWorks, and every time he did, it was a genuine surprise. Deep down, his heart was gold. He knew he had talent to share. Sometimes he would send ranting emails in the middle of the night because he had a vision or an ultimatum. He did walk off a project once because his vision for the artwork was so pure that his final feeling was ‘take it or leave it’. There was no room for any community say that day. We respected him for that and for so much more. He had integrity and the highest principles when it came to art and design.
Justin agreed to be Lead Designer and Teaching Artist for a mural in Carthage, A Post Card from Home, and treated the composition as one large, illustrated postcard with larger-than-life lettering full of rich imagery inspired by the community. That summer was doggedly hot, and the project was a true labor given the level of detailed painting and ArtWorks’ crude early attempts at building sufficient scaffolding.
A decade later, Justin was working on a shared passion project with one of his greatest patrons, Darren Blase of Shake It Records. He began illustrating local Cincinnati musical legends for a trading card deck. His eyesight was beginning to fail, and he knew he could never complete the project on his own. On this occasion, he turned to ArtWorks for the apprentice model that we are so well known for. By teaching his methods on illustration, watercolor and ink drawing, he built a true apprentice studio where all of the artists were working under his specific direction and watchful eye. Joe Walsh was an important understudy helping Justin with this project. Now Joe will carry the mantle of what he learned and continue some of Justin’s community work, retouching Justin’s signage at Shake It Records in Northside this summer.
Justin leaves a great and important legacy with the many impressionable artists he took the time to mentor. At ArtWorks, our hearts are with Justin’s family and extended artist family.”