Megan Moseley, The Walton Sun
With a paint brush in one hand and a cell phone in the other, artist Justin Gaffrey attempted to schedule an interview with The Sun while working at his Blue Mountain Beach studio. Guests started strolling in, however, and it looked as if the interview would have to wait.
That's the story of Gaffrey right now. This local artist has become ever more popular and busy since he first started painting a few years ago. But with the help of his studio manager Lawrence Pugh, Gaffrey is ready for the challenge.
"He's really helping me expand," he said.
Pugh, who has worked with artists such as famous Blue Dog painter George Rodrigue, hooked up with Gaffrey in March. Coming to the area from New Orleans where he worked in the French Quarter at various galleries and antique shops, he explored Seaside for job opportunities. Through word of mouth, Pugh stumbled upon an opportunity to work with Gaffrey.
"I have had experiences with Justin's artwork that I've never had with any other artwork before," he said. "That is, when people walk in here, no one says, 'Oh, I don't like this.' They want to know how it is done because they're so blown away by the color and the shape and the texture."
So when intrigued individuals go searching for the creator, Pugh sends them over to Gaffrey's Blue Mountain Beach studio where people can experience a work in progress. Gaffrey said that's one of the many things he enjoys about being an artist.
"There’s a satisfaction in art and there’s a whole other satisfaction in watching people’s reaction to it. Watching their joy or their pleasure out of it," he said.
Gaffrey and satisfaction have an interesting relationship. For 16 years, Gaffrey was a chef and someone who was used to the feeling of instant gratification. Since then, he's had to shed his restaurant routine and mindset to truly expand into the artist he is today.
"There has been a shift in balance with my life and health recently," he said during an interview with The Sun at his studio in Seaside. "I use to work so much it would consume me. I became extremely unhealthy. But I've learned to discipline myself. I use to wake up anywhere from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. and go straight to work. Now I wake up, I meditate, I exercise or I run and might not get to work until 10 a.m. It used to be if I worked and daily life started to intrude my mind, then I couldn't be creative. But now I've learned how to master that.
"Through that I have come to the most interesting part of my work right now. My mind has expanded, and I am able to be even more creative and even more patient. I've learned not to be so consumed on completing. It use to be if I started a piece I had to finish it that day. Now I work on pieces that might take me a week or two."
The pieces he's referring to are intricate paintings of bird nests and butterflies. Using a technique he invented called "sculpting with paint," Gaffrey has learned to take his time and enjoy the process. Although meditation and practicing healthy habits have helped Gaffrey, he also gives credit to Pugh who has taken over the day-to-day gallery responsibilities, affording Gaffrey more time to practice his art.
"I want Justin free to create," he said. "I want him unencumbered by anything else."