CaliforniaWild: When and why did you and your family move to Ventura County?
Justin Pence: It was 1988. We were living In a very typical middle-class, suburban neighborhood in Long Beach. Not far from the airport. I was in the first grade. I think a part of the reason we decided to move was because of the frequent criminal activity. I remember one warm, summer night the power went out in the neighborhood. My Mom took us kids out to get shakes on the other side of town. We came home later to find my dad asleep on the couch, in the dark, clutching a shotgun. So there was that, and maybe the constant deafening bombardment of jet engines descending onto the nearby tarmac is what convinced my parents to find another place to live. I believe it was my dad who soon thereafter discovered the small town of Fillmore. Which wasn’t a far distance from his job at the DWP*, so we packed up and moved. The rest is history.
*Department of Water and Power
When did you begin drawing and which artists were you inspired by?
As far back as I can remember. And as far back as anyone else in my family can remember too. Dinosaurs and Godzilla…that was my primary focus. That and 80’s cartoons. Such as Brave Star, He-Man, GI Joe, and all the Warner Brother cartoons. Oh, and the original Tom and Jerry cartoons. So I just basically started copying all these characters from t.v. shows and cartoons. Looking back, it was like I understood those imaginary worlds more than I did real life. And so I felt compelled to learn how to draw all these characters and monsters I was fascinated by.
Soon, of course, it evolved into comic books and graphic novels. And I just kept pursuing it. And uncovering little tricks and bits of knowledge from studying penciling and inking techniques. Even to this day, I would have to say one of all time favorite artists is Jim Lee. Him and Frank Frazetta really had the biggest impact on me as an artist.
Have you had periods when your creativity has dried up? Or have your inspirations been constant over the years?
Absolutely. Just like anyone who is actively trying to advance in a particular area of their life…if there are distractions, either pleasant or unpleasant…it affects that ability to focus and deliver. A full time back-breaking job, kids and family, maintaining all the functions that support a healthy-lifestyle and a somewhat comfortable and stable home can really delay the creative process. After a long day when you can finally sit and sharpen your pencil, you stare at the blank paper in from of you and the next thing you know you’re waking up at 4 a.m. slumped over the table, with that same blank paper stuck to your oily face. Oh yeah, I’ve been there.
That being said, I’ve had the same positive reactions from different people when I happen to share with them a piece of art that I really struggled with and wasn’t too proud of. So I think a big part of it ( aside from lack of sleep ) is my own self doubt…when I see really fantastic abilities from artists younger than me that are working for Disney or whatever…it kinda strikes that self-confidence brown note, so to speak. Or at least it used to. Lately, I’ve learned to listen to my friends and acquaintances…if they’re stoked by something I’ve created then I know I’m doing something right.
Where do you see your art taking you five years from now?
Five years from now I aim to have my art published in one form or another. And on my way to being a self sustaining artist.
Who or what inspires you now?
As of now it’s been nature. The world outside. And also the world inside…like when you meditate, which I don’t do nearly enough of. But it’s that sense of the infinite universe that has been crafting my perception. And trying to touch that genetic memory. It soon becomes like I’m following myself even before I lay ink on the paper. Like dejavu. It’s that knowing – you’re here to do what you’re here to do. That bond. It comes when your mind is at peace and you can remove all doubt, that ego, that second guessing…it’s hard to do but when it happens it’s like magic. The visions just flow from out of the ether and into my mind, traveling throughout my nervous system, down my arm, into my fingers and straight to the tip of the pen.
Is there anywhere you would rather live than Ventura?
I’ve asked myself that same question and have had many day dreams of a perfect log cabin tucked away in pine forest with wild flowers dotting the mountainside just across from my own private lake. Or the beach hut under the shade of the palm trees, waves crashing upon my own tropical paradise…but all fantasies aside, California is the place for me. More specifically here, in the land shaded by oak trees. I feel a strong connection with this terrain. Nowhere do my feet feel more sturdy than atop of some good old Sespe dirt.
Favorite local spot for a beer?
I’m always down for a tall, dark glass of Black IPA from the Surf Brewery in Ventura.
Favorite local spot for food?
That’s hard to say…maybe it’s because I’m getting older…but most eating establishments leave me feeling like a bloated fish. Even the ones that are really good. So it’s good old fashioned home cooking for me.
Although, if someone were to ask what I wanted right now…either a burger w/fries from Five Guys or a Kale Salad? Well, that’s a no brainer.
Burger. W/onion, cheese and bacon.