Left: Justin Nissley working on a painting in the Atelier. Right: The finished product.

Justin Nissley, is one of five residents creating new works of art in our first ever artists-in-residency program. The residents are all comprised of past Scholastic Art & Writing Awards winners. Don’t miss out on the chance to watch them work for one last time at One New York Plaza on Friday, December 9 between 12-6pm!

What is your connection to the Scholastic Awards? I won a Gold Key in 2001 from Hempfield High School in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was my first piece of digital art and the first digital work to win an award from my school. At the time, I didn’t realize how important this would be for me, but years later, I returned to the computer to make visual art. More than that, the opportunities which have surfaced because of the award have been tremendous.

Describe your experience at the Atelier. I am currently participating in The Alliance’s Atelier Open Studio, which has been a fun and challenging experience. Since all the participating artists are in the storefront, there are a lot of people that come in to the studio to watch us work. Usually, I am very focused and do not notice the visitors, but sometimes when I step back to see what I am doing, a visitor will catch me by surprise and I have to take a moment to stop myself from feeling self-conscious.

Another aspect of working in a public space rather than a private studio is revealing the process of my work. I begin with a group of abstract shapes and end with something representational. This is a step that the public doesn’t ordinarily see. Many people have come in during the early stages of some of my work and ask me what I am doing since none of the final pieces are ready. I tell them to come back in a few days to see how I built different layers and combined abstract pieces together. It is hard to have incomplete work on display, because it looks so rough and awkward. Whenever I have visitors at my studio, I put away my unfinished work or turn them toward the wall. The Atelier is a way for people to see how we work, so everything is on display, for better or worse.

I set a goal for myself before the residency program began: To create twenty paintings during the three-month length of the program. So far, I have finished ten paintings and we are already halfway through the program. I created eighteen paintings on canvas last year. It will be a challenge to reach my goal, but even if I don’t, I have already produced ten paintings that I am proud of and will develop many more before the program ends.

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Justin was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1983. In high school he was first exposed to the use of computer for making art. In the fall of 2001, he started his freshman year at Virginia Tech, and took his first oil painting course in the spring. He graduated with a BFA in studio art in 2005. Justin currently lives and works in New York City. Check out more of his work at: http://www.justinnissley.com

Have a question for Justin or our other resident artists? Tweet it @artandwriting using #AWatelier.

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