At only 23, Justin Maller has already established himself deep within the design industry. Supplementing his intricate design work as the creative director for depthCORE, and the Australian editor for The Royal, Justin stays on the grind. Nonetheless, with an already impressive portfolio and several projects currently in development, Justin was able to take a few minutes with Format to discuss Australia, digital art, and community-based design sites.
â€œdonâ€™t bitch that we tried something different, harden the fuck up and enjoy it.â€
Format: How would you describe the Australian aesthetic as it relates to art, fashion, film, etc.
Justin Maller: This is a really difficult question for me to answer. Australia is a multicultural nation, and our artists have an incredibly diverse array of influences and backgrounds, which results in a style so eclectic it defies definition. This translates to all facets of the arts â€“ fashion, film, design; there is no one style that you could say is quintessentially Australian above all others. If there was one unifying factor, especially across film and art, Iâ€™d say it is a lack of pretentiousness, and an abundance of honesty; in my experience, the Australian creative gets to the point, and doesnâ€™t care about your stepping on your toes or feelings.
Format: Why do you think this particular aesthetic has emerged in Australia?
JM: I think art is always a reflection of the people who make it; most Australianâ€™s also wonâ€™t care about stepping on your toes or feelings. Donâ€™t be a sook, donâ€™t bitch that we tried something different, harden the fuck up and enjoy it.
Format: Please describe how, if at all, Australia influences your work.
JM: I suppose Australia influences my art in the same way any environment influences an artist â€“ Iâ€™m influenced by the people I meet, the places I go, and the experiences I have. I really couldnâ€™t tell you how they manifest in my work, but it would be naÃ¯ve to imagine that I am completely unaffected by my surrounds.
Format: You produced digital art for five years before doing it professionally. What specifically made you transition to working professionally?
JM: It was a gradual thing; throughout my last year at university, I started to get freelance offers from various companies, and I started writing regularly for a couple magazines. I was just lucky enough that when I finished university, the amount of work that was coming my way was sufficient to get by on.
Format: Why did you choose the domain superlover.com?
JM: Itâ€™s not really much of a story. One of the first music submissions to depthCORE had the line â€˜Iâ€™m your Superloverâ€™ in it. When I got around to registering a domain name, I was searching for inspiration; the song came on, I thought â€˜Well, thatâ€™ll do the job.â€™ Robertâ€™s your fathers brother, I have a stupid domain name for life. I go through stages of loving and hating it, but people associate it with me now, so I figure Iâ€™ll just stick it out. My family and friends hang a lot of shit on me for it every time it comes up though.
Format: How important is music to your design process?
JM: Essential! I always have music playing though, so itâ€™s no surprise it extends to my design process. I am always annoyed when I put a movie on and have to turn the music off; I wish it was possibly to watch, listen and design at the same time. Unfortunately, Iâ€™m not talented enough to pull that off yet.
Format: Many of your works include photographs. What is it about using photographs in your work that appeals to you?
JM: Photography was a natural extension for me. I started off making work that was completely abstract; renders and Photoshop only. Eventually this got a little stale; I wanted to make work that was grounded in reality, work that could be appreciate more easily because it was based in and juxtaposed against a natural context (so much for Australians not being pretentious!). It was also a good way for me to stretch my skillset, and try new things creatively; working out fresh ways to loft splines before slamming the render button gets old after a while.
Format: Many of your works are also collaborations. What about collaborating appeals to you?
JM: Working with other people is just fun, especially when you know as many ridiculously talented people as I do. A lot of my collaborations are with photographers. The reasons for this are twofold; firstly, itâ€™s an awesome way to blend an already executed concept with my own ideas, and secondly, up till recently I havenâ€™t owned my own camera, so using existing photographs has been something of a necessity.
Format: In July 2007, you displayed your first solo exhibition. Please describe the show from its conception to its finish.
JM: The show was, above all else, a huge learning experience for me. I had a dozen of my (then) most recent works on display â€“ there was no real narrative between the pieces, which is something I kind of regret now. When I was putting the show together I had limited time, so basically had to work with what I already had produced. The actual experience itself and the response I got from it was hugely emotional; humbling, awing, and generally overwhelming. Iâ€™ve learned much from it, and plan to put my lessons to good use for the next show, starting with developing an entirely new body of work for the express purpose of exhibition instead of releasing a haphazard array of material.
Format: What is your opinion of tutorial based education for digital arts?
JM: I have mixed feelings about tutorials. I learned everything I know from experimentation, and as such, many of the techniques I employ in my creative process are artistically compatible; that is, they work with each other within the same composition because they grew naturally from each other. I feel that learning from tutorials is a good way to quickly obtain a skill, but I think that people who learn their entire skill set from other peopleâ€™s instruction are bound to encounter difficulty when trying to incorporate more than one technique into any given piece. Iâ€™ve written heaps of tutorials, and get a fairly steady stream of gratitude from people who really benefited from them â€“ even so, I canâ€™t help but think that possessing a diverse repertoire of techniques is a far greater achievement when youâ€™ve put in the time and effort to obtain it for yourself.
Format: You are a member of several design communities. How do you benefit from your involvement in these communities?
JM: These days, the only community I really benefit from is the private depthCORE members panel; the feedback I get from the guys is the only real critique available to me on the Internet. When I post at public communities like deviantART, the only real commentary I get is â€˜wow, nice one dude,â€™ which is lovely, but not really all that beneficial. I still post, because I enjoy sharing the work and interacting with the world at large, but as of this moment, I donâ€™t feel I really reap any benefits aside from increasing my viewing audience. This is an issue Brian Smith and I are hoping to address in the new version of depthCORE; we are endeavoring to design a community that will allow any artist of any caliber to enjoy a full critique based workshop process. I canâ€™t give too much away about this right now, but I can promise that it will be one of the most advanced and well-developed tools available on the Internet when it launches.
Format: What made you decide to start depthCORE?
JM: When I started dC, I had no idea what it would grow to become. I just thought it would be fun to belong to a collective, and to interact with a bunch of other artists in relative private. I think itâ€™s fair to say itâ€™s grown exponentially since then, but none of that growth was pre-mediated; it all occurred naturally, feeding on the enthusiasm of all people involved, from supporters to artists, to the guys who built and maintained the site for all these years, Kevin Stacey and Brian Smith.
Format: How has depthCORE evolved since you created it?
JM: Obviously, as a collective, weâ€™ve evolved artistically, and seen dramatic improvements in both the quality and quantity of our releases. These days the site feels more and more like a creative outlet for our artists. A higher percentage of our guys than ever before are earning their living from art and design, so the dC packs are an opportunity to blow of some steam and have a bit of fun. In terms of the sites evolution, adding the community side of things last year was a big step. V6 was an experiment from which we have learned much, and will definitely yield an even greater evolution.
Format: Please explain the â€œpacksâ€ at depthCORE.
JM: God â€œpacksâ€ is an awful word. I wish weâ€™d taken the time at the start to conceptualize something else, but as I said, dC wasnâ€™t started with a long term goal in mind. Basically, our â€œpacksâ€ are our releases; every two or three months, our collective releases a themed exhibition of digital artwork that typically contains between one and two hundred pieces of artwork, music, photography and animation. Pieces may only be submitted to the packs by guys who are already in the collective â€“ they arenâ€™t open to the public, and almost certainly never will be.
Format: depthCOREâ€™s bio states that there are over 80 exclusive artists in the members circle. What makes depthCORE artists want to be exclusive to the community?
JM: Yeah, itâ€™s probably more like 200 these days, though at any point in time we tend to have around 45 active. Itâ€™s a great environment for a digital artist to be in; youâ€™re surrounded by guys with experience and talent who want to make art with and alongside you â€“ the benefits of our fairly unique creative process by far outweigh the slight inconvenience of not showing the work publicly before release date. Iâ€™m sure thereâ€™s an element of prestige involved in it as well; you have to be fairly good at what you do to get into dC, so I would imagine that obtaining membership becomes a goal of sorts for some.
Format: What do you look for when inviting members to depthCORE?
JM: Something fresh, something that makes me try to work out how theyâ€™ve accomplished it. A decent body of work; I donâ€™t want one hit wonders. A guy who comes recommended is always preferred; we try and keep it tight knit, and chemistry is important.
Format: Who is the last member you invited to depthCORE and why?
JM: Last guy we had come aboard is my frequent collabo partner Von from hellovon.com. His work is amazing, heâ€™s a top bloke, and he definitely brings something a bit fresh to the collective; the man ticks every box on the above checklist and then some. We are lucky to have him riding with us.
Format: Youâ€™ve mentioned that there will be a sharper division between collective in community in depthCOREâ€™s future. Please elaborate.
JM: I canâ€™t really elaborate much further than that without giving the game away; the next version of dC will have one site dedicated to community, and one dedicated to art. V6 was an interesting experiment, but Brian and I ultimately judged it be an inefficient method of presentation. Trust me when I say, weâ€™re going to take care of it.
Format: What is in the future for depthCORE and Justin Maller, respectively?
JM: Bright and brighter, not necessarily in that order.