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VoyageATL Podcast: Josh Universe | Painter & Graffiti Artist

Josh Universe is an incredibly talented and inspiring artist and he opens up about his journey as a creative professional on episode 1 of season 2 of the VoyageATL Podcast.  His story is one of resilience and his insights on how to not allow economic realties hinder your work and vision are something we can all learn from.

Josh is also a content partner, content partners help Voyage in so many ways from sponsoring our mission, to spreading the word about the work we do and collaborating with us on content like this.

We’re sure you’ll enjoy our conversation with Josh and you can connect with him below:


Alex (Host): So for the members of our audience, who, who maybe haven’t encountered your, your work yet, could you describe your artistic style?

Josh Universe: Yes, of course. So I mainly focus in all painting. [00:02:00] My, style, I would say is a blend between realism and surrealism.

Josh Universe: I had a lot of influence from, romanticism. Artists and a lot of Japanese illustrators when I was growing up and, the echo of that, like influence still stays in my work. So it gives it this kind of otherworldly, but realistic, feel to my work.

Alex (Host): Yeah. I think that, I mean, that’s, obviously you’re, you’re very good at describing your work.

Alex (Host): I’m sure you’ve done it many times, but for those, for those of you, that, that are like me and maybe, want a visual representation, you can definitely go check out Josh. Instagram, and, and other places you, do you wanna just give the folks where they can, can see some of

Josh Universe: your work? Yes, of course. my Instagram handle is Josh universe.

Josh Universe: my website is universe art gallery do net, and you can check out all of my work, through each of those different sites.

Alex (Host): And then what, what mediums are you primarily working in?

Josh Universe: [00:03:00] So I use, the main mediums I work with are. Oil paint, acrylic paint and, spray paint here and there. I’ll do murals, here and there, but I mainly work just with fine art.

Josh Universe: And in my paintings, specifically I use oil paint for my figures and acrylic paint for the backgrounds. And, I only came up with that kind of combination because in college I didn’t have enough money for the oil paint. So I had to use it sparingly and I would use the acrylic paint, which was a bit cheaper for the larger backgrounds.

Alex (Host): I love it. I mean, that’s, that’s was one of my questions of, you know, well, why, why that uh and, and so I guess the, the question is why, why oil paint? What is the appeal of oil as the. The type of paint to use for

Josh Universe: you? honestly it was, so I was [00:04:00] lowkey interested in oil, painted, curious about it. back when I first started teaching myself to paint, it was, you know, like I said, I was interested in, Old master artists, romanticism artists like Goya, Cario, and they all painted with oils.

Josh Universe: And I, you know, I was so interested. I was like oil, what is it? And I would research it here and there. And I was like, this looks so confusing, but I, so that’s honestly what started my first interest in oils. And you know, when I thought about it, I always, when I was younger, I always thought this is what the.

Josh Universe: The, professional artists use, granted, as I know, not professional artists have used all mediums, but, at the time I was just curious about it. And once I learned how to all paint, yeah, it just went from there. I just fell in love with the process of it, the [00:05:00] mediums and just how it blends. And it just, it went from.

Alex (Host): Now I think that, that, this is a good, a good spot to kind of also you, you aren’t formally trained, right? I am not. And so, so what was that process for you of teaching yourself? How do, how to create the pieces that you do now create?

Josh Universe: so. I had been drawing and sketching since I was a child. I can’t even tell you when I first started, it was just always something I, was doing.

Josh Universe: And as I got older, you know, I, whatever avenue I went in life or whatever thing interested me as I got older and my teens and, early adulthood, I always, always. Would draw at the end of the day, I would come home sketch draw. It was my therapy. So as far as art itself, I had always been interested and loved [00:06:00] it.

Josh Universe: it wasn’t until the middle of college that I decided I wanted to take my work seriously and make a career out of it. And at that point I knew I wanted to. I guess I’ll say go to, I won’t say the next level, but I wanted to go a different route with my art besides, just sketching or just, different sketches or drawings.

Josh Universe: because I was always interested in color, vibrant colors. So of course, I’ve generally flock to painting. And so I first, when I first started teaching myself to paint, it was will acrylic paints. I, I was just painting anything. I really saw. I’d paint rappers, I’d paint, anime characters, anything that piqued my interest that had like a little bit of color to it.

Josh Universe: I was gonna paint it. And so it was around, I think it was like summer of 2016 that my aunt caught wind, [00:07:00] that I was, taking my work seriously. So she bought me a paint set and the paint set at the time, like I say, I was working with acrylic paints, but, she bought me the paint set. and it turned, you know, it turned out to be oil paints, which I didn’t know.

Josh Universe: I was wondering why these paints so funky, you know, they’re not working. Right. And I, I, went back and read and it was like oil paint said, yada, yada. I was like, oh, snap. So call it a divine intervention, whatever you want to call it. cuz like I said, I was always interested in an oil paint, but I just.

Josh Universe: Took the time to actually try with them. So after she got those for me, I, just dove into a bunch of research about oil, painting, the mediums, paint, thin, the paint thin for it. You know, just how, how people blend with it, layering different things like that. And. I have like a [00:08:00] bit of an obsessive personality when I’m, passionate about things or I love something.

Josh Universe: and so I become a bit obsessed with, learning it, becoming better at it and just all around, you know, I’ve always been obsessed with the concept of being the best that what I can be. And so I was just, like I said, I was obsessed with it and I would. Any waking moment that I had free time and it would literally be anything, anything I could find or think of that I would paint.

Josh Universe: And so, yeah, it, it really went from there. And eventually I just started to develop my own style and my creativity had already been, Growing since I was a child from just sketching and all the different shows and anime that I had been, influenced by early on. And so I just started pulling from the creativity I had as a child and these [00:09:00] new, life experiences that I started to go through.

Josh Universe: And I started putting those together in my work. And that’s eventually what created my style that is today.

Alex (Host): You mentioned, you mentioned the, the anime, but what are, what are some of those early influences that, that you think really kind of define you as an artist?

Josh Universe: Mm, so aside from the anime. The earliest, you know, when I I’ve always been a very, very, I don’t like to say I’ve always been a different, different than my peers, but when I, you know, growing up in the south mobile, Alabama, I was never, you know, everybody around me was always into, they were in a football, they wanted to play ball.

Josh Universe: They wanted to, just, I don’t know, it was just different. I. And I just, I didn’t care about that. I didn’t care about no football. I didn’t really care about most of the stuff that they were looking at [00:10:00] or doing as children. And I was, remember I was really an emotional kid and I’m still a pretty emotional person.

Josh Universe: Not, no, I hate, I hate the, the negative connotation that has nowadays, but, I I’ll rephrase it. I would feel, and always have felt emotion in a very strong way. So when I was a child, the, I say the anime was a, it was an escape. It was the same thing that the art was. And that’s why I kind of flocked to drawing it because, you know, no matter what I might be feeling at the time in life or.

Josh Universe: Had been going on around me in my, situation or anything like that, you know, I would turn on this show and it would just be like this grand they’re living this grand life and this crazy universe, you know, that’s just so surreal and it would just be an escape. And so I. [00:11:00] Pulled I pulled from that. And that’s the, I always, that feel always gives me a nostalgic feeling whenever I see, you know, even animate today.

Josh Universe: And so I wanted to pull that feeling that it gave me and put it into my work. And, so that’s really what started off the earliest influences was like the need for an escape and a need for a funnel of like the emotions I used to feel as a child.

Alex (Host): Hmm. Yeah. I mean, I, I, I can only imagine that that’s, that, that environment of, of, you know, being, being slightly different.

Alex (Host): I, I, you know, and maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t find myself thinking that there’s a lot of, people working in the, in the fine arts, and you know, in oil painting as the medithat have, that have come from mobile, Alabama, that I think that that’s, so what does that. Navigating the world being different from, from the world that is surrounding you.

Alex (Host): How [00:12:00] did you work through that?

Josh Universe: truth be told, It was a bit of, and I’ll be as completely honest as I can. It was a mixture of just straight perseverance and a bit of delusion as they, you know, they say it today, you gotta be a bit delusional to, do certain things, to try certain things from the day from the, the time I started or I decided, you know, this is what I wanted to do.

Josh Universe: I always had a vision and I always had a thought of how I wanted, how I saw myself, how I saw my career. And I knew it. I, I had something in my heart. I just knew it. I was like, that’s where I want to be. And I don’t know how, or what we’re gonna have to do to get there, but we are gonna get there. And, so when I first started, you.

Josh Universe: That’s that’s really what it took. And like you say, [00:13:00] it, it had, it is a few artists that have come from Alabama, but I can’t say mobile per se, but, so when I first started it, it really felt like, I was the only one doing it. you know, I didn’t really have a mentor. I didn’t have anybody who. Tell, Hey, you know, do this or don’t do that.

Josh Universe: Don’t go down that route. So it was all trial and error. like I say, I researched a lot. I had a lot of hiccups, a lot of, lessons, a big thing I like to say is there no losses? Only less. So I had a lot of lessons and, Every every year, I just tried to make smarter decisions than I did the previous year and capitalize on what I learned.

Josh Universe: And, you know, that, that has helped me gradually progress year by year. [00:14:00]

Alex (Host): If you could go back in time and, give your, give your young self. Some advice, or, or, you know, even just extending that to now, if it certainly there’s somewhere out there, a kid who is, is like you mm-hmm and is sitting in that, in that very similar situation.

Alex (Host): If you could, if you could reach through the, the audio waves here and give them some advice, what would it be?

Josh Universe: Oh man. I would first tell them. And I would tell a younger version of me. You are not crazy for feeling this way. first off you are not crazy for feeling this way. You’re not crazy for pursuing a road, less travel than the people around you than the environment that you see.

Josh Universe: You’re not crazy for it. I would tell them Don. You to show your work and to get into these different [00:15:00] exhibitions, if they want you, they want you, you should not have to spend, do not spend your own money to show in for certain situations. Yes. But stay away from galleries who expect you to pay to show in their galleries.

Josh Universe: be weary of people trying to take advantage of you. or people that try to scam be very aware of people and their intentions with you and believe in yourself, believe in the direction that you’re going. And also you’re not too talented and you’re not too good to learn. Always keep an open ear and be ready to learn.

Alex (Host): You mentioned. Yeah. I mean, that’s, that’s, incredibly powerful advice. thank you for for, for going there and sharing that with us.

Josh Universe: Of [00:16:00] course, man. Thank y’all.

Alex (Host): you mentioned also when you, when you kind of first started, you would just like paint anything you saw mm-hmm and so I’m curious if, if that’s what, what the process is now for, for getting started on a new piece, like where, where are you finding.

Alex (Host): That inspiration. And then how are you kind of making the decision of, okay. Yes. This is now something that we’re going to pursue on a larger scale.

Josh Universe: Mm-hmm it starts, it starts with what I’m feeling. Yeah. That’s the best way I can put how it starts. It starts with what I’m feeling, you know, to I’ll give you an example.

Josh Universe: one of my. Mo biggest piece is that people love is the armor piece. I did. It was a, a piece dedicated to my father. And it was around last year or mid, no, I’m sorry. [00:17:00] It was 2020 turned into 2021. you know, he was fighting cancer and it was a really, really, really rough time for myself and my family, you know, and at the time I had moved in with him to help my grandmother take care of him.

Josh Universe: And the year, the year prior to it, you know, I had just graduated college. Fresh outta college, jumping straight into this situation. It was just a lot. And so I needed to, I needed to, I wanted to create something that not only represented him and shine light on him and who he was as a person, but I also needed something that helped get the emotion I was feeling from it, the whole situation out.

Josh Universe: And so I kind of took. That piece. And I, I thought I used my eye. Like I said, it started with my emotion. Then I [00:18:00] thought, well, what would best represent him? And this is how I start all my pieces. What would best represent this emotion? What would best represent how I’m feeling visually? Because most, all of my pain is I want them to tell a visual story in a unique way.

Josh Universe: So whenever I start, I think about how I’m feeling. Then I try to think about what visually portrays this emotion, the best. And for him, somebody who’s fought all of their life, you know, was fighting. Multiple forms of cancer. And he still was trying to look out for his family, his kids. I thought the best thing that visually represented him a suit of armor, a suit of golden armor.

Josh Universe: you know, and with that piece, I had the armor, the, helmet opened up and the birds were escaping the pseudo, the empty pseudo armor, and the birds were representation of his soul [00:19:00] passing on. And, you know, so that. That’s kind of how I think about my work today. I just, I always wanna make it, because I’m not, you know, a lot of people, some people just like pictures on the wall.

Josh Universe: Exactly. Pleasing pictures on the wall, but I can’t be something I’m not, I always like to make a message cuz I always have something to say. So my pieces are always going to. Be it very aesthetically pleasing. However, if you can look at it deeply enough, you’ll find some meaning in it, or you might even see the meaning that I was putting into it.

Alex (Host): Do you feel any pressure to, to create things that or to, to make choices that. Lead the painting to being more, more likely to sell or any of those kinds of external

Josh Universe: pressures? Oh man. you know, when I first, when I first [00:20:00] started, I did not. and even now I will, I’ll still say I necessarily don’t however I have realized, excuse me, that, I have realized the importance of, especially with the social media area, the importance of having these, having my pieces, being aesthetically pleasing or eye catching.

Josh Universe: and thankfully for myself, you know, I was already, already loved to work on things like that or paint things such as that, that are like very vibrant, very stunning. But I will say in the recent years I have realized the, How well that helps, I don’t per se put a, importance on it myself, but, it is something that I think about.

Josh Universe: it is something that I think about, and I know even with [00:21:00] myself, when I post onto so Instagram or I upload an image to my website, I want it to be eye catching. And I, cause I understand there is. Vast majority of artists out there. So you want to do something that kind of separates you from the next artist or the next artist.

Alex (Host): And, and how does. You know, kind of play out cuz you know, you think about like the there’s, the creating the art process. And then there’s the, the business side of being an artist, including making sure you’re posting on social media and doing all of that, lovely social media stuff that mm-hmm has become so central to our society.

Alex (Host): how do you, how do you keep that balance of like making sure you have the time and space to create in a way that is truthful to you? While also handling all of the kind of backend business.

Josh Universe: Yeah. that’s a great question. The best way I’ve recently [00:22:00] found to do it is to delegate time throughout the week for, each one.

Josh Universe: so now I would like to sometimes some weeks I will separate at the beginning of the week. If I know I have a lot to do on the business side or a lot to do on the, creating side, I’ll separate. the beginning of the week and the end of the week and the beginning of the week, I’ll just delegate that time to either the business side of it, you know, redoing websites, email things, social media, because I, you know, social media, to me, isn’t a part of the creating side, more of a business side now mm-hmm and then for the rest of the week, I’ll just focus strictly on creating or beginning a process, with, you know, unclouded by thoughts, if I need to do this, or I need to do that because I’ve already, finished them at the beginning of the [00:23:00] week or.

Josh Universe: I’ll just delegate some time throughout the day. Okay. The morning time will be given to this or the evening time will be given to that. So I, I found for me a scheduled, a scheduled time for each thing has helped me kind of separate the two and keep, keep myself from feeling burnt out or blending them too.

Alex (Host): in our, our pre-interview questionnaire. You described yourself as your own as your own biggest critic, but, made note that you’ve, you’ve gotten better about it in recent years. So I’m just curious, how have you gotten better about it?

Josh Universe: the best way I can say I’ve gotten better about it is I have, I’ve only, I’ve just been.

Josh Universe: Kind of to myself, honestly. I, I saw a quote, well, it wasn’t a quote. It was a video, you know, TikTok sometimes way too [00:24:00] long at night. And it was a TikTok I saw actually. And the guy he was speaking about, how do you balance, Being content with life, but also wanting more. And that, that right there had always been my biggest battle.

Josh Universe: I’ve I, I always want more I’m I’m never satisfied, but I also. You know, I had a friend tell me that I looked so much into the future, that I don’t even appreciate the people in my life and the things in my life here and now. And when she told me that, you know, it hit me really hard because it was so true.

Josh Universe: And so I’ve struggled with, you know, always this, this, like I said, I’m, I have an obsessed personality. So I struggled with obsess and over always wanted more, always want to be better. Versus being content and the video he explained, you know, it’s about not being content [00:25:00] with. He said to be content with the direction that you’re going in life, be content with the direction that you’re going to wanting more and always want more for yourself.

Josh Universe: But you don’t have to be content in where you at right now, because you do want more, just be content in the direction that you’re going. And I hope that resonates with you or someone else as much as it did with me. And, I really, you know, I really started to look at life more. Are. In that aspect in that way.

Josh Universe: And since then, you know, it’s, it’s really helped. And, another thing is I’ve honestly found, I don’t know how, when, but I found a way to truly like, let go. I’m, I’ve always been so in control of things, I’ve always known what, what I wanted to do. What’s gonna happen next, this, that, [00:26:00] but, you know, It, it was these past, this past year has been such a rollercoaster, you know, especially with my father passed and it was just such a rollercoaster.

Josh Universe: I lost so much confidence and I, you know, trying to find my way back to myself. And the biggest thing that I had to learn is just, you know, just let go. Led life, man. and so I’ve been, I’ve been allowing myself to do that and like I say, being kinder to myself and that’s really how I’ve gotten better about it.

Alex (Host): So in, in that answer and in, in reading that pre-interview questionnaire, I, you did not use the word perfectionism, in, in yourself as an artist, but I’m just curious when battling, even that. That even being your own biggest critic or, all of those things. How, how do you decide when a piece of work is complete?

Josh Universe: [00:27:00] I will say probably when I know that if I, no matter what I add to. it won’t add anything to the painting. If that makes sense. Mm-hmm no, if the painting is at a level that I had it, I wanted it to be in my head and no matter what little detail, fine detail or differences I add to it, it’ll go slightly unknow because it just won’t, it won’t add anything to the painting because the painting.

Josh Universe: More or less reached what I had in my mind. And at that time, I won’t even say I completed it. I just abandoned it. You know? you abandon the piece. I can’t ever say it’s really completed. but yeah, it, I will say to answer your question when I know that it’s time to take my hands off of is when there’s nothing left [00:28:00] that would add to the.

Josh Universe: To convey the message

Alex (Host): Josh, before I let you go here, I just wanna give you one more chance to, let, let our people know where they can find your work, where they can see your work. And if there’s anything upcoming that you wanna make mention

Josh Universe: of. Okay. For sure. again, my Instagram handle for my work is at Josh universe and my website is universe art gallery dot.

Josh Universe: check out my Instagram for anything up and coming. I do have a lot in store and, but I can’t speak of it right now. I am sorry, but I I’m excited to share it with you all soon. And. Yeah, I hope you’ll all continue to with me on this journey.

Alex (Host): We love a tease like that. Josh, we love it. looking, looking forward to the big news soon.

Josh Universe: Yes, sir.

Alex (Host):Josh Universe. Thank you again for joining us here on the VoyageATL Podcast.

Josh Universe: Thank y’all for [00:29:00] having me brother.

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