I was first introduced to Justin Hillgrove and his art at one of many art fairs in Seattle. He was painting his wonderful imps, monsters and robots while people flocked to his busy booth. I’ve been an avid collector ever since this chance meeting.
Hillgrove is mostly self-taught as an artist, having started at a very young age, and was in the design industry prior to becoming a full-time artist. Since then, he’s been the artist-in-residence at the Schulz Museum, painted fabulous murals for Facebook in both Seattle and London, and launched his own indie table top game, Junk Spirit Games.
Hillgrove produces larger than life characters, each with its own story waiting to be told. He has an inviting familiarity in his art, with a sense of humor that doesn’t take itself too seriously. This can especially be seen in his parody and tribute series of work. His creativity is intriguing enough to capture the adult heart and friendly enough to hang in your child’s room.
His character design draws inspiration from Miyazaki / Studio Ghibli, and Sendak. Sendak’s influence is seen in Hillgrove’s line work and sketches, while Miyazaki / Studio Ghibli shines through in the child like wonder that seeps through his designs.
My favorite part of Hillgrove’s work, besides its clean playfulness, is just the amount of soul that each depiction possesses. Each piece seems to be a snapshot in time, a window into a moment in the life of each character. There’s a sense of momentum because of this, that there’s a story behind what we’re seeing, if only the picture would show us what’s next, or what just occurred. His skill for creature design and implied world building in each piece is spot on.