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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

An interview with illustrator Justin Wallis aka MILKBBI, as featured in Amelia’s Anthology of Illustration

The charming US based illustrator Justin Wallis featured in my first book of illustration back in 2009, and since then he's been incredibly busy...

Written by Amelia Gregory

Justin Wallis MILKBBI space girl notebook
Space Girl notebook from MILKBBI shop.

Arkansas based Justin Wallis featured in my first book of illustration. Since then he’s been expanding his MILKBBI online product empire, as well as participating in numerous interesting collaborations and exhibitions across the world. Time to catch up!

It’s nice to hear from you again after all this time, what have you been doing since you appeared in Amelia’s Anthology of Illustration?
Hi Amelia, since being a part of Amelia’s Anthology of Illustration I’ve mostly been focusing on creating products for my little online shop, it’s been really fun. I’m still so new to the whole thing so I’m learning. My dream is to see the MILKBBI brand growwwwwww & grow!

Justin Wallis Combined Heat & Power page from Anthology
Justin Wallis – Combined Heat & Power page from Amelia’s Anthology of Illustration.

How is the world of the deep South? How would you describe the arts and illustration communities of the area where you live?
WELL, I will say sadly there is not much to say…..  I MEAN its growing, so I don’t wanna sound really negative or whatever. It’s an interesting place though – everyone should visit the deep south at least once :> (but probably not for its art. Woops.) Actually, everything I do (artistically) stems from the internet; I never do anything locally. Every exhibition, publication, etc. has been based somewhere else. And out of every sale from my online shop, I’ve never shipped to anywhere near my hometown. Hmmm I think I belong somewhere else! Right now I live online! 

Justin Wallis MILKBBI collaboration with Daniel Fernandez
You have recently been collaborating with Daniel Guerrero Fernandez, an illustrator in Costa Rica. How did this come about and what happened when you went to stay with him for a month?
Yes! We have both known about each others’ work for a good while. We were even in a little zine together before we knew each other :> Then one day Daniel e-mailed me asking to collaborate on some stuff, so we started drawing & mailing the results back and forth (which is a very slow process!) Visiting him in Costa Rica was something I never would’ve expected to happen last year! So unexpected – but it was so great. Living in Costa Rica was so unreal & wild for me because I had never left the USA before, & being somewhere like that… well, it was just so eye opening!!!! 

Justin Wallis notebook
Justin Wallis’ notebook.

I brought a notebook along with me, so i wouldn’t miss out on any drawing while I was gone. I filled it up with drawings (including some I did with Daniel) & when I got back home I printed my little illustration book CACTUS ~ which I’m so proud of, it’s like a baby to me. Every page reminds me of a different place or story or whatever inspired my drawing that day :>

Justin Wallis MILKBBI Cactus book
CACTUS art book available in the MILKBBI shop

I love your short animated film Mama Bear. What was the thought behind this particular project? How did you come up with the story?
Thank you! I’m glad you like it. Hmmm, well, the story of ‘mama bear’ is pretty simple, just a short conversation with a girl that gives you a little insight to her personality, stuff like that. But it’s illustrated in an unusual way – I was inspired by video games from the late 90′s & early 2000′s, so it’s a mix of that video game feeling and my hand-drawn illustrations. I wanted to make something half warm / half cold. Older video games could only go so far with their movie scenes, so they had no voices and minimal music & animation: emotions expressed in that medium are unusual & interesting to me. I just illustrated a short conversation in my own interpretation of that style.

Justin Wallis clip from Mama Bear
Clip from MAMA BEAR

How is the love affair with felt tip pens and stickers? Why do you think you are so drawn to these media?
They’re so comforting! My childhood! Just a warm good feeling. Other people have told me they get the same nostalgic feeling from my drawings which is so good to hear!

Justin Wallis MILKBBI aguamelon
How did you theme the collaborative zines that you did with Mexican artist Ines Estrada aka INECHI? And how did you work with each other from afar?
Well actually at first we decided on no theme and just started drawing. Then out of nowhere a theme just kinda popped up! Watermelon for me, & avocado for Ines – kind of a silly symbol from where we are each from I guess. Me & Ines have collaborated before, so it wasn’t anything new to work with her, but we had never attempted to do a complete project like this. We just mailed our drawings back and forth to each other, and they finally ended up in Inechi’s hands and she formed them into a zine which was printed them in Mexico & sold through her online store. I was reallyyyyy happy with this collaboration. It was like an explosion from both of us! A colliding collab! There is so much going on I think it looks like we are both fighting for more space in our drawings :> I love it.

Justin Wallis MILKBBI Willar Mateo
A sneak peak photo from the collaboration with Willar.

You also collaborated with fashion designer Willar Mateo in the Philippines. What was the brief for your fabric designs?
Willar emailed me a few times suggesting we collaborate, and at first I was unsure. But I decided to do it because I had always wanted to design patterns for clothes and I thought this would be a good chance. Me & Willar both have a childish aesthetic in our work and I think that’s where we both connected. So the theme of our designs came from our love of our childhood things. Video games & virtual pets! Big shirts & baggy shorts ~ real silly stuff like that.

Animation made from post-it note drawings
Animation made from post-it note drawings.

What exhibitions did you participate in during 2011, and what is happening in that area in 2012? Anything exciting that you can share with us?
I had two favourite exhibitions from last year. First was the Post show in LA at Japan LA. I was very excited to be a part of this show because so many of my favourite artists were in it and also because the proceeds from the show went to help the victims from the big tsunami/earthquake in Japan last year. Then there was a post-it note show at the Atticus Gallery in Barcelona, Spain! It was exciting to do an exhibition overseas and drawing on post-it notes was an interesting challenge!

Justin Wallis MILKBBI Giant Robot print
Print available at Giant Robot show in LA.

As far as 2012 is concerned, I’m participating in the Printed Matter 10 show at Giant Robot in LA which opened on the 11th January and continues until the 25th – hello LA residents! you should go ~~~

Current available MILKBBI products!
Current available MILKBBI products!

Your own MILKBBI brand seems to be going from strength to strength. What products do you have for fans to buy?
thanks! :> The most popular recent product was a new t-shirt that I designed ~ which is almost sold out!! But I’m planning on doing more or something similar soon.

Justin Wallis MILKBBI t-shirt
Justin Wallis MILKBBI Cactus pages
Pages from the art book CACTUS.

My favourite product is the art book CACTUS ~ its only $10 and features 65 full colour illustrations ~ to me, it’s really a special gem ♥ and they’re halfway gone! There are also other things, like notebooks, buttons, pins, bags, pouches & stickers!

justin wallis
What have been the best and the worst parts of managing your own brand? Any top tips for those just starting out?
Okay, bad part first ~ dealing with the post office, shipping, boring money/technical things. I think thats the part I’ve learned the most about. It’s a necessary evil! But, you know, totally worth it I guess :>

Justin Wallis MILKBBI customer order
Customer photo of an order they received.

Best part!! Sharing my work with people all over the world!! It never gets old when I receive an e-mail from a customer saying how much they love what they bought & stuff like that! Sometimes they even send pictures of the stuff in their new home which is so cool ~ I love that :> I also love putting together the orders, it’s interesting to see the combinations of products people buy ~ it’s like a recipe or something. Just knowing my designs are sitting in the houses of so many people is such a cool good feeling.

Ok and here is a good tip! Don’t try too hard to please people!! I think it’s almost impossible anyway ~ when I try to make something and I start thinking too much: ‘will people like this? or this!?!?’ it just ruins everything and makes a bad drawing. Do what you like, I think it’s better that way :> I hope I’m not wrong!

Justin Wallis
Finally, what’s the best way to spend a relaxing day in the world of Justin Wallis?
Listening to Cibo Matto, playing Sega Dreamcast with Daniel. THANK YOU!!! :>

You can find more of the wonderful world of Justin Wallis in Amelia’s Anthology of Illustration. Take a peek at his video Puppy Love on Amelia’s Magazine in 2010 and don’t forget to stop by the MILKBBI shop!


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One Response to “An interview with illustrator Justin Wallis aka MILKBBI, as featured in Amelia’s Anthology of Illustration”

  1. Emily says:

    Absolutely love this! So beautiful! (: x

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