June 20, 2021

Des Moines artist being featured at Warren Cultural Center

Justin Young’s portraits and watercolors decorate the walls on the first floor of the building

“I like how it was built and it has that old architecture,” Des Moines-based artist Justin Young said of the Warren Cultural Center in Greenfield. “I like a lot of old buildings, it has a lot of interesting character.”

From June 7 — July 2, the WCC will be putting Young’s watercolors and portraits on display on the first floor. Young said his path to becoming an artist was non-linear.

“I always enjoyed paintings and then I went on to college at Iowa State University and majored in computer graphic design,” Young said.

While at Iowa State, Young developed an affinity for watercolors and pastels before broadening his talent. Much of the scenes on display come from the building exteriors at Iowa State and Iowa City.

“These days I enjoy painting landscapes, cityscapes and I also do commission work for little children and portraits, like home portraits, so I like a variety of subjects.”

Young is from south Asia and enrolled in high school in Iowa City when he was 14. Young said he’s inspired by people going about their day in certain settings which can conjure a sentimental vibe.

“My inspiration usually comes from daily life, some of the paintings are of rainy days,” Young said. “When I got off work and then it was raining I said, ‘Ooh, this scene is kind of intriguing to me,’ and then I took some pictures and then later on those pictures I took while it was raining inspired me to make rainy day paintings in downtown Des Moines.”

His subjects extend to interior scenes as well.

“Let’s say I go to an art museum and I see people looking at art, that can inspire me to do my museum art paintings.”

The purpose of his artistic work is to capture a feeling that the beholder can instantly connect to from their experiences.

“Each painting, whenever I do the painting, I like to create a story with my paintings,” he said, “I like my paintings to be a story to tell people about something they can experience themselves.”

Young said he did not find so much encouragement from his education but rather the people around him.

“I get a lot of encouragement from my peers, some of my friends, I get a lot of encouragement from my customers, actually.”

His customers are anyone who find themselves touched by his work and desire to hold onto a piece of his art.

“Let’s say people come to see my art and they contact me and say, ‘Hey, I see some art out here,’ and they want to know more about my art, and sometimes they purchase them.”

Young said he wants to use his talents to please people.

“I can please other people, I can make them happy, I can make them smile,” he said. “Some of my pet portrait pieces or my cityscapes, for some reason, that makes them smile.”

The centerpiece of the exhibit is a portrait of what appears to be of six dogs at play. Young says the painting, which took him weeks to complete, is actually of two dogs in three different poses depicted as if there were more of them interacting with each other. Love of pets often draws a connection between the painting and the person.

“People tend to like those arts that they can relate to,” he said.

When Young found out the United States Postal Service would be redesigning their trucks, he captured a slice-of-life scene of the USPS trucks en route as he says nostalgia for the truck design will have sentimental value.

Young was contacted by the Warren Cultural Center after they had seen his work in Des Moines.

“They loved it so they invited me here to do this art show.”

He jumped at the opportunity to display his works in a small, quiet town.

“It’s kind of nice to be able to exhibit my art outside of the Des Moines area,” he said. He also displays his work at the Garden Center in Omaha.

Young said he found the Greenfield and the surrounding rural scenes picturesque.

“I love the landscape here, it’s so green, there are a lot of hills.”

“I didn’t know what I was missing before I came here,” he said. “I drove by when I go to Omaha, I see the sign that says, ‘Greenfield,’ but for some reason I missed it, this is a very pretty sight, and nice city, too.”