JSTNGRAPHICS’ Starlight Reflections

Justin Bodnar—AKA jstngraphics—creates landscapes to get lost in. The 19 year old visual artist began his career in his early teens, trickshotting in Call of Duty while designing banners and thumbnails on the side. With aspirations of becoming a professional soccer player, art offered a meaningful escape from the stresses of reality. After discovering NFTs in the summer of 2020, Bodnar would go on to become one of the space’s youngest rising stars. His cosmic catalog of work has sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars at auction, garnering support from some of the most storied collectors in the space. 

We’re honored to welcome Justin Bodnar as the fourth Lvcidia Experience artist. As we prepare for his Experience releasing Thursday, September 28th, join us in getting to know Bodnar and his work.

ART IN ISOLATION

In contemplating the formative events of his artistic development, Bodnar is quick to turn to the global pandemic. Sure, he got an intensive open heart-surgery at only 10 years old, but that was merely the beginning of his foray into the arts. In reality, it was during the quarantine era of COVID-19 that his stylistic sensibilities began to blossom. No longer required to attend school in-person—a dream come true for the at-the-time 16 year old—Bodnar had the opportunity to experiment like never before. 

“When COVID hit I think that’s when it really hit me, because everything went down. I didn’t go to school [in-person]. I didn’t do anything. I only had time to sit and make art… that was my main escape.”

A breakthrough came with a series of works entitled ALONE. Featuring a silhouetted figure wandering vast landscapes, the visual motifs of the series would become hallmarks of Bodnar’s work in the years to follow. “I really like the idea of making something with a small subject character, and then putting them into a massive environment,” Bodnar explains. “And when I make my pieces… whether it’s where the subject is positioned, or the lighting, the color, or anything like that—it ties into how I’m feeling at the time. Whether I’m feeling a little lonely, or full for the future.”

Despite the fact that his subjects are often kept at a great distance from the viewer, there’s a universal relatability to these faceless figures. Their souls are projected outward onto the stars, their emotions illuminating the terrain. What they’re searching for—if anything at all—we do not know. But on their journeys, they seem to have accepted, or perhaps resigned themselves to, their place in the universe. 

When nothing else remains, the cosmos will still be there to reach out its hand. 

While Bodnar himself can’t say for certain what initially attracted him to the landscapes he creates, it seems they provided him refuge. His work represents a search for calm, connection, and freedom, at a time when the world offered none. These are landscapes possessing endless mysteries and infinite possibilities. Even in a seemingly endless solitude, there is hope over the horizon.

ENTERING WEB3

Finding success in the NFT space requires a fair share of both luck and persistence. For Bodnar, nothing was handed over without a fight. His early applications to the major curated platforms were met with a deafening silence. Dispirited as he may have been, Bodnar kept working, and he kept applying. Waiting for the day that someone in a position of authority would be willing to take a chance on his work.

“But then I finally got a message from one of the curators at SuperRare, and she’s like, oh, have you applied before? I’m like, about three times and didn’t hear anything.” 

While his first sale was a momentous achievement, Bodnar is not the type to become complacent. He continued creating, posting, and putting himself out there in search of individuals who’d resonate with his work. This brought him to the short-lived site for social audio rooms—Clubhouse—which had become a central hub for the NFT community at the time. 

There was one small hiccup, though: technically, he wasn’t old enough to use the app. “It’s always that 18-21 [age requirement]… I did many small [rooms], and someone obviously was salty, reported me, got me banned, and so I had to keep remaking new accounts… up to like six or seven accounts.” In the midst of his battle against the app’s terms of service, Bodnar still managed to make his way into a room which included the musical artist 3LAU (AKA Blau).

And despite his nerves, a great opportunity was in front of him. “I was like, you know what? I’ll raise my hand and see what happens. Whatever,” Bodnar recalls. “So they brought me up on stage, and I’m like, [incredibly nervous].”

“I got a soccer game in the morning. I got to go. I might as well introduce myself, see what happens. So there’s a gap where no one is talking, and I was like, okay, unmute. ‘Hey, I’m Justin. I’m 16, here’s my work’ And literally, within a minute, I had 100 plus followers on Twitter and Instagram, just everyone going spamming stuff. Blau actually came in and said, like, wow, dude, your work is sick at 16.” 3LAU would go on to purchase a 1/1 artwork from Bodnar, even going so far as to commission the young artist to create cover art for his first song release on his platform Royal

PROCESS

While there’s no single path Bodnar takes to achieve the best results, he has developed a variety of helpful habits. Rough concepts for his work are usually sketched out in Photoshop and Procreate, with only the strongest among them moving forward. He loves to moodboard, compiling art that catches his eye from all across social media. Lately that also includes film frames from ShotDeck, where he’s finding inspiration from cinematic lighting, color, and compositions as he tackles more ambitious animations. The final artwork is generally created with a mix of different plugins, using Cinema 4D, Octane, Photoshop, and After Effects.

Within this process, Bodnar sees immense value in collaboration. One of his most frequent collaborators, in fact,  is none other than his father. “My Dad does video, music, [and] photography, so I think I might get that from him”, says Bodnar. “There’s a picture roaming around the Internet of me at maybe two months old, sitting on his lap in 3D Studio Max making a little sphere.” Where much of Bodnar’s older work blended real photography with his photoreal renderings, his father’s images of the skies proved a useful asset. “And I think there was one piece I did, the Pathway where I have a moon in there, and it’s my Dad’s moon shot”. 

 “I should also point out that for some of my artwork drops, I collaborated with [my Dad] because he does music, too. And so I’ll export my animation out, I’ll run up to his office, and we’ll sit down and start working on music for the artwork to match.” 

Outside of his family, Bodnar has also formed a skilled community of peers who are always willing to offer feedback on his work. “All these guys helped me in a certain way on my journey to where I am”, he claims.

But when asked if there were any specific names he wanted to note, Bodnar takes a long pause. Not because none come to mind, but because there are surely far too many worthy of mention. Still, he makes a valiant effort: Vaveili, Ben Skaar, Josh Pierce, Aeforia, Smeccea, and Fvckrender

To be able to collaborate, get advice, and just talk with artists of this caliber—even developing close friendships with them—is an honor Bodnar does not take lightly. He values their insights, and finds that they have an incredible ability to put into words what is or isn’t working with regard to his art.

“It’s just really nice to work with someone, where even though you’re not working on the same thing… you can get their opinion on it, then you can help them, and it goes back and forth.”

THE FUTURE

With a full life to lead ahead of him, Bodnar is excited to see where it all goes from here. His work has evolved from still images, to incorporating animation, to now even creating a fully animated CGI short film. The landscape is expansive; his exploration has only just begun. And while the state of the market can be disheartening at times, his dreams remain the same. Among them: show his artwork around the world.

“I haven’t left the country yet, and I really want to… I’d really love to go see my artwork in person in a different kind of environment.” 

Regarding the type of work he’d like to take on in the future, Bodnar doesn’t need a second thought. In the hardest times of his life—whether it be navigating surgery or quarantine—music was always there for him. “I have to thank ODESZA… [their music] got me through that period,” Bodnar explains. “My main goal is realistically to make live visuals that go along with that kind of music, the kind of music that inspired me to start… so working with ODESZA, and similar artists.”

“[Live visuals] are something I really want to do as a job. Seeing everyone around me dancing to the music…looking at the visuals and being just in awe…that’s something I really want to make people feel.

I would do that every day, and I wouldn’t even be mad if I had to work. My dad sometimes is like, ‘oh, dang it, man, I got a meeting at 8:00 a.m.’ I’m like, ‘Well, I’d be excited to have a meeting at 8:00 a.m for the work I’m doing.’”

Justin Bodnar’s Lvcidia Experience will drop on September 28th.  As with our past Experiences, there will be new limited edition artworks available for purchase. Be sure to join us for a special Fvck_Monday live space on September 25th, where Lvcidia’s curators Roger Dickerman and Bonglo will speak with jstngraphics about the upcoming collection. Additionally, we invite you to follow jstngraphics on Twitter and Instagram for updates on his work. His stunning CGI short film “GRAVITY” is expected to release sometime next year.

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Ryan McCue

Ryan is an LA-based writer and filmmaker. He began as a Lvcidia community member in early 2021, drawn to the cinematic beauty of Fvckrender’s virtual creations. His engagement with the community led to him becoming a moderator for the Discord, and in 2022 he was brought on officially to create Lvcidia’s newsletter. He now assists in writing articles for the Lvcidia journal, conducting interviews, and moderating the occasional live Q&A.

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