A fascination with R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books, natural talent, and a few hard knocks along the way have shaped 20-year-old up-and-coming local artist, A.J. Green.
At an early age, the young creative was so obsessed with the imaginatively composed and colorful Goosebumps covers that he made it a point to start following the work of illustrator Tim Jacobus. “I fell in love with the saturation and the color in his art pieces. The one I remember was a book called The Haunted Mask,” he said, rattling off a few other titles that stood out in his memory – Attack of the Jack-O’-Lanterns and My Hairiest Adventure. A.J. would sit for hours at the kitchen table replicating the covers.
Holding a conversation with A.J. today is effortless. He’s well-spoken and self-assured though communication wasn’t always his forte. He admits that he was an introverted kid and that art was an outlet for him. “Not only was I able to express myself, but the art eventually was able to speak for me,” he said. “Being an introvert, I was able to, in a strange sense, indulge in myself, and fall into myself and enjoy the things I did.”
A.J. sharpened the skills he’d developed drawing book covers by drawing things from his own imagination.
As he has evolved, so too has A.J.’s artistic style. He now does Pointillism, a technique using small dots to make up a larger picture. He has typically used graphite and black ink mediums but has introduced pops of color his work to “compliment the intensity” of his black and white monochromatic style.
Much of A.J.’s inspiration comes from films. He used to love drawing cinematic insight from the imaginative side of horror films and has become very interested in the sci-fi genre. Aliens, winged creatures, creatures in humanoid form – his fascination with sci-fi comes from what he calls a “broader spectrum of imagination and creativity.”
He also uses social media to follow other artists. He examines their technique, color pallets, and mediums to modify in a way that he can use for his own art.
Along with his admiration for other artists, A.J. is also blown away by his own growth. Two of his most recent pieces hold a special place in the creative’s heart. The first, titled, Arzonnica the Skyfall, is a blend of mediums. “It’s just a beautiful picture of this humanoid female figure and I’m really interested in the female figure when I’m rendering it in the sci-fi theme. It is meteors scratching through the sky in the background and her whole world is about to be destroyed. She’s holding this staph that possesses power unparalleled to anything humans have ever experienced,” he explained.
Another piece, Muted Maroon, is a stunning image of a somber man with an index finger pressed against his lips in a hush motion. A black and white piece, A.J. used pops of maroon in the moths fluttering around the mysterious man. He discussed the piece, saying, “The picture symbolizes motion. It looks like there are these creatures fluttering around him, but it’s silent. It’s so beautiful – the eyes are really intense, the shading is really intense and it’s a black and white photo, and the only thing that has color are the red insects flying around in the background.”
Along with these pieces, A.J. has been working with Jane Waters-Thomas, Executive Director of Arts Ensemble, on community mural projects. He just finished a project called “Wings,” a pair of angel wings on a wall in Haines City.
After completing his wings, A.J. began to see photos of people posing in front of them on social media. “It gave me goosebumps because these people haven’t even seen me yet, but they know me. They know me because they know my art, they’re interacting with my art, they’re engaging with my art,” he said excitedly.
Green’s journey would have been much different without supporters in his corner. He named his mom and girlfriend as instrumental to his success and spotlighted older sister Laura. She was always there to encourage him. “She would always tell me, ‘I know you can do better than this,’” he said.
Laura’s constructive criticism would often make him discard what he was working on to reimagine something much greater. He said her words helped him to make his work “come to life.”
Another advocate for A.J. is Kurtis Flanders of Growing Positivity, a program for creatives working under Art Ensemble. A.J. says he is amazed by what Kurtis does for the kids of the community and that he plans to become a part of Growing Positivity.
“He’s very much an inspiration to an artist like me, how he’s able to engage with these kids, how he’s able to engage with the future – because these kids are our future,” he said.
Growing up in Naples, A.J. moved to Winter Haven about 2 years ago. Robbed and held at gunpoint, his few years here have been colored by periods of adversity. He leveraged his struggles though and turned them into something beautiful. “Most of my growth happened in Winter Haven because of the level of adversity I faced happened in Winter Haven,” he said.
That adversity shaped his dream.
“At first, my dream was to impact the world and impact the lives of many on a deeper level through art,” he said. “Now my goal is to bring out the creative nature in everyone.”
He remembers a conversation he had with someone saying, “I want to just build a place, like a temple of creativity and love in the chaos of the normal world where people could come and heal and recover and tap into the greater half of themselves where they could release their creativity.”
“I call that the ‘Cosmic Nature’ within people – the beauty, the essence of who they are, the greatness within them,” he said.
He believes so firmly in this dream that he’s dubbed the brand he’s creating, Cosmic Nature.
The young artist is in the midst of working on a body of work that he hopes to make available for purchase when it’s completed. You can follow his work and “the power of art and the power of Cosmic Nature” by following @cosmic.nature_ on Instagram.