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Carroll County Times

Barefoot artist makes name as free spirit

Justin Wantz is a painter who works at a local home improvement company in Westminster. He is not a house painter, however; he is a fine artist. The most noticeable thing about Wantz, when you first meet him, is the fact that he never wears shoes except when he is at work. He is truly a free spirit in every sense of the word, making him even a better artist with his own view of the world.

Wantz always drew in elementary school and people commented on his doodles. Since he had a hard time writing because of his dyslexia, Wantz drew his stories instead of writing them. He remembers sitting in church and doodling all over everything he could find. In school, he filled all the margins of his papers with illustrations. His teachers often commented that his work was good and so were his drawings.

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When he attending Francis Scott Key High School, he took every art class he could. He was also an art teacher's aide and took an independent study art class after he had taken all the other art classes available. In high school, he had no real direction for his art because he did not have exposure to the art community. He did mostly pen and ink and pencil drawings at that time.

After high school, Wantz attended Carroll Community College and studied visual art. While there, he took classes from Maggie Ball, the head of the art department, as well as other art faculty members. "My time at Carroll helped me get some direction and structure in my artistic life," he explained. He hopes to be able to take more classes in the future when his life and finances permit.

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While attending Carroll Community college, Wantz was able to visit art museums, such as the National Gallery of Art, that he had not had the opportunity to visit before. He was inspired by the artworks there by famous artists from around the world and throughout history.

It was not until after he graduated that he began to dabble in painting. "I thought I could be more expressive and more involved with my artwork," he explained. Painting is not as monotonous for him. He has always been drawn to landscapes, trees and flowers and the sky. He uses oil paints for his creations. Wantz does not like acrylics because he does not like how fast they dry.

Wantz gets his ideas from an image that fascinates him. He stores the images in his brain and use them later. For example, if he sees a blazing sunset, he will store it in his memory and then he uses his imagination to create his own unique images. "It is something I do not see very often from other artists except surrealists," he said. Wantz's images are truly one of a kind.

Some of his works include moonlight nightscapes, brilliantly-colored sunsets and seasonally-inspired expressionist landscapes. Wantz has also experimented with translucent paint on black in an attempt to have a painting that looks totally black from one angle and has an image from another.

He is a member of the Hanover Area Arts Guild (www.hanoverareaarts.com) and shows his art in their gallery on a regular basis. Since most of his time has been spent working, he has recently decided to go part-time at his regular job so that he can devote more of his time to his art. He has a daughter, named Lexi, who loves to draw with him, so she is certainly the next artist in the family.

Wantz will be showing his art at Birdie's Café (birdiescoffee.com) on East Main St. in Westminster this year and plans to join the Carroll County Arts Council (carrollcountyartscouncil.org) in the near future.

"The one thing that most inspires me is to be part of a movement, such as local artists, that provide handmade goods and meaningful products for the public. When I am in the process of creating art and discussing it, it makes me happy. It is enriching." Wantz explained.

Wantz has become more active recently looking for venues in which to show his artwork. He has also had his artwork digitized and has had gicleés made of his artwork. He wants to immerse himself more in the art world. Wantz can be contacted at

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