We are perpetually in awe of the many ways in which photographers and artists use Mextures to create insane beauty and wildly creative pieces of work and James Livitski (@thegentlemanbronco) has always been an outstanding example of this in action. His surreal artwork is often mind-bending and consistently impressive in its use of colors, shapes and unique subjects. We genuinely enjoy each of his pieces and feel that they display a unique understanding of Mextures. That being said, we spoke to James at length about his art and his ability to create such extraordinary work using Mexutres as a tool. We learned a great deal and we’d wager that you will too!
Who am I? James Livitski. I'm a self-taught graphic designer from Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada, but now I reside in Toronto, Ontario. I’ve been designing for three years now. I got into it after I saw people were making art with just their phones and I was looking to express myself in different ways artistically other than just writing music. So that's where it kind of all began for me. I've been using Mextures since the very beginning. As soon as Merek released his high res Mextures overlays on his personal website I hopped on board right away and haven't stopped using them since. 98% of the pieces I do now I do in Photoshop/Illustrator, but once I'm done creating the piece on my computer I export the piece onto my phone and run it through Mextures. Some pieces you can't tell if Mextures was used or not, but it's always used on my pieces - 100% of the time.
I'm a freelance graphic designer who co-founded the art and design agency Somnium with my buddies Ellery Mann (@ell_4) and Colin Sinclair (@lemon67) where we specialize in creating album artwork for bands. When I'm not doing the Somnium stuff you'll either find me somewhere around Toronto creating art in a coffee shop, writing music with my band (recordings coming soon!) or going to dog parks to pet the puppies (I know you feel me on that one). I love to keep busy because it leaves no time to be uninspired. I'm currently working on the score for an indie horror film titled Quiver which is due out later this year.
My aspiration in life when it comes to my artwork is to leave an impression on someone. I want people to look at my work and feel something - anything. I used to study architecture and one of the main reasons why I chose to study it was because I was making something with my mind and was going to be able to see this creation come to life and stand longer than I'll live. That whole concept was huge to me. But I quickly realized that designing logos you'd stamp on the blueprints was more interesting to me than designing a building. I enjoyed that more because I had free rein over the idea. At that time I had just started with Instagram and was seeing all this artwork come to life with just your phone, so it was the idea of designing logos and seeing the artwork on Instagram that steered me in the right direction as to where I am now.
When you create a piece, what does that process typically look like from start to finish?
I start off with just one image that I really like and just stare at it until an idea pops into my head and then I go from there. There are definitely times when I already have a scene built out in my head before I create the piece, but generally it starts with just one image and I build off of that. Some pieces might take me a half hour whereas others may take me days. It all depends on what I'm trying to achieve. Like I said, I create everything in Photoshop/Illustrator and then I import it to my phone and run the piece through Mextures to give it those final touches.
What exactly does it mean to use Mextures for those final touches?
Here are two images of a piece I did on my computer. The first hasn’t been run through Mextures and then you can see the final product after using Mextures. That should give you an idea of what the before and after looks like. You can see how much depth it adds to the piece when it's run through Mextures.
How about formulas? Have you ever made any that you’d be willing to share?
So I've got four formulas that I put together. I used my buddy Damien's shots (@dmangilbert) to create these formulas:
The 6ix: NYNFBMR Drive (Far Away): DCXLAYA Takk...: HEZMAPX Thunder Bay: SNIZUHQ
Do you feel like Mextures offers anything unique to your editing process?
Mextures is hands down the best photo filter app that exists on the market by far. It's the only app that actually gives you the freedom to customize the exact tones you're looking for as opposed to just clicking one button and that's it. I also love the ability to edit the photo in app without having to do it beforehand by using the polishing tools like contrast, hue, saturation, sharpness, etc. I actually believe it revolutionized photo editing on your phone and when you look up the Mextures hashtag on Instagram it's proof. It's extremely addicting to take any photo and just mess with it to see what kind of product you come up with. You can have one picture and edit it a thousand times and it'll always look like a new piece of art. I've got nothing but love for Mextures and am indebted to Merek for creating such an amazing tool for iPhone users around the globe. Truthfully, when someone asks me "what's a cool photo editing app?" my go to is always Mextures.
As a musician and an artist, what are some tunes you listen to while creating?
In terms of what I listen to when I'm creating art, it all depends. The music I listen to while I'm creating directly influences the outcome of the piece for sure though. I love listening to ambient music, film scores, or the classics. Ambient bands like Explosions in the Sky, This Will Destroy You, Sigur Ros, Mono, The Album Leaf, etc. In terms of film composers I love dudes like David Wingo, Jon Hopkins, anything Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross do together, and of course Hans Zimmer, John Williams, and James Horner. I love tossing on the classics too like Billie Holiday, The Temptations, Everly Bros, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, etc. It's really all over the map,but generally that's my go to selection.
What have you found really inspires you to create?
That's such a huge question. There's so much that inspires me. I don't go a day without being inspired by something or someone.
I guess I could say music is my primary influence because there's never a time where I'm sitting down creating a piece of art without it on. It's always there and it's constantly inspiring whether it be the lyrics of the song or the music itself. In fact, I'd say most of my pieces are titled after the song/band I was really into at that moment of time when I was creating the piece.
It sounds ridiculous, but Instagram is inspiring. I've come across so many immensely talented individuals on that little app. It kind of opened me up to the world of digital art when I first downloaded it because I came across users who would create art with just their phones. Shoutout to Ebes Rasyid (@abcdebes) who was the first artist I ever came across that made artwork with just his phone and was gracious enough to steer me in the right direction on how to do what he does and answer any questions I had.
Video games are also super inspiring. Though I'm not an avid gamer these days, I appreciate the time and imagination that goes into making a game. I grew up playing video games and I think that's what kind of set off my creative side at an early age.
There's so much! I could honestly talk forever about what inspires me, but those are just a few things.
Who have been some of your greatest influences on Instagram?
Oh, man. So many! I know you know what I'm talking about, too. Instagram is such a huge community, but it’s so small all at the same time.
I'll share the people who've been there for me since the beginning - who've always pushed me to be better at what I do.
Alex Heimgartner (@ifurohindustries): I give massive props to this dude. He's got a mind like no other and was the first Instagram member I collaborated with. We share a love for art and Star Wars. One of the coolest dudes I know and everyone needs to peep his work.
Krista Hansen (@imnotbatgirl): She’s from my hometown Thunder Bay, ON. She designs like no other. Moody, minimal, but SO much depth to her work. She taught me that when it comes to designing less is best. When I first started out I thought throwing in as many assets as possible was the way to go - not the case at all. I feel my work has gotten more tight through the years with direction from her.
Ebes Rasyid (@abcdebes): The collage king. I've since gotten out of iPhone only edits and have moved to Mac and gotten into more graphic design/3D programs, but Ebes always keeps it strictly to his phone and his work is some of the most intricate work I've ever seen. It always blows my mind when I see something he does and then realize it's all done on the phone. He was the one who steered me into collage art on the phone when I was first starting out and was gracious enough to guide me in the right direction with any and all questions I had about collaging. He’s truly a master at his craft.
Taylor Morabito (@taymorabito): I know you know this girl, and rightfully so. She's someone to know. Like Krista, her work is extremely moody with some of the deepest tones I've ever seen in an edited photo. She was one of the first users ever to push me to create more abstract work and was always so supportive of me. Have you ever seen her double exposure work? It is seriously the best I've ever seen. She cleans her feed up a lot, but if you get the chance to ever see her double exposure work I promise it'll blow your life away (or just ask her to see some of it, you will LOVE it).
Peter Nudo (@newdough): I met this dude through Instagram, but am glad to say he's one of my close friends now and one of my top inspirations (even off of Instagram). I honestly couldn't describe his work. Extremely vibrant and busy (but the type of busy that keeps your eyes asking your brain on every pixel of the picture, "ARE YOU SEEING THIS?!"). He's insanely gifted in what he does and is extremely humble. Peter never hesitates to answer a question you may have on something he did in one of his pieces of art. If I ever had a question about something in a piece he did he'd send me a novel of the process and wouldn't stop until I understood what he did. Unreal dude.
Ellie Pritts (@elliepritts): I also met Ellie through Instagram and she has come to be one of my best friends since. Love her photos of the millions of different bands she's shot through her career. I was especially stoked when she started adding Mextures to her work and really giving all her work new life. She's unreal at what she does and actually has a new app called Hippo where people can upload their photography and it lets designers take the shots and create art out of them any way they choose. Extremely cool idea. You can check it out on Facebook as Hippo or Instagram @hippoapp.
Ellery Mann (@ell_4) & Colin Sinclair (@lemon67) - Somnium Collective (@somniumcollective): I met both these dudes from Instagram and now we have a company called Somnium in which we do album artwork for bands. We did a three way collab almost immediately when I was getting into doing digital artwork and we all meshed so well together we decided if we were to ever do collabs with each other we'd just continue doing the three way collaborations. Both these dudes inspired me in different ways. Ellery really got me thinking about interstellar travel and space and working it into my art, whereas Colin's aesthetic got me more into working vintage imagery into my work. I've taken a lot from what I've learned from these dudes and it's kind of helped me pave the way with the style of my artwork today.
Don’t miss out on seeing more of James’ fantastic artwork here!