Photographed and written by Alexander Whitfield
Just John is a local artist, curator, rapper, writer and all around entrepreneur. Since April 2016, Blank Canvas has become a bubbling gallery for music and art in Toronto. We sat down with him to get to know who he is, what he does and the current artistic state of Toronto.
Who is Just John?
Just john is definitely a peculiar name for an artist in the lane he’s in. I wanted to know the significance of the "Just", was it a representation of a humble demeanor? “It goes along with my humble demeanor, yes, but the point of it at first was because when I had a dance crew I'd always put myself into the background. Just john was the first embodiment of my identity. I was really embracing myself for who I am and what I believe in. It is who I am as a human being with my story through dance, and now I tell my story through music. The "Just" also represents good, fair and of course “just”.”
It comes from the idea of being true to who you are and John is just who I am as a being. You know my eccentric, groovy, vibey self. And being true to myself and not knowing how to be anyone else but myself.
"And I’m just representing myself with my music, and that's why I think my music is very free that way. Cause you can't put me in a box. You know I could be whoever."
What is Blank Canvas to you?
"I want Blank Canvas to be a conduit of the Renaissance happening in Toronto right now. I want it to be a safe place for artists to come together and cultivate no matter what they do, or where they're from or what level of art they’re at.
I'm in a different hustle. I want to be the representative to let other people know it is realistic for you to live off doing what you love. I want to be a reference point for that.”
In the last year alone, Just John has been featured on CP24, Complex Magazine, Toronto Guardian and more. The art gallery has already been perused by some of the big upcoming artists in Toronto.
"I want to be that representative to let other people know it is realistic for you to live off doing what you love."
Inspiration and purpose are key to the life of Blank Canvas. There have been many times where John has had the door shut on him, but his vision keeps him stable to stay persistent.
"You think of places like Andy Warhol's factory you know? Spots like that where people come together to cultivate and collaborate, it’s healthy for the city, and it keeps me inspired too. Inspiration and purpose are key to the life of Blank Canvas. It's about purpose and vision, a lot of people like to have a vision. But there's no purpose. Once you find why you’re doing what you’re doing your vision will always be clear.
“Inspiration and purpose are key”
Now 23, dressed down in an I love ugly painted shirt accompanied by Nixon and spitfire accessories. "I always loved [brand] I love ugly I have this one black screen printed shirt I love!"
"My style is pretty minimal, I stay with versatile pieces. I choose my clothing with the mindset in which if I were to close my eyes at 5 am in the morning or in the day, or at night, and put on my clothes would I still feel like myself? Can I still do what I need to do, I can pick up this artwork and put it back down, or run to the beer store. Comfort is first now; it wasn't really like that [before] for me but definitely now, comfort is first."
What the future holds?
Currently, Just John is taking care of his baby, Blank Canvas, overseeing the vibe at Omit Limitation and completing his next music project. This fall you can expect the renaissance boy project (his second musical release), and check out Just John's anti-establishment charged song "ignorant". "In the future, I want to open up a gallery in New York, further down the road, I want to open up a venue space with an arcade at the front."