Quarantine Check In With Amazing (And Cute) Illustrator Justin T. Russo

Credit: Justin T. Russo

Justin T. Russo has developed quite the name for himself outside of his time on the LOGO series Fire Island.

The Long Island native has managed to become a big name in the arts world, particularly with his fabulous, colorful and whimsical designs that have caught the eye of many over the years.

Credit: Justin T. Russo

He’s also easy on the eyes as you can tell which only adds to his overall appeal. Justin is basically the entire package in that he can whip up something fabulous to put on your walls and also whip you in the bed beneath (insert smiley emoji here).

In our newest Instinct Magazine weekly series Quarantine Check In we speak with Justin on how things have been over the past couple of months, how he’s been able to thrive during these difficult times and so much more.

Credit: Justin T. Russo

What’s life been like for you in quarantine?

Quarantine life has been an adjustment for certain as it has for everyone. The major switch was shifting to a work from home setup which is quite challenging for me as I am an extroverted extrovert–that also includes minimal contact with people. Mostly the motivation to create ebbs and flows more rapidly. As the city has opened up however, so too have I. I exercise outside, venture to restaurants, and see a “pod” of friends weekly to maintain mental health. This gravitated from extreme isolation which caused emotional stress.

How have you and your other half been keeping busy in New York City?

Pierce (my boyfriend) and I live in Astoria which has luckily maintained a livelihood since quarantine began. My whole family grew up in NYC since the 1890s and I would hear stories of stoop culture and neighborhood bonds–this has certainly been the case here. We venture to local eateries and shops daily (and responsibly). Weekends we tend to utilize the city parks, spend a LOT of time in our friends’ yard, and take weekend road trips. Recently we’ve gone tubing on the Delaware, ventured to the beach, and visited PTown. Lastly, Pierce and I spent a lot of time and energy upgrading our apartment, redoing our kitchen and bathroom on a budget.

Credit: Justin T. Russo

Any new shows, movies or artists you’ve developed a love for while stuck indoors?

With Peacock being released, I have finally been able to binge Murder She Wrote again. We watch Perry Mason on HBO weekly and as a classic film lover, I took the opportunity to share old films with Pierce. Two nights a week we dedicate to screening a Golden-Age movie.

How have things changed for you as an artist and influencer during self-isolation?

When isolation first began, I went ham on creating. I released a series of Post-It doodles, was able to paint a mural for Three Dollar Bill in Williamsburg and follow up on commissions. More recently it has been challenging to create, as if my well has dried. However, I am learning to take my time and create when I am able.

I am pleased to say that I’ve finally picked up my pencil again. I also designed two beer labels and corresponding t-shirts for Provincetown Brewing Co. and currently have exhibitions of my illustrations at the Brewery and The Stowaway Inn, a bed and breakfast also in PTown. All works are for sale 😉

Credit: Justin T. Russo

Are you hopeful that things will change in the near future or do you think we are in this for the long haul?

I am an optimistic realist. For me, as a native New Yorker, I have extreme passion for my city and am protective. My family has survived much over the last century in the City: WWI, the Depression, WWII, racism for being Italian during a period when that was unacceptable…and we are still here. I feel as if it is my duty to my ancestors to carry the torch for NYC. I believe in Governor Andrew Cuomo‘s leadership and within a few months, the city will return to a state of semi-normalcy. I feel this summer New York’s vibrancy has begun to show again.

Anything coming up that you want to tell our audience about?

I am pleased to also announce that my upcoming TV show Check Your Luggage for HERE! and Amazon Prime is in the works with a few tweaks. An LGBT travel show is challenging at the moment, but we are shifting the program’s vision and angle to better represent our current state.

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