Justin Robertson, aka Squigs has been a fixture in the Broadway community for the past 6+ years. His unique artistic style is so well loved, that it’s no surprise his Lights of Broadway cards were an instant hit with Broadway fans and collectors. We chatted with Squigs about his experience with theater and art.
Serena: Can you tell us about your background in art?
I don’t really have a formal education in art or illustration, but I have taken classes along the way. When my folks saw that I had some abilities, they put me in a watercolor class and that sort of thing. I started college as a film major and switched to theater halfway through. I had done theater in school and then I felt that was more of a fit. So I am an actor and this whole illustration thing came out of being able to draw and also being a poor college student when I was starting off and wanting to give a closing night gift to fellow actors. I started drawing everyone in the cast for closing night, and people would joke that I would just get cast in shows because they would get a drawing on closing night. So I still try to get on stage now and then, but primarily right now I am doing the artwork.
S: What kind of shows were you in? Any memorable performances?
Most recently I was on the Playhouse. I played Marcelus in The Music Man in Cape Cod and then the revival of Cole Porter’s Can‑Can out of Papermill a couple of years ago. Most of my work has been in the LA area and around the country, Texas, Kansas, Wisconsin…
S: When did you start drawing for Broadway specifically? Did someone commission you to do it or you just started on your own?
Sometimes a friend would get a show in New York and then they would commission a sketch. Around 2006, I just did my kind of blind kamikaze sitting artwork in New York and picked a few shows that were Tony nominated that year. It was during the original tour of Color Purple that I sent a drawing of LaChanze to the stage door and got a lovely note from LaChanze. Any time I see her I remind her of that because it really meant so much to me.
The Drowsy Chaperone was up that year [for a Tony] and I drew the principals and sent it to the stage door. I got a really nice note from Danny Burstein who has become a friend since I moved here. That was kind of the first step, but then I had a friend suggest that I just start putting drawings on Facebook. So every week I put up some sort of a theater‑related sketch. Through that and coming to New York and taking part in the Broadway flea markets, that’s how Paul Wontorek from Broadway.com found me and we started talking about doing a regular feature on the website. Once we started talking about that, I made plans to move to New York. You know, wasn’t getting any younger so I decided, “okay. If I am going to spend some time in New York, I got to go.” So I did and within a couple of months, I was doing the regular feature and lots of other fun projects that have snowballed into other fun projects.
S: What’s your process like? Say you have a show that you are going to see– do you plan out the sketch beforehand?
Well, typically I go online and I see what’s available as far as photo reference and the role. I do take a notes a little bit in the dark in the theater. If I have reference to go back to afterwards, I don’t have to worry so much about details and jewelry and wigs. I can focus more on the intent of the show. If there isn’t much reference online, I have to take a lot of really crazy detailed notes. Regarding color scheme, I try to match what the designers have put out there. That’s something I do keep in mind, not just capturing the storytelling and the actors’ likenesses. We are trying to capture what the designers are thinking and the intent of the show and trying to mirror the story without giving too much of the plot away. If there is some sort of moment I capture, I try to make