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Our Story

Not Your Average Family Business

gaffrey art material was born from on July 16th, 2020, at the height of global uncertainty. Yet its conception was years earlier, brewing in the vibrant and ranging interests of Justin Gaffrey. A Florida-based artist, Justin's sculptural paintings forced the uses of acrylic paint into dimensions it had yet to reach. 

In 2018 Justin Gaffrey was fed up with the acrylic market and the process of buying and mixing all the messy components needed to get the raised textured effects he desired. And so, taking a leap of faith, Justin began learning the chemistry and manufacturing methods for acrylic paints. He realized his relationship with the materials he was using had grown from the typical interest of a painter to one flooded with creativity and a desire to share those resources which have allowed him to live successfully as an artist. 

Since our paints are one of a kind, there wasn't a manual out there to produce them. Justin would cold call chemists, chemical companies, and paint reps to help him on his journey to develop, manufacture and distribute the thickest paints ever made. While there's a wealth of information on architectural coatings, there's a tight lid on the actual production of acrylic paints. The majority of people told him he was crazy and wasting his time. Luckily, some kind folks in the polymer and pigment field provided knowledge and hundreds of raw material samples to achieve his goal.

There was a lot of failure in the beginning. The paint would crack, turn cottage cheese, or disintegrate into dust. There were more than enough explosions of paint to daunt anyone. About a year in, he was ready to give up. (We kid you not, Justin entertained the idea of starting a candle company instead.) That's when Justin enlisted the help of his two kids, Justin Jr and Aria, to format his dream into an actual company. 

Using their now famous DIY methods, the Gaffrey's transformed their 5,000 square-foot art studio into a "paint factory," crafting unique, professional-grade acrylic paints just a few miles up the road from their family home, which doubles as the Justin Gaffrey Gallery. (Yes, Justin Jr. and Aria grew up IN the studio where Justin painted and sold his artwork.)

They eventually brought on Neil, a local musician looking for work between gigs, while Justin Jr. persevered through trials and failures until he finally cracked the formula. Once the recipe was stable, the crew began learning all the little twists of the wrist which give our paints their magic. As a well-learned musician interested in sciences, Neil jumped into learning formulas like a twelve-year-old learning Led Zeppelin riffs.

Everything we do is done with a DIY spirit. We're a rag-tag group of musicians, poets, and painters dedicated to supporting the passions of other artists. Not an ideal group for e-commerce, restrictions, or answering emails. Despite being bound hand and foot with red tape, we persevered and obtained approval from environmental scientists meeting the Art Material Safety Standards to launch. We put our heads together with our chins down and learned to operate a direct-to-consumer acrylic paint company.

Artist Profile

Justin Gaffrey

Brought up on the emerald coast of northwest Florida, Justin Gaffrey Sr. has embodied the mythical American Bootstrap-Dream. Expelled from middle school, Justin went from selling dime bags under the Okaloosa Pier to a respected career in the culinary arts. Grinding from dishwasher to cook, by his late twenties, Justin was a Chef in his own right, opening his very own restaurant at 29: all before he ever started painting. Tapping into the budding art scene of 30a, Justin first picked up a brush at 30 and, using his now famous DIY spirit, began transitioning from self-made chef to self-made artist, opening a gallery just minutes away from his former restaurant. 

He began experimenting with impasto-style painting – the thicker the paint, the better. Within a few years, Justin's transformation from chef to artist was in full swing: utilizing the same wild work ethic he used in the kitchen, he found his new business as an artist growing. But most importantly, his style grew: shifting from the familiar south-east-folk art into something entirely his own. Justin pushes to evolve as an individual and an artist constantly. His hunger for learning has expanded his work as his process and methods transform. 

His work is often motivated by the views unique to scenic Highway 30a, where he lives. The dune lakes of the area are rarified to few places in the world, and the emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico are nearly as remarkable. Somehow, Justin's extensive collection of landscapes investigates the human experience while rarely depicting human figures. His natural works induce mood solely by shifting color palettes without making his collections seem redundant. His works will take a similar visage and make it fresh, how a sunrise from your favorite spot differs every evening.

The scenery of 30a stands out from the surrounding landscape like a pile of diamonds in a parking lot. It really smacks you in the eye. Justin is an avid traveler and loves the desert. He would travel alone to Utah, Arizona, or New Mexico, with only painting supplies to fill his time. As Justin's prowess as an artist grew, he strove to produce that startling effect a natural visage can have on the human psyche. And so, Justin dove into raising the impact of his artwork from the flatness of a canvas into the dimension of sculptural, textured painting. 

Justin invented his very own Heavy Body Texture acrylic paint, which he used to bring these visages off the canvas and into that next dimension. Sculpting as much as painting, some of his paintings boast upwards of 8 gallons of this specialized paint. And yet, nothing on the market allowed Justin the exact technique he was creating—nothing strong enough, nothing thick enough. No paint company had a paint ready-made that was good enough for Justin's unique style. And in classic Gaffrey fashion, he set out to invent what he needed. And with Gaffrey Art Materials, he's done just that. 

With collectors all over the world, his work has inspired the path for many impasto acrylic painters; perhaps his most impressive students have been his children, Justin Gaffrey, Jr. and Aria Gaffrey, who he raised quite literally in his studio/gallery/family home. These kids picked up a paintbrush before they could walk. And they were selling those paintings as soon as they could barter themselves. Justin Jr. left college to pursue his art career full-time as a mixed-media painter, living in Denver and LA, before returning to take the reins at GAM. Aria is our in-house Gen Z consultant. She has a propensity for drawing, tattoos, and graphic design and has been an integral part of Gaffrey Art Material's branding.

What truly sets Justin apart from other successful artists isn't necessarily his style, which is ranging and curious, nor his techniques, which are unique and clever; instead, it's his generosity and his willingness to share. He shares his process, his methods, and most importantly, he's developed Gaffrey Art Material to share his discovery in the freedom of sculptural painting. We hope Gaffrey Art Material becomes a community for you rather than just a collection of commodities. Join us in learning. We can't wait to learn how you make art!


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