The Oregon Coast Council for the Arts is pleased to present the exhibition “Ink on Broadway” from November 6-28 in the Upstairs Gallery at the Newport Visual Arts Center. “Ink on Broadway” will feature Justin Robertson’s award-winning theatre illustrations and is scheduled to overlap with the production of Avenue Q at the Newport Performing Arts Center. Robertson, professionally known as “Squigs,” will exhibit prints of his signature caricature seen regularly as the “Broadway Ink” feature on Broadway.com. Robertson’s illustrations have also appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, Variety and the Playbill Broadway Yearbook. The opening reception for “Ink on Broadway” will be held on Nov. 6, 5-7pm, at the VAC.
Justin Robertson didn’t have much say in picking his professional name. Like many nicknames, “Squigs” was handed down by those who know him best. “I was playing Nicely-Nicely in a production of Guys & Dolls and a friend called me ‘Squiggly-Wiggly.’ Since I was known for drawing squiggles, my group of friends started calling me ‘squiggly’, and this eventually became ‘squigs.’”
Squigs began his artistic career more as an actor than illustrator. “I started drawing caricatures of my fellow actors as closing night gifts,” Robertson says. “From there, other producers began asking that I draw illustrations for their shows as well.” Today, Squigs is heralded as the heir apparent to Al Hirschfeld, the famed New York Times caricaturist, an artistic influence that Squigs immediately recognizes. “I draw theater, or sketch the stage,” he says.
“One of the privileges of drawing for the theatre is exposure to so many wonderful theatrical designers, and they certainly influence me as I do my best to represent their work in mine,” Squigs says in an interview with Sondheim: The Magazine.
Squigs’ work appears regularly on Broadway.com but also finds its way onto playbills, banners, posters and other marketing materials throughout the Broadway District in New York City. He has also contributed to promotional campaigns for Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, the Theatre World Awards and theatrical productions in London and around the world.
Squigs’ production schedule is a mash-up of watching and drawing theatre. He attends dress rehearsals for every show that he illustrates. In April 2015, for example, during the spring theatre season, fourteen Broadway shows opened in twenty-two days. “I have, on average, three days to submit an illustration, and sometimes less than 24 hours,” he says. Squigs recently celebrated his fifth anniversary working with Broadway.com and has contributed over 250 illustrations to the online publication, which is cited as the top source for Broadway information and enjoys over 25 million users per year.
Squigs’ technique is a blend of traditional and digital media. He sketches in pencil and places the results on a light board. He then inks the piece on clean paper with pigment markers and scans the results into his computer. In Photoshop, he makes digital adjustments and adds color, using scans of ink splatter as templates.
Beyond drawing for Broadway shows, Squigs has started a new business venture, “The Lights of Broadway Showcards,” caricature cards of well-known Broadway actors and actresses. Samples of the showcards will be available during the “Ink on Broadway” exhibit.
Justin “Squigs” Robertson was raised in Lebanon, Oregon, lived in Los Angeles for many years and now calls New York City his home.
The Upstairs Gallery at the Newport Visual Arts Center is open Tuesday-Saturday, noon to 4pm.