Crea8tive Soul isn’t just a cool name for a tattoo shop. It is based on the idea of freely expressing your soul’s deepest desires by thinking and adopting an approach that is outside of the box. This is the mission from the artist and founder of Crea8tive Soul, Justin Lewis. Based in Orlando, FL, Crea8tive Soul believes that creating from your soul fertilizes the human mind by giving it the freedom to go beyond the obvious and encounter ways into the unseen, unheard, and unfelt.
With over ten years of experience, combined with a loyal clientele, some of whom are willing to travel from all over the United States just to have a session with him and a thriving business, Justin Lewis has managed to not only achieve the quintessential American dream, he’s doing it on his own terms. But it wasn’t always easy. Although he developed his love for art at a young age and took interest in drawing and tattooing, it wasn’t exactly the career path his parents had in mind.
“My mom wanted me to go to college, so I chose graphic design as my major because it was the closest thing to art. During my entrance interview, I was asked what do you want to do with this program and my answer was just to learn how to make my drawings look like actual photos taken with a camera. I dropped out about three or four weeks later. My dad then suggested I go to the military, but I didn’t pass the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) test. About a year later, I was working at Winn Dixie and doing art on the side. I used that time to build my portfolio and I showed it to a local tattoo shop and started doing tattoos full time three months later. So, I tried what my mom and dad wanted me to do but then I went towards what I wanted to do.”
Ten years later, Justin, a self-taught artist has managed to build a reputation and clientele that is unmatched. When asked what his creative process is when starting a new tattoo, he says “I get a lot of my inspiration from the basis of my style of work mixed with my client’s idea of what he or she wants. So, I may have a client send me a few reference photos of what they want and then I take the basis of how I approach a tattoo and my style and then we create from there. Sometimes they may even send me some reference photos that introduce me to something I may not be familiar with and that always sparks the inspiration and keeps me going.”
He credits the Crea8tive Soul style of tattooing to Egyptian royalty and the African warrior. “My connection to the Egyptian style is geared towards the research. Being that Egypt is in Africa, researching the statues, the faces and how they look familiar to my face and the faces of the people that look like me, I see the significance and importance of that which drew me to that culture. And from there, I ventured into the tribal-style images because I like the warrior concept.
A style that has proven quite popular as Justin has many clients who travel far and wide for an opportunity to have his artwork immortalized on them. “When I collaborate with a client, they may have an idea of what they want like say a portrait of their mom but done with my style. They’ll send other background information like references from African descent, jewelry, hairstyles, or facial markings of tribal warriors, etc. and then from there, I incorporate my style which makes the process more enjoyable but also challenging because my goal is to create that image in the style that the client wants but make it better and that’s where the fun comes in. I think what separates me from others is my niche. Being myself and not trying to replicate others and staying true to strictly what I like to do has been key and is what I think attracts clients to me and my work.”
No stranger to tattoos himself, Justin got his first tattoo at age sixteen and now has over twenty-five. His says his most meaningful tattoo to date is the one on the right side of his forehead that simply reads Freedom. “Freedom is something I feel we all want, and we all truly have it, we just have to find it, claim it, and change ourselves. I believe that once we let go of the past versions of ourselves, that’s when we’ll have freedom and a new way of thinking.”
When he’s not tattooing, Justin enjoys taking a deep dive into research. “I like researching psychology and understanding the mind and how human beings work. I research different cultures and religions, and I listen to audiobooks (even while doing a tattoo) because it’s the one time during the day where I can be still and digest the information I’m receiving.” Spending time with his three young kids is also how he prefers to utilize his downtime. “Looking at my own kids, I feel like my work impacts them in a positive way. They see that clients come to me and that I’m in control of my schedule and my time with them. They come to the shop, and they feel and see the energy and positivity. Now, they want to start drawing and creating. They see that they can do whatever they put their minds to.
He reflects on the positive impact art has had on his own children and has created an opportunity to expand on that impact with children and other adults within his community by creating the Crea8tive Drip Paint by Numbers program. This program takes drafted images and places them into a numeric form that painters can then easily follow with the applicable colors outlined in the paint kit to then add life and color to the drawing. “I created this activity as a release which is what art has been for me since I was younger. As a rebellious kid I was sent to my room a lot and my outlet, and my freedom would be just to sit in my room and draw. What was essentially a punishment turned out to be moments of inspiration where I could create art and build my confidence. I feel like the paint by numbers activity can do the same thing for other kids as well. The idea is that if you can follow the numbers of what to paint and where and if you do it enough, you’ll eventually start to learn how to paint, how to blend, and you’ll have the confidence to paint if you put your mind to it.”
Building a legacy and essentially inspiring the next generation of artists, Justin’s work is captured on film through his videographer. Whether it’s a tattoo session, painting in the park with the kids in his community or doing an interview like this one, his crea8tive soul is captured. “The memory of those who have done amazing things for others, lives on longer when it’s documented versus when it’s not.
As he looks ahead towards his future, he sees himself as a teacher. “I have a few apprentices and I’ve built my shop to where now it also serves as a learning and supportive environment for all artists. In the beginning of my career, I was selfish and only focused on me which was necessary at the time to get myself to a certain point. But now, my goal is helping others. Emulating one of his favorite rappers, the late Nipsey Hussle, Justin lives by “The idea of starting from here and going there, keeping the marathon going, never getting too comfortable, always leveling up and building your foundation and yourself up to help others and build them up as well all while keeping that positive energy and hustler spirit going.”
When Justin was coming up with a design for his logo, he added the number 8 because turned sideways, the number symbolizes infinity, which is how he views his art. Tattoos are a permanent composition, meant to provide meaning to the bearer for years and even decades to come. The Justin Lewis style aims to remind clients that they all possess the royalty and warrior spirit. Whether he’s tattooing, drawing, painting portraits, or teaching others how to do hone their own skills, Justin Lewis continues to make his mark while advocating for the creative freedom of others. He believes that everyone is a creative soul.