FEBRUARY ARTIST OF THE MONTH
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We took a visit to Joel's studio to see his space and learn more about how he works, what inspires him, and what we can look forward to. Check out some of the photos below! Interview by Katie Dunkle, edited by Bronwyn Walls.
K: What are you currently working on?
J: I’m currently working on a series of skulls. It’s something that I feel like I have to get out of me. I’m having so much fun with it that I feel like it could be something that I keep doing forever while including other subject matter.
K: Would you say that you go on certain themes for a while?
J: Yeah, I go through phases. I kind of get stuck on a phase or a subject matter and I’ll do three or four paintings to really get down the process of creating that subject. And I tend to get bored and move on after three or four but sometimes I go back to it after working with something else for a while. A lot of my work stems from photographic references.
Ace Woody Sheldon Rocco
K: Do you reference photographs that you’ve taken yourself or by other photographers?
J: A little bit of both. Some I take myself and some I fine online or in old magazines. I buy old magazines on Ebay, like National Geographic or Popular Mechanics. Sometimes I use cutouts for collaging backgrounds. It’s really fun to pull ideas from there.
K: What artists do you look up to?
J: One of my favorite all time artists is Robert Rauschenberg. He does collage and assemblage stuff. Shepard Fairey as well- I use a lot of big bold line work similar to his. Recently, I have been drawing inspiration from sign painters. One of the local Austin pros is Gary Martin from Gary Martin's Signs. (He does all the hand painted signs for the local burger spot P. Terry's). I love going over to his space and watching him work. It's beautiful line work.
K: I wanted to talk to you about your chair series, was that commissioned?
J: No, those weren’t commissioned. Those were fun to make. They are very loose and easy similar to some of my older stuff. I referenced pictures I found online of old mid-century modern furniture. I might go back to some of that.
K: Does selling your work influence what you make?
J: It has before but sometimes I’m already over it and into other phases when something sells. It’s good to take a break and there’s nothing wrong with going back to something. Generally I don't like commissions if I’m not excited about the subject.
K: What percentage of your art is commission based?
J: Pretty low, under 20%. When someone commissions a painting I haven’t made, it all of the sudden becomes this obligatory thing and I don’t want to do it. I may not do commissions in the future. An artist friend of mine does something interesting when dealing with commissions. She tells interested buyers that she does not do commissions but she asks what they are interested in. She tries to incorporate their ideas into the mix and then offers them first dibs if she thinks they’ll be interested. And that way she’s not bound to it. There’s not the pressure of second-guessing your work based on the expectations of the buyer.
K: What are some techniques and mediums that you use?
J: Mainly acrylic. I’ve started using stencils and spray paint for my backgrounds a little bit. I also collage. I work on wood panels that I make myself. I especially like playing with layers and sanding the wood to expose different parts of the layers. It’s hard to do that with canvas. The wood is rigid and durable- I can beat it up more. I like working with wood, it just feels better. Latex paint is great too, I like the way it flows and sometimes acrylic is too thick. I can water it down but there’s just nothing like it.
K: Are you showing work anywhere besides Austin Art Garage?
J: There’s a new place in San Antonio called Populux Commissary. It’s like a gallery and art class place. There’s also a gallery in Chicago called the Leigh Gallery. I’m in the process of making more art for those places. I’m excited to branch out. That’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.
K: Do you have any other professions outside of creating art?
J: I co-own Austin Art Garage, which has become a great place for me to sell my own work and also carry and help other artists sell their stuff. I started it in 2007. I also play music in a couple bands. One is called Caskets and the other is called Lesser Coverts. But my music is just for fun.
K: What did you do before you were a full-time artist?
J: I worked at an art publishing company for 6 years and learned a lot about the whole printmaking process and art publishing world and that was really good for me at the time. After working there, it flowed into having a studio and becoming a full time artist - I’ve been a full time artist for 7 years now.
K: Do you have any favorite spots in Austin that help inspire creativity or new ideas?
J: I like to explore the East side of town. Driving around and walking around on the east side, there’s so much to discover. There are all these weird little pockets and street art on every corner. The city itself is inspiring, all of the changes and new businesses. I like and appreciate the constant change because it’s exciting. I don’t think it’s a bad thing.
K: What can we expect for the future?
J: One of my goals this year is to focus on making paintings and having the art publishers and printers like Skyline Art Prints handle the printing side. Sometimes I will spend a whole week just working on printing and not painting so it really pulls me away from being creative and doing what I feel is most important for me to do. That is what makes me happiest.