Having grown up in the Santa Monica Canyon area of Southern California, the beach was always in walking distance. The Summer days of my childhood are full of memories of following the storm drain down the canyon, intersecting with bungalow lined streets which finally led to State Beach for some body surfing. I was always dazzled by how the light would shift from cool morning hues to the warm afternoon glow and then, from Winter to Summer, cool to warm. I’m equally drawn to the saturated colors people bring to the beach, from toys to coolers, from loungers to beach towels, a perfect foil for the pale, gentle neutrality of sand. And then there’s the variety of blue found in the sea and sky.
As I was entering my teen years the popularity of board surfing was catching on quickly and became quite a phenomenon, creating California beach culture. It in turn, drove what we now call Pop Culture, influencing language, music, fashion, all facets of everyday life. It’s no wonder the beach had an effect on me. Consequently, I keep coming back to it for inspiration and find the imagery quite compelling.
At the end of the 1980’s, I moved to Florida with my family. We started to vacation in a small beach town, New Smyrna Beach and it had parallels with what I experienced in Southern California. It was a popular place to ‘hang out’, people would huddle in groups gravitating to specific areas of the beach. In my paintings, I try to capture the sense of density and the background beyond with individuals indistinguishable from their groupings. Everybody was focused on their own clique or families oblivious to what’s going on around them. The paraphernalia they brought with them also defined what they enjoyed doing at the beach and their beach toys varied by age.
I found the beach to be a place of renewal, a place of reflection, a place of sanctuary and I enjoy the recreation as well. In my paintings, I desire to celebrate the beach, the culture of the beach and the activities driven by the beach.
POP Surreal, in my mind’s eye, is a combination of the mundane or banal along with compelling or provocative imagery placed into a dream state. It’s the whimsical, playful and incongruous combination of visual parts, or finding a commonality of components that on the surface appear unrelated. In short, I just want to have fun with otherwise disconnected elements.
The pig paintings were produced while living in Memphis, Tennessee. While there, I was struck by how iconic pigs were to the local culture. Barbeque whether wet or dry is a featured part of the culinary experience in Memphis. I made a trip down to the stockyards at Presidents Island and took a lot of photos of hogs. These photos formed the references for the paintings. These pieces are painted on contoured ¾” MDO board, a plywood product with a laminate of a coated craft paper for use by sign painters. Isolating the figures or pigs in this case, gives emphasis and visual drama to the subject while maintaining a bit of humor. The paintings are at life scale.
Field Oil Sketches
Most of the oil sketches presented here are produced around World Showcase at EPCOT. Early on Friday mornings, a group of us from Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) would meet at one of the pavilions at World Showcase to produce field sketches typically in oil. The other paintings are produced around central Florida with fellow artists.
The impetus to paint before work on Friday mornings began with a program started by WDI in the mid 90’s. Every summer, WDI would sponsor Imagineering artists and designers to attend weeklong painting workshops in Montana. Peggy Van Pelt started the program and our teacher-mentor was a talented Disney artist and illustrator by the name of Tom Gilleon. Away from the distractions of the work environment, the object of field painting was to focus on skill building and one’s own personal craft. During the run of this program, Peggy asked me to start a weekly paint-away at EPCOT and that’s how the Friday morning tradition started. I regard the years of attending workshops in Montana as the golden years of my career with Disney. The practice of plein air painting has certainly helped me develop skills and build confidence. I enjoyed the camaraderie of my fellow artists as well.
© 2015-2020, Joe Warren