Art Crimes: How long have you been painting canvases and portable pieces?
Joseph: I've been doing portable pieces all of my life. I came up on cheap sketch pads and typing paper, on Saturday morning art classes that taught me all of the accepted forms of visual art. Those classes also taught me to respect other forms of art whether I understood them at that young age or not. I developed my skills in the following order (blending them as time went on): crayons - ya'll know what it is, pencil, pen, markers, colored pencils, markers, watercolors, inks and dyes, oil and acrylic painting, and then somewhat recently - the aerosol can and airbrush.
I did a lot of poster-size masterpieces on illustration board. I had always looked at brush to canvas painting as the ultimate level of accomplishment. I thought it was hard. I tell a lot of younger people that I've had the pleasure of working with that no medium is impossible to adapt to if you have "EYE" and know the "LINE".
Drawing is the basis of the artist's perception.
I started oils on Fredricks board and eventually did my first masterful oil - " The Warehouse". The Warehouse had come completely out of my mind. I sometimes wish I had used photos or models (I work better that way I feel). For the time when I did the piece, I feel that it was proper to have come from memory. It came from memories of many Saturday and Friday nights going a local club called "the Warehouse" with my friends. I can look back at it and see just how quickly I grew in love with oil. My primary inspiration for the piece was Ernie Barnes' (artist supreme!) popular piece from the 70s entitled "The Sugar Shack". Most people who admire this legendary artist's work only recognize his legacy from the intro / outro of the show "Good Times". "The Warehouse" was my 1990s representation of this classic.
Art Crimes: What are your influences? Are Degas and Renoir influences? Old Masters? Are you dreaming? Psychedelic and spiritual essence?
Joseph: Visible energy. African imagery, presentation, and color schemes (particular favorites), Artists from all eras I like.
I don't know about Degas and Renoir as major sources of influence. I can dig some works by each but my tastes are unpredictable and often more realistic. Though I feel vibes from all over the world. The old masters of Europe, the African originators of all expression and culture, the Russian Constructivists, sculptors, Oriental, the indigenous peoples of America, Mexico, everywhere!
Spiritual imagery is definitely a theme and backbone of my work. Spiritually, I get into a lot of my personal beliefs. I get into the spirits in me, the ancestors I never knew, the family that keeps the wheel turning.
Psychedelic essence is something I appreciate naturally also. Most of what is considered a part of this genre is fluorescent and reminiscent of drug-high aided works of hippies discovered in the 60s and 70s. People should also know that they found influence in the East and in Eskimo art for a lot of the letter styles. A lot of people who do work of this sort traditionally were into drugs. I don't use drugs and I don't drink. I have drunk but I'm not a drinker. I've never felt that I needed anything other than the deepest pools of my mind to express myself. There's nothing that wigs me out more. I could scare myself when I vibe, or I could find myself in my highest inner zones. I don't dog anyone out for doing drugs to enhance their creativity because I'm living 1 life- but, we just need alternatives out here. I myself don't see a need for liquor and dope but a lot of people live off the shit.
Some artists out there do it, I believe, because they think it will make them as great as some others that did it in the past. I feel that they should consider how much more productive and how much stress would have been avoided if they had not done drugs. I've met lots of artists on the psychedelic / surreal tip that smoke weed, and some I respect regardless. Some I suspected for worse and hoped they weren't doing some laced shit or something. I've found them to be intelligent and on and on but I still feel that they could be more if they got high off of self.
What's high off of self? 1st you must find yourself (that's like growing your own drug). Part of it to me is the way I feel when my illest ideas wake me up at 4:00 in the morning and make me get on the net, or write poetry, or write a story, or do a sketch in the dark so that I can keep my eyes closed and do a blind contour from my dreams. Weed or getting so drunk I couldn't even remember why I got up the next morning ain't cute to me - to each their own though because we all do whatever it takes to satisfy our greatest comforts. It's economic.
We all got our ways of getting there and to be truthful I'm really only speaking directly to the next Joseph R. Wheeler, III type of brother / sister, cause they're the only ones that are serious in the way I'm serious.
About influences from Africa - I am naturally in tune with the African color spectrum and aesthetic. I am a proud Black man, a representative of the continued span of an entirely neo yet deep-rooted seed of African culture here in AmeriKKKa. I am one with the indigenous blood of all human beings - the blood of Africa! I am also the mixing and exploitation of all Africa's children in my blood.
I in particular am driven to the works of the NDEBELE of South Africa (where there is a strong mural and adorning tradition amongst the women.), the Maasai, Somburu, Yoruba, Fulani, Nuba, and many other tribal groups of perished existence and present struggles. Not to mention the contemporary artists of the continent.
Some influences past and present, besides those previously mentioned: Michael Jones, Thomas Blackshear (illustrator / fine artist), Jean Leon Gerome, Henry Ossawa Tanner, Archibald Motley, H.R. Giger, Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell, Bernie Wrightson, Todd Mcfarlane, Mike Zeck, Author Adams, Michael Whellan, Albert Watson (photo), James Van Der Zee (photo), Gordon Parks, Chi Modu 2 (photo), Ludwig Deutsch, John Riddle (ATL Artist Supreme), Radcliff Baily (ATL), William Canty (ATL), Manet, Gustave Klimt, all the Mexican Muralists (Siqueiros, Camerena, Orozco, Rivera, etc.), MODE 2, HAZE ( ATL), HEX (LA), DAIM, HESH, LEVR, D-NICE (ATL- Mays High), CERO, SEVR, SEVEN, THE J, TWISTER, EMIT, CHEECH, DZINE, KAWS, GREED, WAQS, and a million others I cannot manifest, recall, nor have I discovered them yet. believe me, that was only .0000001 percent capacity.
I'd also like to add that some of these artists may be the furthest thing from what I believe in, in their subject matters, yet I still look for what can be adapted. It's a state of callous evaluation of skills. I had to get over my disgust for incorrect representations of Biblical figures in most European masters' works. I walked out of classes at PRATT when teachers would make statements about Jesus being a Caucasoid. Not for despisal of White, but for despisal of no truth. As you grow though, you realize that you'll be dead for stressing some things and that you do more damage when you absorb the skills and ignore the BULLSHIT. These people were still masters because of what artistic spirits passed on to them, whether they saw that or not. Thus I can still learn from the talent, regardless of their flaws.