Joe Hill on possibilities, hustling, and crushing negativity


 

EB: Joe Hill is known for his amazing 3D pavement art! For the past seven years, Joe along with his friend late Max Lowry has travelled the world from New York to Shanghai creating his unique 3D street art. They design their anamorphic paintings to encourage audience interaction.

Joe was invited to Singapore by the famous art gallery ‘28th Fevrier’ to paint a 3D picture at our office lobby at the Solaris building. When I approached him (actually interrupting him painting) for the interview, he greeted me with a big smile and instantly agreed to it! He was very warm to all the people who were walking across the lobby, talking to him though it distracted him from his painting. Personally, I would be very annoyed when someone distracts me during my painting time. So here goes the first lesson to being a great artist – share your painting time with a big smile.

Please do visit their website for a lot more exciting works!

Here is the masterpiece that Joe had created in the office lobby:

Side view:


Interview Transcript

EB: Thank you Joe for this interview. Let’s get started by getting to know you! Where did you grow up and how did you get into Art?

Joe: I was born in England and I travelled around lots when I was young – my father was in the air force. I studied art at school but then when I was 19 I stopped painting all together and went on to get a degree in a drama school. I was a stage actor in London during my 20s. While I was doing that I started to enjoy writing and I started to write screen plays and put the art piece to one side. Screen plays take a long time and are very difficult to make money. So I started doing these chalk drawings to make some money on the side.

I was approached to do a series of pictures in Spain by a company. I immediately called Max from school – he is a very good artist. We both didn’t know how to do a 3D art – so we taught ourselves how to do it and went on this tour in Spain. We started small and our paintings got progressively bigger.

We started by using chalk to create our images, and soon we realized people like taking their pictures with the art work. They wanted to get on the art work which requires the art work to be quite interactive. We could use paint for the images, but it is very difficult to get permission to paint on the sidewalls and pavements. The solution – using a canvas!

It completely opened up a whole new world because we were able to create the artwork that is completely interactive that allowed people to jump on them, play with them, come up with different poses and also to reuse them. As I said it is difficult to get permission for paints! In the very early days it meant that we would roll out the pictures without getting permission and just roll them up very quickly whenever we had to pack. Now we of course we get things done in the right ways!

And to really answer your question, I didn’t really start painting until I was 30!

 

EB: What inspires you? What makes you get up from bed every day and do what you do?

Joe: It sounds like a cliché but a new challenge always is that the last picture has to be better than the one before. The latest picture has to be the best one! And I have to come up with something new as well because it is very easy to just do the same work over and over again. Although it is quite nice to carry on with used themes and techniques, it is always good to take a new spin at things. If I know I am working on a project that I know is different, I wake up and spring up from my bed because its new and exciting.

 

EB: What were some of the defining moments in your life? Times that stood out..

Joe: Well there are positives and negatives. I got married recently, to an amazing woman who is a very talented actress! It is very good to be with someone who is very creative.

Then when the Max, my art partner died 2 years ago. That obviously turned my world upside down. Suddenly I was working on my own. However, what was amazing was that a lot of max friends who were very good artists stepped in and helped to get through my first year assisting me.

I would think I have loads of defining moments. I have really supportive parents and an amazing sister who encourages me. They weren’t the people that asked me to get a proper job, or give up and do an office job because you should earn some money. They have encouraged me and have been really influential. It’s just a constant number of moments every time that keep me going!

 

EB: What is your take on talent? Is there such a thing called ‘artistic talent’, do you believe in it?

Joe: I think its practice. I don’t know – I could probably practice piano for 20 years and still not be able to play. I don’t know. But I do know that I have only improved through just hours and hours of practice.

I think it’s a combination of both. It’s a horrible word talent, isn’t it? It makes it sound little bit smug. I think it’s a lot of practice and hard work!

 

EB: What is the biggest learning that you have gained in all these years?

Joe: What I have realized is that one should take opportunity as it comes – rather than pausing when somebody says ‘Can you do this?’, then making a list of things that could go wrong and refusing the offer. I have learnt that the best thing to do is to say Yes – I can do this, and then work out the details, because that’s how it all started. Somebody said “Can you do a 3D picture in Spain?” I didn’t know how to do it, but I said ‘Yes’. That move helped me learn how to do it because I believed that it was possible.

And the same thing happened when we broke the world record for the largest ever piece of street art. They said ‘Do you want to do this?’ I said ‘Yeah, absolutely’. Is it possible? Yes! They said it was in November at England, and that means it would be raining out on the streets. ‘Yes, no problem at all!’ is what we said. And as it turned out, it was really difficult. For 4 days the paint washed away and we had to start again and again. But we got there in the end, we found solutions!

So biggest learning with the street art which I have carried on for the rest of my life is that apart from things like ‘I can’t physically jump to the moon’, most other things are possible if you really go for it!

 

EB: What would be your advice to the people who are just starting out or to the ones who want to pursue art in their lives?

Joe: I would say don’t let the negativity in. There are a lot of people who will tell you that you can’t do things, who would ask you to do that or who would ask you to focus on what is important. What is important to them is probably not necessarily important to you. So you just have to do what you think is right! Don’t let anyone try and put it down on earth. And believe in yourself I guess!

 

EB: Thank you for the wonderful interview Joe. And thanks for spreading happiness and making our lives more interesting!

Joe: I have got the luckiest job in the world – I get to make people smile!


Thanks for a lovely interview, Joe – we loved it! We salute your gusty approach towards your career!

Real Leaders Team