SURREAL MONSTERS - Interview with Joe Vaux

My name is Joe Vaux. I’m a Director on Disney’s “Family Guy”, a painter of strange things, a father, a husband and a lover of nature.

I have spent the last 20 something years of my life working in the animation industry. I’ve worked on a wide range of material, from little kids shows to more adult content at HBO. The last 14 years I’ve worked my way up the totem pole at “FAMILY GUY” to my current position as one of the episode directors.

Alongside of this career, there existed Joe Vaux, the painter. This guy has had his work in gallery exhibits all over the world, but, as time passed, painter Joe had trouble keeping up his art production. Life was crazy. As the family grew and the job demanded more, painting time suffered. He reduced his activity from scheduling solo shows to occasional group show appearances. All thought Solo Joe was dead. Well, he wasn’t. It was merely hibernation. He’s back with a new body of work he’ll be debuting at Copro Galleryin Santa Monica, Ca, March 24, 2018. 

Can you tell us a little bit about your style?

I was trained as an illustrator at Syracuse University. In school, we were taught the importance of maintaining a sketchbook. The sketchbook was where all ideas started. Inside, composition and content are experimented with and refined without being criticized by an audience. My personal style has evolved directly from my interaction with my sketchbook. I loved the energy and the way characters interacted in my books. I decided to try and capture moments and turn them into paintings.

I gravitate toward the dark, weird and creepy.

What are you currently fascinated by and how is it influencing your work?

Nature is always my main inspiration. I love how the earth operates. Truly the greatest artist. I guess my second main influence would be mankind. We’re such dicks!

Does your style reflect your personality? How so?

It’s funny. My art, often, is pretty dark and moody. There is usually a playful edge to an image, but the main content tends to carry with it a negative outlook on life. I suppose the canvas is where I vent. My personality, for the most part, is fun loving, playful and filled with zest. This might just be a candy coating on top of an angry turd, but I’d like to think the sweetness runs deep. Besides, everybody has a little turd inside.

What triggers your creativity?

Creativity comes from doing. I need to get my hands dirty in the sketchbook or on a painting. One project/idea often leads to another. Also, daydreaming. I love that mindset right before a glorious nap or bedtime where my mind can play. A lot of fun imagery has spawned from this zen-time.

What kind of message do you want your illustrations to send to people who look at your work?

Man, I don’t know. I like my viewers to want to explore my work. Some images have little hidden treasures that even I have forgotten about with time. I enjoy listening to other’s interpretations of my work, building their own story. Message-wise, I hope my paintings radiate a youthful energy. I hope that even in their darkness, my paintings inspire joy and a curious sense of the unknown.

If you could collaborate with ANY artist, who would it be?

It would be a musician. Maybe, Celine Dion…

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not illustrating?

I love spending time with my family, even when they think I’m tremendously irritating. I also love getting outside and doing sweet parkour moves. I actually suck at the “sweet” part of that last sentence, but I dig jumping over things, rolling under stuff and climbing. I was an extremely furry baby. I might be the missing link.

What's your favorite horror film(s)?

Good question. I do love Horror, Fantasy and Sci-fi films! I think the one that has stood the test of time most successfully, for me, is John Carpenter’s “The Thing.” I watch Kurt and company two or three times a year. So good.

Do you have any goals for your illustrations in 2018?

I’ve never gotten too ambitious with my painting. I do it because I love it. I hope good stuff happens, but I’m not setting any goals.

Favorite song, artist or band you enjoy listening to while you’re illustrating?

Musically. I’m all over the board. I love my soundtracks. Especially, anything by John Williams. I’m listening to a lot of “Arcade Fire”, “Bowie”, “Lazerhawk”, and “Portugal, The Man” at the moment. Then there’s, “Iron Maiden”, “Pink Floyd”, “Rush”, and the “Pixies”. It all depends on the day. I love music!!!