With distinct style of patterns illustrated with clean fine lines by Joe McMenamin, this modern artist from Wellington exudes a confident New Zealand style and utter coziness.
Joe McMenamin is a visual artist, art teacher, and freelancer who walked the trail of a busy creative life with clients and students. In his creative realm, freelancers and professionals highly recognize his works. Furthermore, students who took art course inside his class are very honored to be a part of his journey—to help young people learn and appreciate art. He got an authentic feel of New Zealand and distinct style of flowing organic patterns. Joe’s rewarding story for his passion for art and education is a must-read interview of this issue.
What’s a day like an art teacher and a visual artist?
A day as an art teacher and visual artist for me starts with coffee! Once I get my 3 kids off to school and kindy, I walk to my school and sit down to check emails, Facebook and plan out the day. During a typical day I will have 3 or 4 classes to teach, ranging from junior Art to senior Photography and Design. When I can, I grab some time to do my own Art, be it drawing, painting or editing on the computer. I also work in the evenings to complete the projects and commissions I’m working on.
What propelled you to teach? What are the highlights & challenges of teaching?
Teaching is my full time job. I also do a lot of work on my own art, so I end up working quite a lot! I got into teaching because I have a passion for helping young people learn about Art. I get a buzz out of seeing teenagers “get it” when it comes to Art. It may be a new technique, or an artist they have never seen before. I think it’s really important that students will see me working on an actual art as it legitimises my work. It strengthens my credibility as an art teacher. Naughty students are great challenge, but I find that normal because art is an optional subject. Students who take it are fun and happy to be in the class.
How do you teach art?
I teach in a fairly contemporary way. Rather than stand up the front and talk at the students, I prefer to be more like a coach and work alongside them with the projects they are working on. In saying that, there are times when I need to teach a skill or technique to the class, but I always demonstrate for students how to do it, rather than just tell them.
What is it about nature that most appeals to you? What other materials do you have in your collection?
My work is made up of two main areas of interest for me. The first is mostly about birds and trees, which we have so many of in New Zealand. I particularly like drawing native NZ birds such as the tui and piwakawaka (fantail). Birds create an interesting silhouette, which works really well with the organic pattern I draw. The other main area I paint about is famous movie characters – especially Star Wars characters at the moment. I’m interested in how famous the characters are and how they have such a strong cult following now. This has links for me with the Pop Art movement.
Any particular artist that inspires you?
I am very inspired by the artist Shepard Fairey, who makes street art under the name “Obey”. I also love Banksy’s work. I am quite interested in the idea of street art becoming a legitimate form of Art, even though I don’t work in that genre.
A piece of advice to all aspiring artists.
Being an artist is something you are, not something you do. So if you are not happy with the work you are making now, don’t worry about it. Keep making art and you will get better and better. By calling myself an artist I should not be judged on the work I make now, but on the work I have the potential to make in the future. I look back at the art I made 10 years ago, and don’t really like what I was doing then, but that work helped to build the foundation of the art that came next, and the art after that and so on. Keep developing your ideas and techniques, and keep being inspired by other artists. And above all, keep making art!
Interview by Martin Cosme | Editing by Divine Angeline Leano | Photos courtesy of Joe McMenamin