Joel whitehead, artist

Joel's Art is on view at Mondo Creation until July 31, 2019

In Mrs. Treadwell’s first grade class I discovered that I could draw an Easter Bunny that looked just like it did in the book. She was surprised. I was also surprised. Soon I was drawing Easter bunnies for everyone in the class and then a map of Texas and then the whole United States. By 6th grade I was doing portraits of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. 

We moved around a lot so I made most of my associations in sports. After University where I majored in “staying out of Vietnam,” I realized I finally had a choice and so I decided to try art again. I got a portfolio together and was accepted to Art Center, College of Design, Los Angeles, the best commercial art school on the West Coast.  We were pushed very hard and I learned a great deal. But already at that time, being an artist/illustrator was something non hireable so were exhorted to go into careers of advertising design and art direction, mostly for large ad agencies. This had very little to do with “the dream.” I wanted no part of the stress/martini circuit, and later, when I revisited friends who had entered the fray, I realized I had made the right choice.

All artists come to this moment; where dreams and ambitions no longer run concentric with life, family and making a living. That’s when we close the art box and put away the brushes and find other meanings in life.

I still love the way I make a living, but even years after the children moved on, I didn’t realize I was free to make my own choices again.  For the last five years that ‘wondering if’ sense that lurked deep within has once again emanated in the form of self discovery through art and what I can make of it. 

Growing up in California, I loved the great west coast action painters like Wayne Thiebaud and Richard Diebenkorn. In the 70’s and 80’s Andrew Wyeth reconnected us with North American heroes like Winslow Homer and Thomas Eakins. I love beauty in art; a romantic I guess. Strictly modern art with a unique idea but no heart leaves me cold. However, I’m also not a fan of finely rendered pictures of animals either. 

In art, we are always chasing the poetry in ourselves and using what’s in front of us to say what we feel. It is a constant pursuit. In the end it may be the one true way we define ourselves without having to tell someone else who we are.