“Joe Vaux” is a name known in both the gallery scene and animation. His work in painting and on shows like Family Guy make for a busy schedule for the artist. In a Q&A with Hi-Fructose, he talks about maintaining that balance and his upcoming show at Copro Gallery, which kick off on March 18.
HF: Can you talk about how your fine art practice has evolved over the past decade, as it parallels your animation work?
Joe Vaux: I’ve always regarded my time in animation as graduate school. I’ve been in grad school for over twenty years. The talent that surrounds me at work always humbles and inspires. Working side by side with other artists hasn’t necessarily affected my painting content but it has continually fueled my desire to maintain a presence in the art community.
The animation gigs have always been my main source of income and have supplied the capitol and financial peace that I need to create. That being said, having a full-time job and a family cuts into my painting time. Most of my painting is done at night, after the kid’s bedtime and before 11 p.m. I also love my sleep. No super late nights for me. We’re talking one to two hours a night, if I’m lucky. With these kinds of time restrictions, it’s been really tough for me to produce large quantities of work.
HF: How are you able to balance your major roles in shows like Family Guy and your painting?
JV: Family Guy has been so good to me. I’ve worked on the show for nearly fourteen years. It has given me the opportunity to rise from a storyboard artist to director. I’ve co-written two episodes and met a lot of friends that I will stay in contact for the rest of my life.
Directing on Family Guy is a very labor intensive. Each episode holds new challenges that test my creative mojo. Before directing, one of the coolest moments in my show tenure happened in season 10. Writer Wellesley Wild scripted Brian, the dog, to have a bad trip into a “Joe Vaux” painting. My two worlds collided. I was given total freedom to take that dog on a wild ride through my dark imagination. The bit aired in “Seahorse Seashell Party” directed by Brian Isles.
My family and full-time job take priority to my painting. It’s been really tough to maintain the time and energy needed to build a body of work for a show. I’ve tried to keep one toe in the gallery scene in various group shows over the past eight years, but I haven’t had a solo show in probably nine years. I’m looking forward to seeing this body of work hang at Copro Gallery.
HF: What can followers of your work expect from this upcoming show at Copro Gallery?
JV: Hopefully, they will be happy enough to see me out on a Saturday, but for those that need more, I think they will enjoy this selection of work. I’ve titled the show; “BALANCING ACT.” The title isn’t too deep or meant to be explored. All work was produced over the past two years while atop a high wire rope strung across my yard. What can I say? I love monsters and strange environments and danger.
HF: Do you have an explicit mythology or narratives in your head for the creatures you paint? How much of your work is planned?
JV: Most of my work evolves from sketchbook doodling and day dreaming. Some of my largest paintings have nothing more than a chicken scratch thumbnail drawing for reference. I think this comes from not wanting to do things more than once. The energy that I have for my content is most passionate the first time I put it down, so wherever I can, I let that first time be on the painting. I like to let the image tell its story as I paint, but I have a general agenda once I start. I obviously gravitate toward the darkness and the creatures that live in dark holes. I like building my own worlds that are possibly inspired by known myths but launched in a new direction.
HF: There seems to be a political edge to some your work, as of late. Are you finding inspiration for your beasts and scenes in today’s politics?
JV: have done a couple of specific paintings that are inspired by the circus in D.C. It’s a way to vent my anger. I’m not much of a debater, so I put my feelings down on board. I’m doing my best to not bring the real world into my painted visions, but it’s hard to not be inspired by the orange monster and his bag of nuts.
HF: Any chance on returning to live-action TV after your successful appearance on “Wipe Out”?
JV: HA! No Way!!! That show wrecked me. I got super sick after my first day of shooting. Fortunately, I had enough time to recover or the result may have been different. Some of those hits ravaged my neck and ass. A win was the only thing that made the whole experience worthwhile.
I am in better shape now than I was when I ran, but also, older. I’d probably dominate, again. Okay! I’ll do it!