Joe McMenamin describes himself as an an obsessive doodler. “I doodle everywhere. I even doodled on my arm and had it tattooed. The organic flowing doodle pattern that I use in most of my work has represented many different things, from birdsong to Darth Vader’s thoughts!”
What do you make?
I make hand coloured prints featuring birds and animals. These designs feature as greeting cards in my Felt shop too. I also make original paintings on plywood. My signature style is the flowing, organic patterns that I use in most of my work. I make these patterns up as I go along, and I enjoy how relaxing it is to draw them.
How did you get into your craft?
I’ve been a high school art teacher for 10 years, and I have always been inspired by what my students produce. Before teaching I did a Fine Art degree in Hamilton. I have made art for as long as I can remember.
Your favourite materials, tools and processes?
I love to draw. My favorite ink pens to use are called “U knock” and they are a rollerball ink pen. To give my prints a pop of colour I use powdered dye. I love the way it bleeds into wet paper and creates abstract patterns that are impossible to predict. I also use acrylic paint directly onto plywood to produce my originals.
What inspires you?
New Zealand birds are the main inspiration for my prints. There is a plum tree where I live that attracts kereru and tui, and I love watching the way they move and sing. When I draw the organic patterns, I imagine what their bird song would look like. I’ve also been working on a series of nautical paintings on plywood skateboard cutouts.
Five words that describe your mind:
Beauty flows from God’s creation.
Describe your workspace:
I have a studio space in my garage. It has a large open door leading out to a court yard with ferns and an old church pew and a round table painted with a kereru. I also make sure I have a piece of art on the go in my classroom. It inspires my art students and I think it’s really important for them to see that their art teacher knows what he’s doing.
What are you currently listening to?
George FM. I also love Trinity Roots, Fat Freddy’s Drop and Hollie Smith.
Recommend an album:
True by Trinity Roots.
What’s your favourite childhood book and why?
I really like Animalia by Graeme Base. I love the intricacy and layers of his drawings. It’s fun creating books with my own kids too, making up our own stories and illustrations.
What are you reading now?
I’ve just finished Book 7 in the Game of Thrones series. So good!
Who is your hero/heroine?
Ron Swanson (Parks and Recreation TV series).
A favourite quote:
Ron Swanson: “Never half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.”
What would your advice be for those starting out in a crafty business?
Do what you love and don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. I think too many artists undervalue their work and don’t think people will like what they make. Take good photos and promote your Felt shop widely on social media.
What was the last handmade item you bought and what attracted you to it?
I bought a bird screen print from Hunting Bears at the Craft Central market in Wellington. I love the way the different layers overlapped, and the subtle blue tones.
What’s in store for the rest of 2015 and next year?
I’m excited to announce that I’ve decided to pursue my art in 2016 and drop down to half time teaching and do art for the other half. This is a massive step for me, especially since my wife is studying and I have three young kids. But I’ve had so many commissions and exhibitions this year, and been struggling to keep up with demand! It’s time to pursue my dream of being an artist. (Congratulations Joe! – Ed.)
I’m also currently working on an adults’ colouring book project which I’m hoping to release in December. Watch this space for more details!
If you love Joe’s intricate and arresting art, check out more of his work in his Felt shop.
Joe has very generously offered a prize of this beautiful Ruru open edition digital print, hand coloured with powdered dye (pictured above) valued at $90, for one lucky Felt blog reader. To win this awesome prize, leave a comment telling us what you like about Joe’s story and his art. The draw will be made on Friday 6 November and is open to New Zealand residents only.