Artistic Q&A: Joe Wos Gets to the Core of His Art

As part my NaBloPoMo examination of art and blogging, I asked a few folks to consider some of the same questions I’m pondering. First up is Joe Wos, freelance cartoonist.

Joe wos
Image Courtesy of Joe Wos

Joe has contributed to this blog and contributed to previous Q&A series as well. Joe has been part of my life for more than four years; I always enjoy learning more about his backstory and hearing his slant on topics. Way, way back in the day, he created an illustration for me  – “Crafty Cabbage” was part of the origin story of The Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project. Joe was kind enough to lend his energy to the project by bringing Crafty to life simply out of a desire to help the Food Bank. Crafty has always been special to me for that reason – Joe’s investment in the concept.

Name: Joe Wos

Your Blog: Joe Wos, freelance for various blogs and papers

Where Can People Find You On Social Media:  @WosIsMe on Twitter, Facebook

Are you an artist ?  I am a freelance but full time cartoonist. I am also a writer, storyteller, and whatever it takes. I also consider myself a social performance artist and rabblerouser! lol.

I have been working as a cartoonist since age 14 (30 years). But my path has never been direct, and I often find myself creating new mediums to express myself. For decades I worked as a cartoonist/storyteller illustrating stories as I told them live on stage. I toured nationwide. I also made a name drawing the world’s largest and most difficult hand-drawn mazes. Most recently I am now performing with orchestras illustrating symphonies live.

I am working on some corporate illustration projects, just finished my first book, am writing for the Trib, and am a regular culture contributor for WESA! Whew!

Are you more inclined to define blogging as an art form, a craft, both or something else entirely? Please explain. Blogging is absolutely an art for me. I am always looking for new ways to express my ideas and that’s what blogging provides for me. I write when it strikes me, when I have ideas. Which is frequently. Blogging provides one more outlet for that expression. Art is expressing oneself through creativity and then sharing it. I believe art requires an audience, even if only one. Art isn’t complete until it is viewed by someone else. If a blog is written in the woods and there is no one there to read it….

Do you blog about the arts? Please explain. I am very outspoken in my opinions on the state of art in Pittsburgh. I have been very critical of the patriarchy of arts in this city. The cultural trust, the Carnegie system, we have very institutionalized corporate art. My being outspoken about these things has limited my outlets though. No one wants to run a piece that is critical of the largest advertisers! and no one wants to risk being blackballed as a journalist, publisher or artist.

Whatever your relationship to the arts, how has that informed your blogging?  I am first and foremost a cartoonist. It informs everything I do. I feel very much on the outside of the art world, a much maligned artform though very popular. We watch cartoons and comics stolen by “real artist” who then copy it and paint it and call it “pop” art and sell it for millions without acknowledging their inspiration or original artist. I think consequently, that feeling of being an outsider allows me a certain freedom, of not giving a shit if I’m in the arts festival, or represented at such and such gallery. I love organic art forms that just happen, graffiti, spontaneous performance art, buskers. The stuff that doesn’t have to beg for a grant and then “tone it down”. I also think I may be the first wave of the interactive immersive digital generations. I really don’t want to just look at art on walls anymore, I find it boring. I’m like a four-year old wondering, what does it do? I’m not one of those critics who sits around stroking their beard reading the pretentious full of crap artist’s statement. I don’t buy into hanging a toilet seat on a wall and then printing up some BS statement and calling it art. It’s been done. It was original 40 years ago. A lot of people pretend to like certain kinds of art because they are supposed to, or they don’t want to seem uncultured or unintelligent. I’m willing to say that a piece of art is crap. that we just all nod our heads and say “it must be art, because I don’t get it.” I hate that. I hate art that is designed to make you feel like you are stupid because you don’t understand, you don’t get the message. The art sucks, that artist is just good at writing pretentious artists statements. Good writer maybe. Be honest in your art. If it’s good people will like it. If people don’t get it. maybe it just sucks. and that…is why I don’t write many art blogs!

Blogs are typically available to the public and open to engagement via comments, social media, etc. Would you consider this a form of public or community art? Yes! All art is about the response. If it isn’t seen and read, and thought about, it doesn’t exist. That public feedback is so important. Getting a response to me is the most important thing. Did I trigger an emotion. They can hate me for it. (My piece on bikes is a good example, I got death threats lol!) So long as they read the whole thing and reacted. If I don’t get nasty responses to an editorial piece then I wasn’t taking any chances, I didn’t say anything new, I added nothing to the conversation. When you write a piece you are just putting down the foundation, the art lies in the layer upon layer of responses, tweets, repost, commentary, that make up this wonderful pieces of community art we all can share.

Is there an artistic pursuit you’ve always wanted to explore? When I left the ToonSeum I did it to return to cartooning and I have been lucky to have a lot of projects to keep me busy. What I didn’t expect was for my writing to take off. I never considered myself a writer. I wrote some editorials and features here and there but it was just an extension of my marketing or I had a funny story to tell and that was a good outlet. Now I submit ideas and they buy them. I have to research, interview, write, edit and meet a deadline. I love it! I am dyslexic, and for me to grow up and become a writer is amazing! There are lots of artforms I wish I could do… I lack the skill or the ambition to find the time. But writing has really added a new dimension to who I am. It allows me to express myself in new ways. That is the core of art. Expression.

Be sure to check out Joe’s new book “The Three Little Pigsburgers” – a Pittsburghese retelling of a classic story. Great gift for the holidays!

Joe Wos
Crafty Cabbage
The Three Little Pigsburghers
The Three Little Pigsburghers


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