Halos, 2017, acrylic on canvas

Meet Local Artist Joe Carton, Painter

Submitted a year ago
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Every week or so I highlight a local Upper Valley artist or maker. I give them a list of questions and they choose to answer as many of them however they'd like. I hope you enjoy meeting our local artists!  [Would you like to be featured in "Meet the Local Artist"? Email Amy at RVCAmy at gmail dot com]

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This week I'd like to introduce you to Joe Carton, Painter

New work in progress

Bio and History

Joe Carton was born in 1970, in Claremont, New Hampshire. He graduated from Massachusetts College of Art and Design with a degree in fine arts. In recent years Joe has devoted himself to painting and printmaking. He currently lives and works in New Hampshire. Joe’s work has been an ongoing investigation into the social, political, psychological and physical elements of the landscape of the mind. An important component of his work is that many pieces use images pulled from popular culture. These images, whether subtle or blatant, serve as reminders of society’s impact on an individual. Joe uses a variety of media—including paint pens, house paint, acrylics, and ink—in his work, which, ultimately, addresses social issues and speaks to personal demons.

How did you get started with art? Have you had any training?

I have always had an interest in art. My interest developed in my teenage years. It was my increasing interest in art that lead me to attend Massachusetts College of Art in 1988. I received my BFA in 1992, with a focus in sculpture.

Do you make art for a living? If so, for how long have you been able to do that? What jobs have you had other than being an artist? If you don't make your living doing art, what do you do in "real life"?

When I am not creating art, I also work in publishing and education. I strive to make art exclusively someday, but until then I still have art supplies to buy, bills to pay.

How much time do you spend doing art?

I usually spend about four hours a day actively painting. The rest of the time I am probably thinking about art or looking at art.

Fists, 2017, acrylic on canvas

How do you work? Do you have a routine?

I try to paint everyday. I will typically work a couple hours each morning and evening. Any day I don’t get to create art I feel out of sorts.

Where do you work? What is your studio/space like? 

I have a studio in my home. It is great to have a space to walk down to at any time and create art. It is a perfect space for how I work. Basically a few long, wide counters to paint on and ample floor space for drying artwork.

Joe's Studio

Joe's Studio

What are your passions outside of art? What's something non-creative that you do to balance and recharge?

I enjoy touring museums and galleries and relaxing at my cabin in Vermont.


What medium/media do you use? Why do you like it/them?

I mostly work in acrylic paint on raw canvas. Once completed, the canvas is stretched on wooden stretchers or mounted on a wood panel. After stretching, the paintings are coated with a varnish to finish them off. I love the way the colors show through the raw canvas after varnish is applied. It’s the moment when the artwork really comes alive. After much trial and error, this combination of materials produces the effect I desire.

New work in progress

What medium have you tried that you don't like?

I have tried oil painting on several occasions with terrible results. I wish I was better at it, but I don’t have the patience. I can’t wait for anything to dry much longer than a couple hours before moving on to the next step.

If you had only one kind of art supply to use for the rest of your life, what would it be?

It would probably be watercolors; they are so versatile. I have always enjoyed working with them. I’m not the best watercolor painter, but I keep trying.  

What do you do with pieces you don't like?

Many get shelved for revision at a later date. Any others I don’t like will get destroyed.

Pills, 2017, acrylic on canvas

Creation and Inspiration

Where do you get your ideas? How do you get started on a piece? How do you know when you're done?

Most of my ideas come from daily observations. A sign that catches my eye. The still frame displayed when you pause your television show. The latest internet meme. Childhood cartoons. Random photos. It could be anything.

What/who inspires you?

I’m inspired by the artists I see online everyday. There is so much great art out there. I love seeing what other artists are working on.

What's the best thing about being an artist? What's the worse?

The best thing? The freedom to create whatever I want. Being in total control of the process. Meeting other creatives in the field. The worst thing? Probably the financial uncertainty.

How do you get past a creative block?

Usually I work past a creative block by reworking old pieces of art. I have a stack of work that is always in progress. Working through these pieces always helps me break through any blocks I get.

What's the best piece of advice (or a quote) you've been given regarding art and creativity?  

Don’t practice until you get it right. Practice until you can’t get it wrong.

New work from "Fists" series

About Art and Artists

What do people not realize about being an artist?

You are doing work that you actually believe in. You get to be your own boss and not have to answer to anyone else in what you create. The rules to break are only your own.

What do you think are the qualities that define an artist?

I don’t know if there is any quality that defines an artist. Perhaps the act of creating art? Get out there and make something already!

What do you admire in other artists?

I always admire technical talent and drive. I love when an artist really cranks out some quality work.

Is there an artist you particularly admire/emulate/enjoy? Why?

There are too many to list. There are so many talented artists out there these days - Instagram is the place to be. It is like your own personal gallery, ever-updating, always changing.

Untitled, 2016, acrylic on canvas

Sharing Your Art

Where is your favorite place to take a class/workshop (locally or otherwise)?

A couple of my favorite local options are the AVA Gallery and the Aidron Duckworth Art Museum. Both venues offer wonderful classes.

Where can we find you/your work?

My work can be seen on display in galleries and spaces throughout New England, as well as on my website, on Facebook, or on Instagram.


Did you enjoy this interview? You might also like:
  • Last Interview - Laura Di Piazza, Calligraphy Artist
  • Next Week's Interview - TBD - If you know of, or are, an artist I should profile, please email me at RVCAmy at gmail dot com
  • Don't miss a post: Subscribe
  • More about the author, Amy Fortier: Her Artist Interview


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