Meet the Artists: Joe McMenamin

Joe McMenamin’s work is a dreamy mixture of detailed drawing and painting. We love the intricate patterns Joe painstakingly illustrates, particularly his bird silhouette art prints, formed by thousands of tiny ink strokes. Joe also uses that highly-tuned artist’s eye in his day job as a photography teacher, as well as in wood-working (hand crafting all the plywood frames his original artworks are created on) and even knife-making. He’s a true talent who, it seems, is happiest when he is creating…

Joe Mcmenamin NZ artist

You’re a photography teacher as well as artist. How does each discipline influence/effect the other?
I make most of my art at school. I think it’s really important for my students to see me making authentic art, partly for my own credibility as a teacher but also so that they can see where art can take them if they pursue it.

While I don’t take photographs for my own work, the skills of composition, depth and contrast are similar in drawing and painting.

NZ Art Print New Zealand

One of Joe’s limited edition, screen-printed art prints available on endemicworld. 

Have you been drawing and painting at this level for alot of years (or is your art career quite ‘new’?) Tell us about some of the cool art projects/commissions/shows you’ve been involved in?
I’ve been making art for as long as I can remember. My current style, in particular my patterns, has been developing over the last 5 years or so. Other than a few exhibitions, the NZ Art Show has been my main outlet for selling work.

In terms of other projects, I have had heaps of fun working with wood and steel in my knifemaking hobby. I love making things with my hands, which is why I make all of the plywood frames that my original paintings are on.

As well a being a skilled knife maker, Joe crafts all the plywood frames for his original artworks.

What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on a new piece in my “dead or alive” series. This latest work features an elephant skeleton juxtaposed with a silhouette of Africa. I’m interested in the contrast of shape and line work, and how far I can push the detail. This work is also exploring the ideas behind life, death and the endangered African elephant.

NZ artist artwork in progress

The work-in-progress mentioned above – Joe manages to create incredible detail and dimension with a humble pen.

Who do you look up to, creatively (and why)?
My high school art teacher was Darryn George (he’s pretty famous actually) and he is the one who inspired me to go to art school, and eventually become a teacher. I remember his classes being really relaxed and fun, and he always had a big painting on the go. My own teaching is still influenced by the way Darryn taught me.

Fave music to paint/draw to?
Gang Starr, Arctic Monkeys and Fat Freddy’s Drop all get a lot of air time, although I mostly listen to Radio Active, the best radio station in Wellington.

art desk

Snaps from Joe’s creative home and work space.

Tell us about a dream project you’d love to work on?
I would love to illustrate a children’s book. I have three kids, all 6 and under, and I would love to make something that they could enjoy and get involved with. I already have a concept for the story, where my wife and daughter go away for the weekend, leaving my 2 sons and I at home having a boy’s weekend. If you knew my boys, you could imagine us getting up to some pretty crazy stuff!


bird art prints

Two more of Joe’s beautiful original artworks. (And there’s now only 1 of the 15 Blue Robin prints left!)

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