Interview with the Artist: Joe Fenton

If British born, New York Artist Joe Fenton ever fancied a career change I am sure he could make a pretty good living on Blackpool’s Golden Mile (or on Sunset Blvd) as a tattoo artist.

He seems to being doing ok for himself at the moment though, and in addition to his regular work has followed in the footsteps of celebrated children’s authors Roald Dahl and Maurice Sendak, with his scary children’s books What’s Under the Bed? and Boo.


His intricate pieces require incredible dedication and attention to detail, but the finished results are stunning and his art is brimming with imagination and energy.

Did you have any formal art training?
Yes, I went to the Wimbledon school of art. I studied sculpture though. I have never really learnt to draw which I suppose means I’m self taught.

Who was an influence to you artistically when you were younger?
One that comes to mind is an illustrator called Wayne Anderson. Two of his earlier books titled “Rat’s Magic” and also “The Magic Circus” were a huge inspiration to me. His work would scare me, yet fill me with wonder at the same time .

Do you have the whole piece planned out before you start to draw it?
I have the line drawing worked out beforehand. I would say about 60% of the idea is worked out before I start. I then add many details as I progress.

How organised are you when it comes to your art?
I generally wake up around 5.30am and then head out on my 15 minutes bike ride from home in Park Slope, Brooklyn to my art studio in Redhook, Brooklyn. I usually start work around 7.30am. The mornings have proven to be my most productive time. I work around ten hours a day.

How long does it take on average to finish one piece?
My largest piece to date titled ‘Solitude’ took me about ten months to complete. Some of my smaller images like the Lullaby (see above) took me around two and a half months.

Joe Fenton Artist

Your pictures must take a lot of patience, do you actually enjoy the process of creating a piece, or is it the means to the finished result?
That’s a good question. There are days when it excruciatingly painful and I really have to push myself, especially while working on my piece “Solitude’. Starting an image is the most challenging point when you are confronted with huge piece of white paper. It’s a very satisfying feeling when you have completed a work.

joe fenton booksWhat do you think about while you are creating a piece?
I think about when am I ever gonna finish this sucker!

Is there a back story to your pictures?
The fantasy elements in my work mostly come from my childhood experience reading books with amazing art. There are also many religious references in my work. Whether it’s a Ganesh like character or a grinning Buddha, or a faint crucifix adorning a rooftop in the far distance. This might seem strange as I am not a religious person, although I am on a constant journey to find a spiritual solution to give meaning to my life. I’m not mocking religion by having references to it in my work;

I have a deep desire to experience some of what it has to offer. When one strips away the politics of religion and the varied cultural differences and beliefs, I feel that they ultimately they all have the same spiritual goals. I feel with each new image I create, I am entering further into this world I have created. I’m excited to discover more!

Do you have any exhibitions on the horizon?
Yes. I am planning my first solo show in London in the new year (keep up to date with FTF for details).

Are you writing / drawing any more picture books?
I might have something in the works. We will have to see how things go. I would like to create a graphic novel and I’ve been thinking about for a while.

Finally, where is your favorite best place to eat in Brooklyn?
I’m not sure really. I’m not someone who eats out much. I prefer to cook at home. I did create some art for my friends menu. His restaurant in Park slope is called Rachel’s Taqueria. It’s a Mexican restaurant that is very popular. I would recommend it.

what's under the bed?

For more info on Joe’s work visit