Back in high school, acrylic painter Joe Bloch was all about heavy metal music, video games, and, you guessed it, art. This Impression/Expressionistic painter hails from the gritty, urban chaos of NYC which serves as his backdrop for inspiration.
Raised on a metal diet of Iron Maiden music and Derek Riggs album covers, Joe graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology with a BFA in medical illustration. When studying cadavers in college, Joe said they felt more like strange anatomical models than real people. “What I’ve learned through various jobs as a medical artist,” Joe stated for this interview, “is that cadaver structures don’t look natural. You need to see them in surgery to get a feel for the tissues and anatomy.”
Joe proceeded to illustrate many books, journals, and magazine covers for various clients, all the while dealing in rare disease states and myriad medications. And, as one might expect, swimming in a sea brimming with illness and pills had an effect on his psyche. “Working in the medical industry as an artist or art director makes you a hypochondriac. I’m constantly thinking of every possible condition happening to me, and that anxiety sometimes comes out in my work.”
In addition to his medical illustration work, Joe is the founder and creator of CREATIVEBLOCH, an art collective offering a variety of creative services including commercial illustration, fine art commissions, art direction, artist promotion, and gallery shows. Describing his career as “a bit crazy,” Joe states he is an artist at the core, who wears hats as both an entrepreneur and an art director. Excelling at marketing and advertising for himself, his clients, and artist friends, Joe also enjoys curating shows. “I think the best part is meeting other artists and learning something new. If you are in it for the money, you will be disappointed, so it’s better to focus on passion.”
Another realm Joe has ventured into is CREATIVEBLOCH art magazine, featuring both emerging and established contemporary artists from an outsider perspective. Thus far Joe has published three issues, the first debuting New York City artists, the second, artists from around the world, and now the third issue showcasing contemporary and dark artists. “We are happy to have Chet Zar involved, he is a master of dark art. We are also grateful to Jonathan LeVine of Mana Contemporary for his interview.”
Another of Joe’s enterprises, and one he describes as “a fun project in down time,” is “STICKY CITY,” a graphic novel he wrote and illustrated entirely on the iPad Pro. Being one to sketch the boatloads of strange people and places he sees on a daily basis, Joe strives to bring out the bizarre as well as the chaos he observes in New York City. “I was in court last week and saw so many weirdos,” he stated. “There was a guy in front of me bald with a big lump on his head. And another guy with a heavy accent and gold-rimmed glasses from the 70’s. I just draw and create and stick a story line together later.” The artist states that it is so random, anything can work- thus paralleling the saying (and Bad Religion lyric), “Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.”
Now a mobile entity, CREATIVEBLOCH hosts pop-up events and curates shows at other galleries such as Van der Plas Gallery in the Lower East Side, which Joe felt was a nice area for his group’s work. Recently, in December 2017, Joe was part of a three-man exhibition with abstract expressionist painter and long-time pal Alejandro Caiazza and Konstantin Bokov, called “Another Christmas,” which took place at Van Der Plas.
Joe Bloch is inspired by many painters, in particular Norwegian painter/printmaker Edvard Munch, most famous for his 1893 oil painting “The Scream.” Interestingly enough, Munch and Bloch also share similar back stories. Joe started as a medical illustrator before venturing into expressionism, and Munch went from painting what he saw, to painting what he felt about what he saw. When asked what it was like to break away from highly representational work and explore a looser, expressionistic and emotive style of art, Joe seems to exhale a sigh of relief. “After 10 years of drawing reality, I wanted something more emotional. I got bored. After drawing so many hearts, brains and livers you need something else. I enjoy expressing emotions through my art. It gets out a lot of frustration and anxiety. Why paint something like a boat on a lake? Boring. Change the colors, the light, turn it upside down, express yourself. Don’t bore people with your art. That is worse than bad art – boring art.”
Anything but commonplace, Joe’s “VanGogh meets contemporary street art” paintings depict the raw lunacy of contemporary city life, and do so through a somewhat dreadful but comedic filter. Via his techniques and recognizable style, the artist is able to address the effects of industrialization and urbanization, often featuring content such as huge, spewing towers, textured buildings, and grey, smoke-filled skies. “Well I kind of fuse a dystopian view with a lot of sarcasm,” Joe states, “but it’s not really dark for darkness’s sake.”
Being one to laugh freely and often, Joe is not seeking to depress people or be too serious. On the contrary, the artist is simply showing an alternate side of things that many people would rather avoid or sweep under the rug. “Why not bring it out? Dark subjects allow for more expression. Who wants to look at a flower and feel happy?” Joe chooses not to paint sunsets, and instead asks his viewers to consider making ugly things – such as smoke and fire – beautiful. The grotesque and ugly, he feels, are interesting, whereas “shiny happy people” are dull and lifeless. “I’m never overly serious, even my art I don’t take too seriously. If you like it cool, if you don’t then you don’t have good taste. Just kidding. See, sarcasm.”
Joe guesses that due to the darker and somewhat aggressive quality of his work, he tends to have more male than female fans. His paintings are “not very cute,” he states. “I just can’t paint nice things. I’m not good at delicate, cute, pretty or soft tones. It is what it is.” As for his personal art collection, Joe owns work by good friend Alejandro Caiazza, as well as Eric LaCombe, and dark art master Chet Zar.
With twenty-five years of experience as an artist, illustrator and creative director, Joe Bloch encourages up-and-coming artists to follow their passions, but to do so with a solid back-up plan in place. He states that not many artists can make a living with their art alone, so go ahead and study art, yes, but have a couple of skills to fall back on. “Follow your passion,” he says, “doors may open, other doors close, but keep going. It is a rough life being an artist, it’s never easy. Even successful artists struggle. But that is why there is ‘pain’ in painting. You need to feel the pain to make something great. Embrace your dark side. Make something.”