Joe Wallace is a bold mixed-media artist who draws from real life in the Bay. Blending traditional inks, pens, and markers with digital platforms, Joe’s unmistakable street style uses simple lines and colors to capture the richness around him. We asked him about when he began drawing, what inspires his art, how he created his JUGLIFE bottle piece, and why water is so essential to fueling what he loves doing.
When did you start drawing?
JW: I’ve been drawing all my life, honestly. I have to say one of my earliest memories in life was drawing when I was, like, 3-years-old. I remember one day my mom coming home from picking my older brother up from kindergarten. I was drawing at the kitchen table with my babysitter and my mom came home and was crying. My brother was scared and frantically started yelling, “Mom’s purse got stolen!”
Someone had swiped her purse off her shoulder when she was putting my brother in his car seat. I was just a kid at the time, so I didn’t understand the magnitude of that situation or how scary that can be, but I just remember drawing a dinosaur and giving it to my mom. I told her to keep it because the robber might be afraid of dinosaurs. That’s my earliest memory of me creating.
As I grew up I developed a love for basketball and art. Being from the Bay, a lot of people are huge fans, like diehard fans. So with the emergence of social media and Instagram, it was easy to take it in that direction. That led me to where I am today.
What drives your art?
JW: When it comes to art, it’s the athletes. This may sound a little childish, but it’s the closest thing we have to real life superheroes. As far as inspiring what I create, it’s the athletes and being able to create them in a light that makes them larger than life. That’s the awesome part about it. It’s bigger than me and it’s easy to share that with a fanbase so big.
What about athletes make them like superheroes for you?
JW: They are able to do what they love. Being a pro athlete, that road that they took and the faith and hard work they had to keep to get where they’re at. That’s where I find inspiration. Being an artist, I have to admit it’s pretty difficult. I’m sure you’ve heard the term “starving artist” and a lot of artists have to go through that to get to the point they want to get to. It’s a lot of faith and patience and hard work, just like it for an athlete to get to where they want to be. That window is so small and only so many people make it.
And that’s just on the court. Even what they’re able to do off the court is amazing. Like JaVale is doing JUGLIFE. It’s as much what they can do for people off the courts as what they can do on them.
What was it like to draw on the Juglife water bottle? Was drawing on 3-dimensional object different from what you normally do?
JW: Ha, it’s not something I normally do. So it was a challenge, but also a lot of fun. I felt some anxiety going into it, not knowing what to expect, knowing I was going to have to do most of it on the spot, in a certain timetable, while being recorded. I had no idea how it was going to come out. But as an artist, new creative outlets are the best way to scare yourself, the best way to challenge yourself from different creative angles. Especially when you’re in a drought doing what you do, it’s good to step out and do something else. Stepping up to fresh challenges then pays off when I get back to doing what I do.
With the bottle, I pretty much just went with the flow and doodled all over it. I played with the curves and the angles and the grooves, especially with “Water Is Life,” just to fill out the shape. After I got started, I let it take me to that place where I just let it flow. The whole process took me about five hours to create.
Does water play a role in your own lifestyle?
JW: Definitely. I start my day with water. I’m not a coffee person, so I drink two glasses of water every day to wake up. If you hadn’t guessed it, I love basketball. It provides me with the same escape that art does. It takes me away from time and space and just allows me to be. It’s the top form of exercise I get, with some weightlifting, strength training, and mobility work. I want to be able to play when I’m older. I want to stay in shape so I can keep playing. Water is pretty essential to making that happen for me.
What does water mean to you?
JW: I feel like water is the most important source that we’re given. Water IS life. As Americans, water is definitely something we take for granted, having clean water supplies, hot showers, washing our clothes, watering our plants. Everyone doesn’t have that same privilege around the world. JUGLIFE’s mission to give people in need access to clean water sources and shedding light and awareness on the importance of drinking water and saving water is super pivotal at this point in time. I love what JUGLIFE is doing.