Joe Barwise: Octopus Milk

Octopus Milk’ is the debut exhibition of local artist Joe Barwise and will be held at The Playhouse from Tuesday 1st September.

With a background in Illustration and Graphic Design, Joe has produced work for print and screen while collaborating with clients from across Ireland, the UK, Europe and the US. For the past few years he has also been a facilitator with the Playhouse’s Children’s Art Festival. 

We got in touch with Joe to find out what we can expect from his exhibition debut this month.

What is your artistic background?
When I was in school I studied Art up to foundation level but dropped out of my course at degree level.
 After a few years away from education (six) I began to teach myself graphic design and took some online courses because I was interested in making a career for myself in the industry.
I was also able to get a placement with Big Fish Design, a company here in Derry, which gave me the experience and confidence to go out and start working as a freelance designer.
What other illustrators/designers have influenced your work over the years?
As a designer I would say that my biggest influences aren’t actually designers but Design Schools or movements such as the Bauhaus, the Swiss International Style and Russian Constructivism. I think what appeals to me most is the idea of creating an identity through and within uniformity. 
 As an illustrator it’s the opposite end of the scale as I like stuff that can take you anywhere. My work is heavily influenced by Pop Surrealism or Low Brow Art, stuff that is rooted in pop culture but is a weirder little bit darker step outside the mainstream though in an internet age all things are mainstream. I’ve always liked the work of Robert Williams and Jim Philips and more contemporarily I’ve been getting into the work of Jenny Morgan and Cleon Peterson. There are so many graphic artists and illustrators I’ve come across online that it would take too long to mention them all.
Aesthetically I take a lot of reference from comic books and old Disney cartoons, Steamboat Mickey era type ones before all the fairy tales and stuff, throw in a bit of tattoo imagery and some street art and I get my end product.
What made you choose ‘Octopus Milk’ as the name of the exhibition?
Well the exhibition is a showcase of 8 digital artworks so there’s the number link, but more than anything I was just putting random words together and those two seemed to fit well.
Is it solely illustration related works being exhibited?
The work on show is the showcase of 8 prints plus a wall painting too. I wouldn’t really call it graffiti or mural it’s more a larger version of my illustrative work in a different media.
What were your influences for the work being exhibited?
The work itself is just random imagery with no real theme running through it. It’s more an exploration of technique but I guess it’s just the kind of stuff I’d like to put on my wall so I made it with that purpose in mind. I think though that the main reason for the exhibition was as a bit of publicity, a way of getting myself known a bit more and showcasing the skills that I have.

How would you describe your work?
Methodical Fun.
What programmes or techniques do you use?
I predominantly work digitally using the Adobe creative suite but everything will start out as sketches, if you can’t draw it in real life you can’t draw it on a computer, from there I’ll take those initial ideas into Illustrator or Photoshop to create the final pieces. I like the clean rigidness of using computer design programmes as they give my line work an exactness that it is hard to replicate with traditional media.
Joe’s free to view exhibition ‘Octopus Milk’ is currently on display at The Playhouse and will run until Friday 18th September. You can also check out his website to see some of his work.


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