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Joe's art takes flight

01 Feb 2018

Visit the town of Naenae in Lower Hutt, New Zealand, and you’ll see artist Joe McMenamin’s stunning murals everywhere, painted in Resene.

As well as creating sky high murals, Joe also paints New Zealand native birds onto woodgrain, and is an artist in residence at the Anglican Parish of the Oroua.

We find out more.

Tell us a bit about yourself as an artist.

I was a high school art teacher for 14 years. I started selling more and more of my art until the point where I couldn’t fit all the art I was doing into my spare time. Last year I went part time teaching, and that was so successful that I have taken the plunge and became a full time artist in 2017. 

And your art?

I paint our beautiful NZ native birds directly onto woodgrain. I also make a range of prints in a doodle art style, which have a strong Kiwiana feel.

In 2016, I was asked by the Hutt City Council to paint a mural in Naenae, Lower Hutt where I lived. I was absolutely hooked, and have painted more than 10 murals in Naenae alone. I formed a crew of Naenae college students who helped me paint some of these murals too.

As well as deterring graffiti, the murals have been a great way to bring some life to the community, and give the students some experience in large art projects.

How has the style of your pieces evolved?

Taking my work from a small painting to a mural scale made me think about my style of art in new and exciting ways. Decisions around colour and composition are really important when you are painting a huge wall.

My work has taken on more of a design aspect, with the flowing organic patterns coming through in lots of the murals I paint.

As an art teacher I was always asking my students to think about how they can develop their art. It’s about being experimental and innovative while keeping a consistent, recognisable style.

What has influenced your work?

I’m obviously influenced by our NZ native birds. I just love painting them.

If you have ever walked through the NZ bush and had a playful fantail follow you, or heard the amazing range of tones of a Tui singing, you will know why I want to make art about them.

In terms of artists who inspire me, I love Shepard Fairey’s mural and political work, Banksy’s stencils and NZ artist Flox’s vibrant colours.

How do you incorporate Resene products and paint into your work?

I only use Resene paints for my murals. I’ve found them to be excellent quality and great for mixing and blending colours.

I have recently started buying some more Resene testpots for specific colours in small quantities that I use for small details. Resene has such a wide range of colours to choose from.

Most murals I paint are coated with Resene Uracryl GraffitiShield to protect them against tagging.

Do you have a favourite piece?

I still love the Naenae Kotare mural that I painted with the help of my crew of Naenae College students.

And a favourite colour?

Light blue with a tiny bit of green mixed in.

See more of Joe's work at www.joemcmenamin.com.