Storytelling is an essential part of Las Vegas artist Joseph Watson’s painting methodology, whether he’s creating city scenes or public sculpture or children’s illustrations. So how does the narrative an author may have in mind affect the viewer, and is this different for different types of art?
Joseph is perhaps best known as the illustrator of the Go, Go, GRETA! book series and does online streaming of drawing sessions through Instagram and Facebook. On this episode of Pretty Much Pop, he joins your hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt to explore the picture-narrative connection and more generally how knowing about the creation of an image affects our reception of it, touching on Guernica, Where the Wild Things Are, Dr. Seuss, The Chronicles of Narnia, and more.
You can browse Joseph’s work at josephwatsonart.com, and you’re really going to want in particular to look at a couple of the works that we consider explicitly:
- The painting that he gives us the whole story for is “Walk Up, Walk Out.” (And yes, there are X’s in the windows, but I’m pretty sure what Erica was asking about was the one that the dog has just walked across in the top row, whose meaning will remain a mystery!)
- Brian invites us to impose meaning on the cover of Go, Go GRETA! Busy As Can Be without reading the book. Also, you can see the various concept drawings for Greta.
- Erica near the end asks about the inclusion of the “Honorable Mention” trophy in Joseph’s “Elements of Inspiration.”
- Joseph also mentions his flower series and cars made of musical instruments.
Other sources we looked at in preparation for this discussion include:
- “The Uncomfortable Truth About Children’s Books” by Daskha Slater
- “Children’s Book Illustration Masterclass – Use of Colour and Style,” a video by Shoo Rayner
- “How ‘The Snowy Day’ Became an Enduring Illustration of Diversity” by Abilgail Cain
- “10 of the Greatest Children’s Book Illustrators, from EH Shepard to Quentin Blake” by Matthew Dennison
- “The Tragic Story Behind Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, One of World’s Most Famous Paintings” by Andrey V.
- “10 World Famous Paintings with Interesting Backstories” by Shyam T. Unni
- “35 Powerful Photos That Tell a Story” from JotForm (The discussion actually didn’t get to photography; that’ll have to wait for a future episode. Advertising is another relevant area we should pick up later.)
Follow Joseph on Instagram @josephwatsonart; also Twitter and Facebook.
Learn more at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This week, it includes a particularly philosophical consideration of the notion of escapism and how different that is from so-called serious pursuits. Is this just a version of the high-low culture distinction that we largely rejected in episode one? This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.
Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts.