Joe Baker is a remarkable 22-year-old artist who has shown that a passion for art can be a way to overcome challenges and achieve success. Despite facing communication challenges due to his autism, he has become a talented self-taught artist who creates his artwork using ink pens, markers, and colored pencils. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to interview Joe and share his inspiring story with our audience.
Over the past few years, he has been honing his craft, developing his own distinct style, and garnering a growing following of fans and admirers. His artwork is enchanting, drawing the viewer into a fantastical world filled with vibrant colors and intricate details. What sets Joe apart is not just his talent but also his strong work ethic and the unwavering support of his mother, who serves as his manager and mentor. Together, they have navigated the challenges of the art world and built a successful career, all while staying true to Joe's vision and artistic voice.
Starting his own business, Artfully Joe has been Joe's most significant accomplishment. He has been recognized for his talent, including being voted the Best Artist for the Haymarket/Gainesville Magazine in 2022, a feature in a printed magazine article, and being interviewed by Voice of America. His work has been showcased in various galleries, including the Brooklyn Autism Art Gallery in New York in 2022 and the IAN Virtual Art Show in Australia in 2020. With his detailed and whimsical linework, it's easy to see why.
Joe's artwork caught the attention of Voice of America, a state-owned news network and international radio broadcaster. Known for producing digital, T.V., and radio content in 48 languages, VOA recognized the fantastical and vibrant world that Joe creates in his pieces.
Joe's artistic influences are varied and include wildlife photographs, movies, television, pop culture, holidays, famous artists, history, and vintage photos. He draws inspiration from animals, birds, flowers, famous characters, history, buildings, and art that is a recreated style of renowned artist Kandinski (who was neurodivergent and had synesthesia). His Inktober drawings are another highlight of his work, where he creates black and white weekly-themed drawings.
Joe shares how his autism has affected his ability to communicate with others and how he has found a way to share his ideas and express his feelings through drawing. He acknowledges that people sometimes don't know how to approach him, but he has found that drawing is a powerful tool for communication. His shy, introverted nature is part of who he is, and he has learned to embrace it. But by creating art, he can express himself and connect with others meaningfully.
As a neurovariant artist, Joe believes the art community needs to become more inclusive and supportive of artists with diverse abilities. He encourages the creation of more inclusive art studio events, collaborations, residency or workshop programs, and hiring more neurovariant artists.
With his mom and family at his side, we're sure he'll be unstoppable! Enjoy our chat with the lovely Joe Baker.
Re-Route Magazine (RR Mag): Passions and interests evolve over time. It's all part of the journey of discovering what brings us joy and fulfillment. Can you tell us about some of yours?
Joe Baker (JB): I like art and drawing. The history of baseball, such as the sport's past and stories of former baseball players. Classical music, the history of Big Rig trucks, learning about different countries, YouTube Videos that make me laugh, and various types of weather.
What inspired you to make a career out of making art?
I have always loved to draw. I couldn't write very well when I was about 4-5 years old. I had occupational therapy for about two years in school. It changed a lot for me-I could write, and I wanted to draw all the time. I like to free draw every day. Right before I graduated from high school, my Epilepsy was bad. I had to be at home, and so did my mom as my caregiver. I really started drawing a lot. I graduated, but then Covid hit. While we were at home, my mom and I decided to start a small business selling my artwork. We named our company Artfully Joe.
What are your favorite tools and mediums to work with?
Ink pens, markers, and colored pencils. I prefer to sketch or draw.
Could you share some information about your background and experience as an artist?
I'm 22 years old. I have lived in Virginia my whole life. I'm a high school graduate. I did take some art classes in school, but I'm basically self-taught. I may want to take some art classes in the future. Art calms me and makes me happy. I travel to many places in my mind with my art.
How has art impacted your life? Has it helped you express yourself better or improved communication with others?
Autism has been a challenge with communication. People sometimes don't know how to approach me. I can share ideas through drawing with other people. I can express feelings through my art. Sometimes I calm myself down by drawing.
Where has your work been shown?
- New York - Brooklyn Autism Art Gallery, 2022
- IAN, Virtual Art Show, 2020, Australia
- Haymarket/Gainesville Lifestyle Magazine
- Voted Best Artist for the Haymarket/Gainesville Magazine, 2022
- AR Workshop Spring Surprise Box, 2021
- Ernie Els Autism Foundation Quarterly Artist, 2021
- Local Winery Art Show and Local Holiday Markets 2021-present
- Maximizer for Jake Max Apparel- shirts-sweatshirt-hats, 2022-present
- Talent Presentation for Autism Society of Northern Virginia 2021, 2022
- Art shared online with Epilepsy Foundation of Northern Virginia 2021-present
- Voice of America Mini-documentary, 2022
Incorporating feedback is a collaborative process that can help you achieve your goals and produce outstanding work. How do you incorporate it into yours?
My mom helps me see what my best work should be - some pieces I have changed, or I start over if it isn't my best work. Sometimes we ask for feedback on social media.
As an artist, it's common to want to express a particular message or theme through our artwork. Some artists aim to raise awareness about social issues, while others explore personal experiences or emotions. Do you try to convey any particular themes or messages through your art?
Sometimes to support Autism Acceptance, Epilepsy Awareness, and Inclusion. I love to draw animals, birds, flowers, and lots of different things.
Neurovariance can offer a unique lens through which to view the world and the art within it. How has your neurovariance shaped your perspective on art and the world around you?
Art helps me see and understand the world- it helps the world see how I view things.
As an artist, there are certain subjects that inspire more than others. What are your favorite subjects to depict in your artwork?
Animals, birds, flowers, famous characters, history, buildings, and art that is a recreated style of a famous artist like Kandinski.
It's always interesting to hear about an artist's influences and how they've shaped their work. What are your biggest artistic influences?
Wildlife photographs, movies, tv, pop culture, holidays, famous artists, history, and vintage photos.
May I know more about your significant works or series and the reasons why you take pride in them?
I like doing Inktober - black and white weekly-themed drawings. Holidays are fun to draw things for.
As an aspiring artist, starting out can seem daunting. What guidance would you offer to aspiring artists?
Practice drawing for fun; don't get frustrated.
How do you feel that the art community can better support neurovariant artists, and what changes would you like to see in the industry?
- Inclusive art studio events and collaborations.
- Inclusive art residency or workshop programs.
- Inclusive art classes.
- More hiring of neurovariant artists.
Before we wrap up we'd love to know what you are working on.
I am starting some spring-summer birds, insects, and animals soon.
Is there anything else you want our audience to know about you and your work today?
I would love to be a guest on a podcast. I would love to collaborate with other artists and for a company to hire me as a guest artist.
You can contact Joe at: