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Joe Whyte

I was always going to be an artist. I've been drawing my whole life; my earliest memories are of scribbling in crayon on endless sheets of paper. My school days were spent drawing constantly in the margins of my exercise books.

After studying at Monash University and graduating with a Degree in Design (Visual Communication), I began working as a freelance illustrator. I have long had an interest in punk and metal music, so it was a logical step to begin my career illustrating posters and shirts for local bands within those genres. It was a low-stakes opportunity to learn on the job, to play and experiment as I developed my own style. Punk is renowned for it's Do-It-Yourself ethos, so the local bands who were finding their own way were a perfect fit for myself as a young beginner illustrator.

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Joe Whyte and his painting 'The Art Room', Oil on linen

Winner of First Prize in Painting in the 2023 VAS Summer Exhibition

Photograph by Ron Smith OAM HON VAS, VAS Councillor

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'The Art Room', Oil on linen

Winner of First Prize in Painting in the VAS Summer Exhibition 2023

As I built a solid portfolio of work for bands, and positive word of mouth began to spread, I began to make connections in the broader music scene. This eventually led to doing artwork for some huge international bands including Radiohead, The Arctic Monkeys, Pearl Jam and Queens of the Stone Age.

While it was certainly a lot of fun, the whole time I spent illustrating I felt that something was missing. I would go to galleries and look at the work of the old masters and be entranced. Painting was something I had always wanted to do, but how? It almost felt like an impossible dream.

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'Distance', Oil on Linen

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'A Grey Chill and a Whisper', Oil on Linen

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'Ryan', Oil on Linen

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'Rahme', Oil on Linen

But in 2013 I decided it was time to bite the bullet and learn. I packed up my things for a trip to Europe, and my first intensive course in figure drawing and painting at Studio Escalier, the classical art school in rural France.

To say it was challenging would be an understatement. It forced me to re-examine everything I thought I knew about art, and to start afresh. I had arrived as a somewhat accomplished illustrator, and suddenly felt like an absolute beginner. There was a huge amount of doubt. I was just dipping my toes into this enormous world with so much history. How could I possibly find my place here?

But I was determined. I realised I would have to swallow my pride and embrace being a beginner all over again. To shift my mindset from creating finished pieces, to embracing each piece as a learning opportunity, regardless of whether or not it turned out as I had planned.

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'Still Life with Ram Skull', Oil on Linen

After five months in Europe, studying and visiting Galleries and Museums, I continued studying solo back in Melbourne, with countless life drawing sessions. I then spent a couple of years studying diligently at the Victorian Artists Society under Paul McDonald Smith, Lee Machelak and Greg Smith, followed by another trip to France.

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'Old and New Brunswick', Oil on Linen

Somewhere along the line painting clicked for me. There is so much to learn on a technical level, but after a certain point when enough of that technique had been internalised, painting became such a free natural way to express myself.

Since that point, I have really embraced painting as a form of self expression. I see my work as a way of thinking about my life experiences and memories of Melbourne, and it's people and places.

I aim to bring my works to life with a mix of my French training, my time spent studying at VAS, as well as my time spent as an illustrator within the world of rock music. It has been a somewhat varied and unpredictable path thus far, but I believe it has led me to a place where I can make art that feels like me.


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