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  • Writer's pictureShea Stanfield

From Comedy to Western Drama

Local artist Joe Netherwood's creative roots took anchor in his boyhood home of Richmond, Virginia. His parents and elementary teachers were the first to recognize their young charge's keen eye and quick imagination. But, Joe credits his most significant influence to his high school art and mechanical drawing teacher, Mr. Bernard Davis. Joe was mesmerized by Mr. Davis's meticulously detailed pen and ink drawings of historic colonial buildings of Williamsburg and Yorktown, VA. Joe also drew inspiration from two other ‘greats’ in the illustration field, Ed “Big Daddy” Roth and Rick Griffin. Somehow Joe knew he was destined to do something in the world of art, but he also had to make a living.

After completing a stint in the U.S. Air Force, Joe returned to Richmond to begin his freelance illustration career; it wasn't long before he landed a job with Allied Chemical as a draftsman. During a business trip to Philadelphia, he met his future wife Stephanie, and as the wind-blows they married, Joe moved to Philadelphia. Once again Joe was hitting the streets in search of freelance illustration work but this time it was in the much larger market of Philly. He soon landed a job as a freelance illustrator and graphic designer with Lippincott Publishing.

For evening work Joe decided to revisit an interest he had developed years earlier in standup comedy. Philadelphia had an active comedy club scene in the mid-Eighties prompting Joe to attend open mikes to hone his skills. His efforts paid off in landing a second job at one of the city's clubs doing improve. These gigs lead Joe to the Comedy Stop at The Trop, Tropicana Hotel in Atlantic City. He entered a comedy competition where he and a guy by the name of Ray Romano (of Everybody Loves Raymond TV fame) met wit to wit in the finals. Joe recalled, “I lost to some young upstart named Ray Romano, wonder whatever happened to him?” Now at the ripe old age of 43, Joe decided if he was ever going to make a career in the fine arts, now would be as good a time as any to move in that direction.

“Behind my inspiration is my fervent desire to show the beauty, the drama, the excitement of the people, the places, and the many animals that inhabit our fantastic Western America.”

In 1990, Joe took a trip to the Brandywine River Museum to see an exhibit entitled "N.C. Wyeth’s Wild West.” The show was composed of Wyeth’s illustrations done in the early part of the 20th century. The illustrations were created during the time Wyeth was working on a ranch and for a stagecoach company. The exhibit shed light on a new direction in Joe’s artistic expression. He began studying the works of the Brandywine School artists and other classic American illustrators of the time; gradually, his illustrations evolved into painting techniques. A few years into this new medium, Joe was accepted into the Phippen Museum Memorial Day Art Show, a stunning accomplishment considering this was the first show he had applied to, never expecting to be accepted. After all, he was still living in Philadelphia.

Destiny presented Joe with an opportunity to travel West in the hoof prints of his hero N.C. Wyeth, but times had changed; Joe loaded up his Honda Civic with paintings, the framework for display, a tent, a few clothes. During his visit, Joe grabbed a chance to explore the territory, following the siren’s song of "Arizona Fever," a condition outsiders can't seem to shake. The yearning only eased when they find themselves stranded on the rocks of the great Sonoran Desert. Later that year, Joe brought Stephanie back to Arizona, and to his delight, she caught the fever as well! We say, "The rest is history." Today, Joe Netherwood works from his “beautiful home studio with a large bay window ushering in that magical north light.” The space also contains several bookcases stuffed with art books, an antique golden oak back bar, and dozens of his western and advertising collectibles, all subjects for past, present, and future works.

Joe Netherwood enjoys the support of collectors nationally and internationally. His work has been juried into shows at the C.M. Russell Museum, the Pierce Western Museum, and the Gilcrease Museum to name a few. At home in Arizona Joe continues to enjoy a supportive relationship with the Phippen Museum in Prescott and in showing at the Expo of Fine Art in Scottsdale the first 3 months of each year.


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