Interview with Artist “Average” Joe Romero

Average Joe Art Cover ImageI was never blessed with the gift of artistic ability. The extent of my ability was doodling in the margins of my notebooks during classes, or adding a mustache and glasses (and perhaps some devil horns) to a photograph in a magazine. Whether it was a poster, a comic book, or a tattoo I’ve always been fascinated with art and those that can make a living through it.

Around the time of WrestleMania 27, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin appeared on television with a brand new t-shirt designed by artist Joe Romero. I quickly found his online presence, Average Joe Art, and began following him on Twitter. Ever since then Joe has been pumping out great, pop culture-inspired illustrations. From Breaking Bad, to Walking Dead, to The Avengers Joe has added to his catalogue of comic-style homages to geeky T.V & film favorites.

THE FLICKCAST: You call yourself a geek in a positive manner. Define what you think is a “geek.”

JOE ROMERO: When I refer to myself as a “geek” or a “nerd” it’s always in a positive manner. It’s kind of like a badge of honor in my opinion… being a “geek” is simply being passionate about something.  I have friends who are die hard sports fans, so I think they’re a “sports geek.” Some of my friends are “music geeks,” so it’s never a bad thing. It’s simply expressing the passion you have for something in a very vocal manner. You can really be a geek for anything. People that know me, always associate me with geeky things. My mom even told me “whenever I see Superman, I think of you.” That’s actually a point of pride for me.

TF: Do you believe it’s good to be a geek today?

JR: For sure. Geeks run the world. Look at all of the geeky things that dominate our society. I mean, one of the most obvious cases is the creation of Apple. I like to think that geeks have changed the world time and time again. DaVinci, Franklin, Bell, Disney, Jobs, etc. I truly believe geeks/nerds are the backbone of our society because they’re not afraid to express their passion for whatever it is they’re into.

TF: What artist, pieces of art, or works in TV or film inspired you to become an artist?

JR: When I was a kid, I always loved to draw. My brother used to doodle on pieces of paper all the time, and I used to beg him to draw things for me. One day, he sat me down and taught me how to draw shapes. From there he had me trace coloring books and I kind of took it from there. As far as specific influences, it has to be the Superman comics I read as a kid (and still read in my 30’s). That just sparked something within me. He’s always been my favorite character and I knew that one day I wanted to grow up and try my hand at bringing the character to life.

TF: What are your favorite shows or films?

JR: Oh man. There’s SO many. Back in the day, He-Man (all time favorite), Thundercats, TMNT, Ghostbusters, Transformers, Batman: TAS, Superman: TAS, etc. Currently in love with the new TMNT, Young Justice, Ben 10, Walking Dead, Supernatural, Breaking Bad, etc. As far as movies goes definitely the Chris Reeve Superman movies. As excited as I am for Man of Steel, Chris Reeve will always be Superman to me. I’m also a hardcore Star Wars fan.

TF: How would you define your art style?

JR: For the longest time I had a lot of trouble defining a specific art style for myself. The style that I’m kind of known for now is sort of that “pen and ink” style, and honestly, that’s something I just discovered a few months ago. The loose, free flowing style kind of works for me because it allows me to make mistakes and not have to go back and obsess over them. It kind of started with that Walter White piece I did. I’ve NEVER been good at likenesses, but one morning I couldn’t sleep, so I woke up and tried my hand at some “Breaking Bad” images that I saw. I pretty much sketched that out in under 30 min, sat back and thought “whoa…”

Screen Shot 2012-08-13 at 2.07.12 PM (2)TF: What is your favorite piece that you’ve done?

JR: That’s a tough question. I can tell you that by FAR the most popular thing I’ve done is the Walter White Breaking Bad piece. Nothing I’ve ever done has gotten as much attention as that. As far as my personal favorites, probably The Walking Dead pinups I did, because I worked on them with an artist friend, and I really loved the collaboration process.

TF: What would your dream project be?

JR: It sounds weird, but I have an artist friend who is really turning out to be something special. We’ve discussed the possibility of working on some personal projects together in the future. Nothing would make me happier than to do a graphic novel based on our personal experiences together. I kind of think of it as a Scott Pilgrim type of deal. Even if no one bought it, I dont even care…. Aside from that, I would love the opportunity to work on a full blown Superman comic.

WM-27-T-SHIRT-9TF: You’ve done art/designs for both WWE and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. How did Austin/WWE find you?

JR: I actually met Steve on twitter. I’ve always been a HUGE  fan, and when he joined twitter, I immediately started following. One day, I tweeted something and he responded. A few days later he said he had checked out my site and wanted to get in contact with me. We talked about some ideas for his BSR line that he’d been working on, and got that off the ground. Prior to WrestleMania 27 he mentioned that he was going to need a new shirt. We came up with what we call the “shield shirt” (black shirt with the red shield). A couple weeks later he asked me if I wanted to do his WrestleMania shirt. I was speechless. One of my childhood heroes was asking me if I wanted to create something for him to wear at a show I’d seen him perform at so many times. I think we went through about 14 different designs, but finally came up with the “stompin’ mud holes” shirt. Seeing him in it at WrestleMania is still the highlight of my career. Also loved when Punk wore the shirt during his infamous shoot promo in 2011.

TF: What kind of creative control does Steve Austin have on the projects?

JR: Total. He’s really good about giving me a starting point for his ideas. He’s a VERY visual guy, and always gives me pictures for reference of things he likes. When Steve likes or dislikes something, he’s very vocal about it. Never rude, but always honest. I like that because I always know where I stand. I also like that he listens to my input on projects. As an artist, it’s hard to find that.

TF: What “era” of wrestling do you enjoy the most?

JR: There’s always a part of me that will love the “sport,” but it’s hard for me to watch nowadays. For me, the “Attitude Era” has and always will be when wrestling was at its highest point. I feel like the current product took a MAJOR step backwards when they switched to PG…. I’ll watch RAW every now and again, but then I’m reminded why I’m not as much of a fan as I was.

TF: Who are some of your past/present favorites in wrestling?

JR: My all time favorite is (duh) “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. The dude epitomized the Attitude Era, and single handedly took wrestling and transformed it into something that was cool. If we’re talking greatest in ring performer, then it’s hands down Shawn Michaels. No one has or ever will be able to match his in ring skill. I’ve seen him perform live several times in my life, and it’s seriously like magic. Other favorites would be Mick Foley (just not as Dude Love), Macho Man, Jericho, Steamboat, Undertaker, and Flair. Current favorites….that’s a tough one. I enjoy what CM Punk did, but I despise his current role. He’s probably the most interesting figure in all of wrestling right now, and I’m glad to see him get a proper title run, but I’ll never understand why they always have to make their heel champions complete cowards. Punk had the opportunity to transcend the heel/face role, and I feel like they dropped the ball with him. I also admire Cena’s work ethic. May not be the most entertaining, or technically sound, but the dude is a workhorse. He TOTALLY should have gone over at WrestleMania 28. He carried The Rock that entire match.

Walkind-Dead---Michonne

TF: At one point you mentioned on Twitter that you were offering free art lessons, tell us a little about that.

JR: That basically came out of getting tired of people saying “I wish I could do what you do.” Whenever someone says that, I always think “so what’s stopping you?” and then I’m given a list of excuses that never really make any sense. So I decided to offer free art classes to people who have even the slightest interest in art. I’m not some all knowing master, but I do make a living off of it, and I knowa thing or two. I’ve also given quite a few lessons to kids, and I see the enjoyment they get out of it. I like to think that if you’re able to teach someone a skill, you’ve potentially opened the door to several new opportunities in their life.

TF: Who inspires you outside of art?

JR: I find inspiration in the strangest places. I know it’s entirely cliche, but I find inspiration in life. Friends, family, even strangers, they all inspire me in some way. Some inspire me artistically. Some inspire me to be a better person. And others inspire me on an emotional level. Most people don’t think I pay attention, but truth is, I pay VERY close attention to those closest to me, and each of them inspires me in their own unique w

ay. I’m pretty sure I just repeated myself, but you get the idea.

TF: You’re very close with your family, especially your mother. Describe your relationship with her.

JR: People love my mom. Including people that have never met her. Mom is an interesting person. When I was a kid, we were VERY close. My fondest memories of her are when she’d pull me out of school when the latest “nerd movie” came out. She’d show up in front of school, and when I’d open the car door, there’d be a bunch swag relating to the movie we were about to see. She used to call those “Mommy and Joey days” and they seriously make me smile when I think of them. Now, as I get older, I realize that having a relationship with her is important. I may not always see eye to eye with Mom, but I never forget about the sacrifices she made for her kids, and the important role she played in shaping who I am today. Aside from that, she’s pretty funny. She’s this little, tiny woman (under 5ft), but man, once you get her going….it’s over. I like to tweet some of the things she says. No one actually believes me until they meet her. She doesn’t always say it, but I know she’s proud of me.

TF: Speaking of close relationships, you have a lot of cats. Do you find you’re closer to your cats then your people?

JR: Well, yeah. I mean, they live with me. I’m pretty much know as the “crazy cat guy” (or “cat daddy”) in my circle of friends – and apparently on Twitter as well. I’ve always had a love for animals of any kind. I’ve always grown up around animals. When I moved out of the house, I wanted my own pets, and so I got two cats. One was a kitten (Jinx), and one was an older cat (Cringer) that no one else wanted. Unfortunately, Cringer got sick less than a year later, and had to be put down. I didn’t want Jinx to be alone, so I adopted a new kitten, who I named Krypto. A few months after that, I found some kids throwing rocks a kitten at the apartments I lived at. Long story short, Harley has been a part of my life for over 7 years. Recently, she had a scare and was diagnosed with heart disease. She’ll be on medication for the rest of her life. I love my cats. I don’t care if that makes me weird. If you guys seriously heard the conversations (often one sided) that I have with them, you’d think I was insane. One of these days I’m going to snap and dedicate my life to strictly doing cat art….watch.

TF: How can interested buyers contact you?

JR: Email is easiest (joe@averagejoeart.com), or they can follow me on Twitter (@averagejoeart). I’ve also got a Facebook page that I update pretty regularly (www.facebook.com/averagejoeartdotcom) and my etsy page with all of my artwork for sale (www.etsy.com/shop/averagejoeart). Think that’s enough shameless plugs?

TF: Finally, what would you most like to be remembered for?

JR: JK Rowling once said “I want to be remembered as doing the best I could, with the talent that I had.” I guess when it’s all said and done, I just want to be remembered as someone who took chances, and always tried to stay true to who I really am. As “crazy” and eccentric as I can seem, there is a method to my madness. As far as art? Eh. Whatever. I have a job where I get to make people happy using a talent that I love. That’s good enough for me.

Walking Dead color credit Gabby LoPorto @PirateHookerGab, http://117art.blogspot.com

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