Joe Capobianco defines what it is to be a "Jack of all trades". He is an incredibly accomplished artist and businessman who's work has inspired a generation of artists, worldwide. Joe, who is originally from Long Island, NY, owns and runs Hope Gallery, a beautiful gallery and tattoo studio, in New Haven, CT, where he resides with his wife. He is constantly creating new art, developing new products such as toys and a hair pomade line, various book and video projects, making television appearances, and developing a tattoo pigment line with his friend, Jime Litwalk. Needless to say; Joe is a very ambitious man. He is well known for his amazing artwork and award-winning tattoo work, as well as his bold personality and fantastic hair. He has traveled the world; showcasing his unique, classic and retro-modern take on the female form. His signature style has become so popular that his pin up girl art, also known as his "Capo Gals", are recognized around the world; both on canvas and skin.
Joe began his illustrious art career early on; drawing and creating beautiful and unique acrylic and airbrush paintings. He has been inspired by the works of Gill Elvgren, Alberto Vargas, George Petty, Olivia, Hajime Soryama, Frank Frazetta, Brom, Boris Valejo, Rick Berry, and Daniel Dos Santos. He applied his artistic talent even further when he started learning how to tattoo nearly two decades ago. Joe began designing his signature style of pin up girls and tattooing them on clients, regularly. Since then, Joe has become one of the most respected and sought-after artists in the world. He mentions that guys like Jime Litwalk, Tony Ciavarro, Paul Booth, Steve Moore, Jeff Gogue, Cory Kruger and many more inspire his tattoo work. He notes that a lot of his influences have taught him more than just perspective on artistry, but about working hard and dedicating yourself to your art. Joe adds that discipline is something he still struggles with; which is ironic, as it seems as if he is always creating new work and tackling some new project. Music seems to inspire most artists in different ways. Joe, however, will listen to music (mostly from the 1950s-70s) or throw in a favorite movie or even a book on disc merely for background static, or sometimes he will even create in complete silence.
Joe defines his success, as an artist, by "being able to get up every day, and make a living at what (he) loves to do." He is grateful that he's been able to support himself and now his family with his art and that his work has been embraced by such a supportive audience and clientele. As an icon in his field, he feels a lot of pressure in what he creates as an artist. "Satisfaction comes from doing a good job that I can be proud of and making my client happy" claims Joe. This, he expresses, "helps elevate some of the pressure (he) feels as an artist." Joe is humble about his work. He is thankful for his accomplishments and that his work has been widely recognized and well received. He feels that by constantly creating, he is still learning; which is what keeps him going.
Joe is content knowing that his artwork is considered "less than socially correct" because he believes that there is a place for everything. He realizes the importance of being noticed as an artist, but quickly adds that art has its place as well; and that not everyone wants to see an artist's work. Joe believes that social media has benefitted the modern artist in a lot of positive ways. However, his opinion is such that a lot of artists do not deserve these grand reputations. There is a lot of unwarranted reproduction in the art world and trends become popular because so many artists start to closely feed off of each other and create similar things, which "cheapens what the originators did." Joe clams that it is becoming more difficult to define being different or truly original. He feels very strongly that by being yourself and doing your own thing, you differentiate yourself from others. He adds, "Don't lose yourself in other peoples styles. Individuals stand out because they're just that - individual!" We think that is pretty well said.
You can catch Joe working at his shop, running around the world at gallery exhibits or tattoo conventions, or judging on "Best Ink", a tattoo competition series on the Oxygen network.
P&P: Where are you from and where do you currently reside?
Joe: Tough one. The thing that inspires me personally is the art of others, the art I don't do. What also drives me is Pin up art or just about anything involving the female form.
Joe: Not really, I look at my art work the same way I look at my tattooing- Pretty pictures to keep someones interest, or excite them for a time. I don't delude myself into thinking that my art is going to change the world, or set the viewer on a different life course. I just want them to dig it, and maybe keep it in the back of there mind to reflect on later.
There of course is a personal style that I would like people to recognize and I have simple symbols which frequently show up in my work, such as the Heart with the bite taken out of it. It's a symbol I've dug and utilized for about the last 16 years and has meaning to me.
Joe: Wow, depends on the artist. For me, its being able to get up everyday, and make a living at what I love to do: Tattooing and painting. The fact that I've been able to pay my bills and put food on my table as an "artist" means the world to me. And of course with that comes peoples admiration for what you do. Its great that so many folks have also embraced what I do, and support it.
Joe: I have a few individuals who I've looked at as roll models, some I've even managed to make close friends. But If I had to make a list I'd start with Jime Litwalk and Tony Ciavarro. These are 2 young artists whose work I both admire and try to bite from time to time. Then there are artists like Paul Booth, who I was lucky enough to meet the very first week of my Apprenticeship. I've actually kept a close eye on his career, and how he's gone about his business. There are also the Free flowing style of artists like Steve Moore, Jeff Gogue, & Cory Kruger. I remember the very first time I met them, and thought "wow, what talent". Really there is a ton of other tattooists that have kind of influenced me in the way I try to push myself.
From a purely Art standpoint I of course like artists like Olivia and Hajime Soryama whose works I so wanted to emulate early in my art career before tattooing. Upon getting familiar with their works I discovered the art of Gill Elvgren, Alberto Vargas, George Petty, and so many other classic "Pin Up" artists. There is also fantasy illustrators like Frank Fraztta, Brom, Boris Valjeo, Rick Berry, & Daniel Dos Santos.
I think most importantly with these influences is not what I've managed to glean from an art perspective, but what I've learned from a purely dedication perspective and that is. "Want to get better? Than work yer ass off!" Talent is one thing but I think without discipline its hard to channel the correct direction to make a living and create a style in which one is happy doing. This is still something after 43 years of life I still find myself struggling with - "Discipline"!
Joe: A ton. I believe that without the rigors of daily life Art and music would have a harder time standing out. Therefore, having less of an influence upon today's society. I think that artists of any day and age needs the "Norms", "squares", and "tight asses", just to make there mark so strongly. Look at our business, as tattooing becomes bigger and bigger it thins down whats cool or different. It becomes harder for the average person to define whats truly an original, or great, tattoo. I think art is like that on society, A lot is great, but too much can be boring! Honestly it's hard to put down in words what I'm truly thinking here so I'll leave it at that.
I think the pressure I feel while tattooing is to make my client happy. When I tattoo, only a small percentage is for me. Unlike a lot of newer "tattoo artists" today, I don't think of the client as a piece of canvas that I've been given to create my art on. I'm a tattooist whose been lucky enough to have been sought after to do a job, and create a tattoo on this person who'll wear it for the rest of their days.
My satisfaction comes from doing a good job that I can be proud of and making my client happy. That helps elevate some of the pressure I feel as an artist.
I think as an artist its important to be seen, but by the same point, you should be aware that not everyone wants to see your work. An artist can pull a stunt every now and again and shove everyones nose in there work, and that's cool, but like tattooing, theres a place and I don't think it all should be considered a "norm". Some art should make people think, but not at the cost of there personal ethics or freedoms. Its a tough question and not one that's easy to come up with a simple answer.
So yes, unfortunately I think that for many, Social networking is an important tool to a better business.
I mean trends have always moved our trade forward. From the little Mom heart, and rose, to the traditional pin up gal, all the way to some worn out portrait of some rock star, or movie monster. But I'd like to think that the ones who did it differently are the ones that will leave a mark in our field.
Music is more about the background static. I can't say it sways my moods, or effects my art, I mean there are times when I paint that I'll throw in a movie that I've watched a million times, or a book on disc (I like to read), and then there are times that I'll paint or draw in silence with no true marker on the passing of time.