Talking with This Week’s Dan’s Papers Cover Artist Joe Chierchio

This week’s cover, “Ice Boating,” is typical of artist Joe Chierchio, although its signature traits may not be readily apparent. Focus on the environment is one such characteristic seen in many of Chierchio’s works, and it certainly stands out here. Consider the ice surrounding the boats, especially relevant now with our arctic temperatures. Also, how about the foreground/background composition, with the main focus in the foreground? Finally, note the juxtaposition of lines, another recurring compositional arrangement, where vertical and horizontal planes collide.

While Chierchio’s subjects are wide-ranging and include such images as classic cars, diners and scenes of every-day life, these common qualities are present in some form or another. The artist’s illustrations for his series, Iconic Film Montages, also contain similar elements as well.

What is it about sporting images like the cover’s ice boats that attract you?
Sports are fun, invigorating, exciting. And you don’t find many people boating on the ice.

It’s natural to create work in the winter that’s related to cold weather. Does the cold weather inspire you when it comes to certain subjects?
Bad weather is the best time to do artwork generally. A warm, comfy studio, doing art, you can’t beat it.

What else drives your ideas besides weather?
I get my ideas from living life and digging deep. I start from reality, then bring fantasy in it and make it my own.

The idea of fantasy also plays a part in your recent series about images from movies, which you label “Iconic Film Montages.” Environment also plays a big role in these images as it does in all your work. Give us some examples.
In my image of “On the Waterfront,” I depict Marlon Brando looking over his shoulder, with a hook like the longshoremen carry. The Brooklyn Bridge is in the background, although the actual film was shot in Hoboken, New Jersey.

The water is the context, the environment. Didn’t you live up the block from the Brooklyn Navy Yard, near the water?
Yes. My father worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

How about your image from “The Misfits” in the movie series?
I am in the process of doing that image now. There’s Clark Gable with his cowboy hat. Marilyn Monroe and Montgomery Clift are in the image, too. And a herd of mustangs.

There’s another kind of environment, but typically striking. How do you get so many focal points in the image?
Remember, I was an art director and a graphic designer. It comes naturally.

What future images do you plan on creating, based mainly on your love of black-and-white movies.
I’d like to do Giant and From Here to Eternity.

How about projects based on graphic novels?
I will be doing illustrations for a friend who did a graphic novel in 1975 called The Rotten Kid. The screenplay will be more cinematic.

What profession would you like to engage in if you weren’t an artist?
Acting—I was an actor for a time—working with Martin Scorsese and the Coen Brothers. Speaking of actors, if Matthew McConaughey doesn’t win a Best Actor Oscar, I will eat my drawing pad.

For more information on the artist, visit joechierchio.com.

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