Joseph Caruso, born on July 28, 1953, found his passion in life early on. He grew up in Queens, New York, and started painting at age seven and hasn't stopped since.
He attended the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan from 1971 to 1974, studying Fine and Commercial Art.
In 1978 Joe and his wife Beatrice, a native Swiss, packed their bags and left the Big Apple for Zürich, Switzerland. It was here, in the early 80s, that Joe established one of the first computer graphic design companies in Switzerland. Busy raising two daughters and managing a successful business, Joe’s artistic output lessened somewhat though it never ceased.
Joe seriously re-immersed himself into his art in the late 1990s and further expanded his style and technique.
2. Tell us about your process
First, I set up the still life composition right here in my studio on my ancient drafting table. I arrange and re-arrange the items many times, taking a photo of each addition to the composition with my trusty Sony Alpha A600 digital camera (16-50 mm lens). I transfer the images, one by one, to my computer to analyze. When I feel I got the composition just right and scrutinized it on my computer, I grid the digital photo and trace it onto transparent paper as large as the final canvas size. Then, I tape the tracing paper to the canvas and transfer the tracing onto the canvas.
Finally, I’m ready to paint.
3. These are large and detailed works. How long does it take you to finish a painting?
Setting up the composition and choosing the actual picture I'll use takes about two weeks. I usually take between 200 and 300 photos. Tracing the image from computer to tracing paper and onto the canvas takes another two weeks. So, it's a month of preparation before I'm ready to paint my first brush stroke. Painting takes about nine months to a year. And I try to paint 6 hours a day, every day.
5. You've mentioned color. Your paintings are very vibrant. What do you focus on in regards to colors?
I always try to paint the truth, as I see it, in my paintings. I do try to get the colors as close to the item's as possible. But I don't stress over it. I paint with a limited palette of Golden Open Acrylic Paints; an ensemble of six colors (Bismuth Vanadate Yellow, Quinacridone Magenta, Naphthol Red Light, Cerulean Blue Chromium, Phthalo Blue (Green Shade), and Phthalo Green (Blue Shade), plus Titanium White and Paynes Grey. I may add a few additional colors as I need them, but the original 6 constitute my main pallet.
6. Seems unnecessarily cumbersome for such colorful paintings?
To some, it might. You wouldn't know it judging by my paintings, but I'm a rather tidy artist. I like to keep things neat and clean, and simple. I find a limited palette to be freeing in an odd way.
7. Is there a chance we can see these works in their full glory any time soon?
There was an exhibition planned in 2020, but then Covid hit and put all those plans on hold. However, I do hope to show the paintings in the near future. Check this homepage for updates. By the way, feel free to contact us at email@example.com for questions, comments, or price inquiries.
Seven questions about Joe's process
1. You've been an artist all your life and must have created hundreds of paintings. There are only a few of your pieces shown on your webpage. Why is that?
It's true, I've made and destroyed many paintings, and many are hanging on walls of friends and family's homes. But I think I've just found my style and process in the past few years. These pieces, I feel, represent me where I stand as an artist today.
4. How do you choose which items will go into your next painting? And do you have a toy store in your cellar?
It would be easier if I did. But no, I have many things lying around the apartment, or I buy them from the local thrift store, occasional flea market, and I raid my three grandson's toy chests. I focus less on the item itself than on its shape, color, and how it might reflect light and color. You might have noticed that none of my paintings have a focal point. That's entirely intentional. It's all about shape, color, and composition for me. The items themselves are a mere afterthought. However, I have developed a preference for cheap knock-off toys, shiny ceramic figurines, and mirrors as of late, but who knows what the future will bring.
© Joseph Caruso
Photographs by Andrea Lobsiger