So Jo, can you tell us a little bit about yourself. Were you always making art as a child? Was there a moment when you knew that this is what you wanted to do and said to yourself, “I am an artist”?
I was always drawing as far back as I can remember. I loved the solitude of drawing and reading, and still do. When I was about 6, I fell in love with Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty. I read it countless times, which started an obsession with drawing horses.
Then about 6 years ago when I was predominately a wildlife artist, I felt frustrated and disillusioned with my art. It all seemed rather pointless.
I asked my partner for advice, and he said, “What are you passionate about?” I immediately replied, “Veganism!” And then proceeded to talk earnestly about the animal holocaust. He said, “Paint it. Paint what you’re passionate about.” That pivotal piece of advice completely changed my direction in life.
Tell us about your background. Were you brought up in a vegan family?
Hardly! My dad owned a number of cattle properties where thousands of nonhuman animals were bred and raised for the purpose of being killed. I quickly learnt to desensitise myself to the brutality of farm life, as all people in the outback must do. There was relentless killing, barbaric mutilations and absolute torture that we sanitise as “standard industry practice.” Those we belittle as ‘livestock’ were regarded as mere ‘things’ back then, and still are today. There was nothing remotely humane about any of it. Nothing.
Was there a particular event in your life that prompted you to choose vegan?
23 years ago I became a vegan overnight after attending an information night by Animal Liberation Victoria in Melbourne. Peter Singer was one of the speakers, hence I was introduced to his watershed classic, “Animal Liberation” which I immediately read. I was completely unaware of the horror of the dairy and egg industries before then.
What was the easiest thing for you about being vegan, and what the hardest?
The great part is knowing I no longer contribute to the needless suffering of sentient beings. The difficulty is dealing with society’s apathy and indifference to it all.
Are you ‘owned’ by any companion animals? Tell us about them.
I’m the guardian of 3 girls: Holly, Jess and Lucy. Two I adopted when I was fostering kittens at the Animal Welfare League on the Gold Coast. Holly though, she turned up lost and scared on my front door a couple of days before one Christmas. She’s a Ragdoll, so I can only presume she was meant as a ‘gift’ for someone and escaped.
What would a typical day look like for you?
I’m generally working alone in my studio – drawing or painting for the entire day. In the evening I search for material online that I can use for future concepts or to spark ideas. On the other hand, I may be with my wonderful partner assisting in the studio of another artist he is interviewing for his art TV series Colour In Your Life.
Can you tell us something about the techniques you use?
I mainly just draw in graphite now. Oil paint was my main medium. However I’ve recently decided to abandon it. It’s practically impossible to source paints free from animal by-products in Australia. I’ve now switched to Derwent pastel pencils and Velour paper as both are cruelty free.
Can you tell us if and how your art is informed by your beliefs? What inspires each picture?
Nina Simone once said “An artist’s duty as far as I’m concerned is to reflect the times.” I hope my art work is holding a mirror up to society’s unjustifiable crimes against our fellow beings. I’ve found most people do not want to hear the facts when it comes to the suffering and environmental destruction caused by animal agriculture. Nor are they willing to look at graphic photos or confronting videos of helpless victims we reduce to ‘food’. They will look at a painting or sketch though. It’s a powerful and effective way to penetrate the deep-rooted denial, lies and indoctrination we were all born into. I hope my art inspires change.
How would you like to influence people through your art and your life?
Education and awarness. Art has the ability to make others aware of these social crimes. It’s like carving a marble statue with a feather – it’s a long and tedious job but one that has to be done if we are to save the Planet and our species for future generations.
The Animal Holocaust Exhibition
Jo and friend Heather – Carol Slater Photography
Find Jo on her website here