Joe Wos has been a professional cartoonist since the age of 14. His career path over the past 30 years has taken as many twists and turns as one of his mazes, as he finds new and innovative ways to pursue his passion for the cartoon arts.
Some highlights include spending 25 years touring nationwide as a performer, illustrating stories live as he told them; founding and running a cartoon art museum in Pittsburgh; illustrating symphony performances live with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra; and exhibiting his art in museums worldwide. With MazeToons — a unique hybrid illustration that is part cartoon and part puzzle — Joe has fulfilled a lifelong dream to appear in the funny pages. The feature is distributed world wide by Creators Syndicate.
Joe has been drawing mazes since the age of 7 and is regarded as a master maze maker. In 2012, he created the world’s largest hand-drawn maze. Measuring at 140 square feet, it features more than 100 illustrations. The maze garnered international attention with articles in the Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post and media coverage throughout Europe, it is currently on display in Changzhou, China.
Joe has created several books featuring his mazes, A-Maze-Ing Animals and Myths and Monsters, both are published by Barron's Books.
Besides his cartooning work, Joe is a freelance writer and pop culture historian. He is co-author of "An Animation Celebration: The Top 100 Animated TV Characters, published by Rowman and Littlefield. Joe also acts as the Brand Character Integrity Consultant for Charlie the Tuna of StarKist fame.
Joe is from Pittsburgh, PA. With great delight, he has heard every variation of the phrase “A-maze-ing.”
Learn more about Joe Wos on his website.
We caught up with Joe for a few minutes and here are the things we learned about him during our Q&A.
Q1: What three things would we always find in your creative space/studio?
Joe: My Wacom Mobile Studio Pro Tablet, plenty of Flair felt tip pens, and my cat, Mittens.
Q2: When did you know that you wanted to be an illustrator?
Joe: My parents caught me drawing on the walls when I was four years old. They didn't yell or get mad, they taped paper up on the walls and said go ahead. I've been drawing ever since.
Q3: What authors have most inspired you?
Joe: Charles M. Schulz, creator of Peanuts was my biggest influence. I am deeply honored to be the visiting resident cartoonist of the Charles M. Schulz Museum, since it opened 15 years ago. In many ways I view that as coming full circle artistically.
Peyo, who created the Smurfs, was also an influence. I was also strongly influenced by animation, especially the work of Lou Scheimer of Filmation Studios.
There are too many artists for me to list to cover everyone who has inspired and influenced me. Eventually, all those influences distill down into your own style and technique. But, each and every line is a reflection of all of those you learned from over the years.
Q4: Our festival theme this year is Twists & Turns. Which would you rather play, Twister or dominoes?
Joe: I prefer mazes, lots of twists and turns.