Written by Kim Weeks from her interview with Joe Wayne


Western artist Joe Wayne is truly a versatile and accomplished individual. While painting and bronze sculpting are his primary passions, he is or has been, an ironworker, a welder, a foundryman, and a working actor. And all of these skills, experiences, and opportunities have led him to be the artist he is today, successfully creating works in both paint and bronze.


Since his semi-nomadic boyhood days, moving around for his father’s job as a pipefitter/welder, Joe has known he had a love and talent for art. And to this day, he says, painting and sculpting are at the forefront of his mind, whether he is on a movie set or in his studio.


“I always knew that I was an artist. I was just that kid in class who was the artist. Other kids had heroes, like Batman or whatever, and mine was Charlie Russell or John Wayne,” he said. “My parents put me in art classes after school. I’d do my homework, and then I would go off and ride my bike across this terrible intersection in Missoula back in the 70s, when you didn’t have to wear a helmet, and I just let loose.”


Thanks to the support and encouragement of his parents, who were creative in their own right, Joe also learned pottery and leather tooling in addition to sculpting and painting. He also learned to work iron from his father, who had his own forge and was always creating and building in their shop.


“I learned a lot of metal working skills from [my dad]. I worked in a foundry for probably 15 years, and I know how to make a piece of bronze stand up, sit down, and roll over. I know the process inside and out, from each step, and every minute stop within each step. I think about some of those things when I’m sculpting a piece. The more knowledge you have, it will affect the way you sculpt,” he said.


Joe studied at a few art schools, and while he was not creatively satisfied with some of them, he did find encouragement and more artistic freedom at Northwestern College of Art and Design in Powell, Wyoming.


“There was this great painting instructor … He studied a lot of the old Italian masters, that was his big influence. Until then [I had just been learning] how to stretch a canvas or how to mix colors. And, I don’t know if everybody gets this, but he gave me the key to the art department at night, and I would just use it as my studio. I’d go and do the assignment, then I would do my own thing. I’d paint late,” he said.


His early bronze career began prior to that, in high school, where he created his first sculpture and had it cast locally. He learned that creating bronze sculptures was expensive and time consuming, but ultimately worthwhile, both creatively and economically.


“It’s a great investment, because once you do have the mold and once you have gone through the process, then you have the ability to recast it as many times as you want. If you’ve got an additional 30,  you can cast it 30 times. That’s a savings account just ready to be cashed in, if you can afford the [initial expenditure],” he said. 


While many bronze artists send their works out for the casting process, Joe likes to keep his hands on his sculptures throughout much of the process and relies heavily on what he learned as a foundryman as well as on inspiration from historic sculptures.


“Very few [sculptures] are cast in one piece, so a lot of times you have to weld them together. … If there is a fingerprint that goes across both pieces of metal, when you weld them together you’ve got that seam in the center, and you’ve got to make it look like part of the fingerprint. You’ve got to fool the eye so that people don’t know there was ever a seam there,” he said. “Then I do the patinas [myself], and I get my influences from old museums. … When you’re at the Smithsonian, you can see pieces and some of those patinas are hundreds of years old. That’s just really, really intriguing to see, to try to get that in your mind to see how you can copy that in a way. Because I want my sculpture to feel like something that has been handed down from your grandfather.”


Joe has also gained perspective and experience repairing large historic sculptures or monuments, including a 15-foot Abraham Lincoln piece that he worked on for three months in Pennsylvania. Because of this skill and experience, he was offered a position with the National Parks Service, repairing monuments and statues in parks, buildings, and other sites around the country, including the Whitehouse. Joe said he was tempted to take this interesting job, but there were several of factors that led him to stay put, not the least of which was love.


“Livingston is the longest I’ve ever lived in one place in my life, and it just feels like home. I think [taking the job with the National Parks Service] would have been neat. … I could have used the knowledge that I had gained over the years, but I’d have to give up on the glory of making it myself,” adding that around that time he had met Cindy, who is now his wife. 


“In my mind, I was like, well do I take a chance on love or do I take this job? I chose love,” he said.


Joe says he loves sculpting but can get frustrated with the length of the process. He appreciates painting because it allows his work to be portable, and it can be finished relatively quickly.


“I love to sculpt, but I love the instant gratification that I get from painting. Because I can set up an easel on location and do a painting pretty fast, take it back to the studio and maybe massage an edge here and there and get something. But a sculpture can take some time. “ he said. 


When Joe is not painting or sculpting, he is involved in his more recent addiction, acting, which he says, started with an unlikely social media interaction.


“One night I was scrolling through Facebook, and there was a casting call for background people in a Richard Dreyfuss movie. I looked through my photos, and I had one picture with a cowboy hat. I sent it in, and then let out a big laugh as I went to sleep,” he said. “To my surprise when I woke up in the morning, the casting director left a message and said you’re in!”


After that, he was hooked. Joe said he is often cast as a bad guy, but he loves playing that role and continues to try for larger roles within the robust Montana film industry. He recently played the quintessential “bad guy in black” in a branded short film for Rolls Royce, entitled The Gunslinger. He has been an extra in several films with famous actors, including Nicholas Cage. But most recently, he finished a feature film, called Blood for Dust, in which he acted in a complete scene with three lead actors, Kit Harington (Game of Thrones), Ethan Suplee (Remember the Titans), and Scoot McNairy (Godless), and in doing so, he earned his Screen  Actors’ Guild (SAG) card.


“I’m the worst person for this business, because I never watch TV. I’m always in front of my easel. I don’t know any of the actors names and I met this guy, and he’s the star of Game of Thrones. I met him on makeup and I see him on set the next day and he says, ‘Hey, good to meet you on makeup the other day. Let’s have fun here.’ I’m like, who’s this? And the actress next to me is like, ‘Are you f-ing kidding me?’”



Despite, or perhaps because of, his unfamiliarity with the big stars, Joe loves to act and plans to keep doing it.


“I kind of fell in love with the creative process of it. It’s more of an orchestration than how I am used to working, obviously. So once I was plugged in, I kept trying for everything that came through. And then I started taking some acting classes. And even if nothing ever comes from it, the acting classes are great for self-confidence, getting up and doing a presentation, or talking about your work in front of a group of people.”

Acting in a movie and creating visual art are, apparently, not mutually exclusive in Joe’s experience. As an actor Joe says there is a lot of down time, which allows him to gather painting and sculpting ideas from the surroundings on set.


“I’m on the set a lot, so in between takes, it seems like they don’t care if you snap shots, and there are all kinds of opportunities for great wagons and horses and stuff like that,” he said.


Gleaning inspiration from his surroundings no matter where he is, Joe is never at a loss for ideas but rather finds himself weeding them out from an abundance of images. But when he looks at his canvas and decides what to paint, he relies on instinct and mood.



“It’s tough because I have five ideas today and there’s going to be an avalanche of five or ten more tomorrow and five or ten more the next day. I’m constantly stretching canvases and I’ve got all these ideas … Once you get in the zone, once you start painting, everything you look at is a painting. And everything you look at you think, ‘How would I mix that color? How would I compose that? Would I take the tree out? Would I put a person over here? How would I approach this?’” he said. “The more you do, you see it everywhere around you. It’s a matter of process of elimination in some ways. And when I’m at the point of making my decision [about what to paint], it’s my whim at that moment. It can be random.”


Joe prefers plein air or still life models to painting from photographs but steers away from photographic representation. Instead, he prefers to leave some interpretation to the viewer and, in doing so, encourages interest and curiosity.


“[I prefer] painting with thicker paint and focusing on composition rather than how many hairs you can get on a bugling elk’s nose. I feel like if you paint that way and you look at it, you see the whole story instantly, and you don’t even have to look back,” he said. 


That is not to say that Joe does not strive to be accurate in his depictions on canvas and in bronze. He has spent numerous hours observing, studying and measuring musculature and skeletal systems in the animals that he paints and sculpts. Being correct in his work can be as important as being creative and interpretive. Joe says his paintings often draw comments about his use of wide brush strokes and how his technique makes the subject come to life in a unique way.


“What people find interesting [about my painting] seems like a running thread. If they get up close to it, they see these massive brush strokes and mixing of color right on the canvas. Then when they step back, it’s hard for them to believe it’s the same painting, because they say it just gels. It just comes together. I think that’s fun. They say, ‘I don’t know how you can see things that way.’ Maybe I need better glasses but it seems to work,” he said.


While Joe has definitely found commercial success as an artist, he continues to set his sights on new and bigger projects, and different techniques to keep his work fresh.


“I think I try different things all the time. I think that’s part of the growth. I guard against saying that I’ve arrived, or I know I’ve got a recipe on how to do things, because I think sometimes people’s work can get really stale. I’m almost nervous when I step up to a new canvas each time because I want to win every time,” he said. “I’m hoping for many, many paintings and sculptures to come. I’d like to someday do large monument type of work. I love painting large, so who know what kind of projects could lay ahead.”


Montana Trails Gallery has played a role in Joe’s ongoing success with both painting and sculpture, but it was Joe as an eager young artist who was confident and ambitious enough to reach out and make that first connection with MTG owner, Steve Zabel.


“I met Steve at the Charlie Russell Art Auction, and I was super hungry. My ego was larger than my ability, probably,” he said. “They took somewhat of a liking to me, and I was allowed to hang a painting in the back wall of the gallery. Miraculously, it sold, and we were off and running.”


Maria Abad, MTG Co-Owner, said she has always been proud to hang Joe’s paintings in the gallery and enjoys working with him. 


“Joe is so humble; he paints and sculpts without the awareness of how talented he naturally is. Being so easygoing down to earth, it is a pleasure to represent his work and see his success and growth,” Maria said.


Like many working artists, Joe finds that one of the biggest challenges he encounters is staying true to his own creative vision while selling enough work to make a living.


Maria Abad, MTG Co-Owner, said she has always been proud to hang Joe’s paintings in the gallery and enjoys working with him. 


“Joe is so humble; he paints and sculpts without the awareness of how talented he naturally is. Being so easygoing down to earth, it is a pleasure to represent his work and see his success and growth,” Maria said.


“[The biggest challenge is] holding true to what you want to portray and what you want to do and the realization that the mortgages is due as well. Sometimes that can be a tough spot to be in,” he said. “I always thought that if I did good work, somebody is going to want to buy it. That’s the ultimate goal. Just make sure that you’re doing good work.”


In addition to being appreciated by galleries and collectors, Joe values the opinions and respect of his peers in the art world and finds it motivates him to continue his work and strive to do the best work he can do.


“I’ve always wanted to be good enough so that I was appreciated and looked on well from my peers. They have put the time in, and they know what it takes to get to a certain point and to be respected,” he said. “We all want to make a living at what we do, and when we sell a piece that’s a huge compliment … But when you don’t get to that sale, that compliment [from a peer] is what really keeps things going, because, once again, you believe. We doubt ourselves all the time. That’s why we’re so hard on ourselves and our work. And that’s why we try so hard. Those little things just keeps you going. When you are comrades. When they respect your work.”


To view Joe’s artistic works, visit

To see him in The Gunslinger, visit






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