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Meet Joe Ray

Today we’d like to introduce you to Joe Ray.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
Growing up, I was always drawing and letting my imagination fly, putting pictures to what I heard and saw.

I was fascinated with comic books, Marvel Comics especially. Drawing superheroes were how I learned to draw; I would put carbon paper underneath the page and trace them; this helped me develop technique and line work, shading, etc. Then I’d add my own stories to them. Comics were the perfect intersection between art and writing…it was all about telling and imagining stories. Prior to comic books, my heroes were Mexican wrestlers, the old school idols of La Lucha Libre on the silver screen and in tabloid type comics with photos in place of drawings. El Santo, Blue Demon, Huracán Ramirez, Mil Máscaras. These were my superheroes. They were the shit for me.

Being bilingual added to this, I was able to think and exist in two worlds. I was born in San Luis, Sonora, Mexico and came to the US when I was three years old. If you’re familiar with the border areas, rural Arizona farming communities, and Reservations, that has always been my world. My AZ Universe.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Hah! No. But somewhat linear, and somewhat not so linear. Only demons think in straight lines. I went to college to study art and design. I had a small inkling of a clue that I followed. I studied art my first couple of years and then pursued Graphic Design intensely. While at ASU, I mentally dropped art and really focused on design, which is what I received my BFA in. I think I took things too serious during those years. Loosening up came later.

I really got into art after graduating from ASU and worked at a design agency. It (design & advertising career) began as a very disciplined, tough-love experience that I’m fortunate and grateful to have had. A few months after graduation I reconnected with some older friends who were artists and I joined up with them once again. This was MARS (Movimiento Artistico del Rio Salado), formed by a talented group of creatively aggressive Chicano artists. That was not only fun but inspiring and supportive of my pursuing art.

I tell people I live and co-exist in two universes. One is marketing/design focus, and the other is as an artist. Periodically, these two universes cross paths, but not that often.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
I’m an artist. I’m constantly changing and moving forward, and other times I walk to the back of the line that I’m shuffling along in. I’m a painter and printmaker, my subject matter mostly consists of Sirenas and Hearts. Sometimes Angels too. Recently I’m branching into sculpture and larger scale installations, which are also sculptures. I’m also teaching monoprint workshops in the summer.

I enjoy story-telling and public speaking. I’ve spoken/presented at marketing conferences for a number of years; I really enjoy that a lot. Storytelling. Yeah, there’s something about getting up there and captivating an audience with a good story. It provides me the opportunity to paint with word pictures and help the audience visualize a scenario, a landscape, an emotion, etc.

Design, marketing, advertising, etc.? Yes, I enjoy that. I’m very good as a Creative Director; I have good insights and utilize both sides of my brain. My wife and I run Maximo Branding; we work together. We’re creative entrepreneurs.

But I’m most proud of the fact that I’m also pursuing art as a career. It’s my passion, so why shouldn’t I?

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
I’m very proud to say that I’m a former student of the late Claude Thorn. He was my high school art teacher with whom I took art classes with for my four years of high school. He was a very disciplined artist/teacher who encouraged me, kicked my ass, pushed and talked to me, and then convinced me to go to college. I really didn’t have the drive, means or initiative to go to college, much less to study art. Growing up in a small rural farming area, art was not a likely career option.

He (Mr. Thorn) convinced me that if he got me a scholarship to Arizona Western College (in Yuma), it would be a door opening, an opportunity. A glimpse at what might be possible. He explained that I didn’t have to be an artist, just get to college and see what choices would become available from that point on.

He was right. I’m forever grateful for that advice and for what he did for me. My family was very supportive, but he took action in his support, and in doing so, he changed the course of my life. All for the better.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
All photos courtesy of the artist.

Getting in touch: VoyagePhoenix is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.


  1. Chris Smith

    March 22, 2019 at 12:59 am

    Wow!!! Loved this story – very inspiring! I love your work!I am going on you website now!

  2. DeeDee Ellis

    April 11, 2019 at 4:40 pm

    I love this story! I grew up in Parker, AZ and had Mr. Thorn as well. Your words ring true, he was a wonderful teacher. Your work is beautiful and I am so happy for your success.

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