own a Joe Sleep original is to own a "rare gem" in
Folk Art World.
Joe Sleep worked as a fisherman in his youth and then as a carnie for the Bill
Lynch Shows , a touring Maritime attraction for 21 years. He claims to have hated
school as a child "Went as far as grade 1 I had to go back the second year
to get me books".
He began doing "picture making art" as a trade after a period of hospital
convalescence in 1973. The nurses gave him colouring books, that became his introduction
to art. At first he would trace the images in colouring books but quickly discovered
he had a passion and a talent for drawing his own subjects in whatever proportion
he wanted. His drawings took on a personality of their own. "My cat is my
He later opened a small studio in Halifax. What made his art so unique and wonderful
was his total disregard for rigid lines and perspective. His drawings reveal
the extraordinary vision inside of ordinary people. In explaining his "town
clock" series: "One day I was up to Citadel Hill and I started drawing
the old town clock. It was twenty-five after twelve so I kept that time on all
the clocks I drew ever since."
The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia put a retrospective of Joe Sleep's Artistic Career
in the Spring of 1981. His work is included in the collections of the National
Gallery of Canada and the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
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