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Illustrator uses child-like sense of wonder to create art

Illustrator uses child-like sense of wonder to create art

A portrait of the artist as a big kid


Joe Mohr loves to draw, paint and rhyme - just like many 4-year-old children.

Mohr is 34. His love of drawing started at age 4 when his great uncle drew Popeye for him. He soon learned to draw and set a goal of becoming an author and illustrator.

"It's stuff that made me happy as a kid," said the artist, who lives in University City with his wife and two young children. "It still makes me happy. You don't grow out of it."

Mohr's paintings will go on display July 10 at The Green Center, 8025 Blackberry Ave. in University City. The nature education center arranges art exhibits to engage the community in art that reflects on nature, said Susan Mintz, executive director. The center sought Mohr for an exhibit because of the playfulness of his work.

"We thought it would be a good fit for the summertime, because it is more playful," she said. "Joe's illustrations have a style that speaks maybe to a younger audience. It will maybe enable younger students to envision themselves as artists."

Mohr started painting in 2006 after a friend suggested he try putting his illustrations on canvas. He liked it and began selling the work in local art fairs.

He has participated in Schlafly Art Outside in 2006 and 2008, the Rock-n-Roll Craft Show in 2007 and 2008, the Central West End Art Fair and Taste in 2008 and 2009, The Loop's Artwalk in 2007 and other shows. His art was on exhibit in 2007 at Gallerie M in Ballwin.

Mohr's subjects for poems and illustrations come into his head at any time. Then he envisions the colors he wants to use and gets to work. Usually the poem comes first, but the subject of Mohr's favorite painting came to him first as an image.

He thought of bright purple and bright yellow and a girl surfing on the sun, so he painted it. In the painting, the Earth can be seen beyond the swirl of a breaking solar wave.

Mohr plans this image to be the cover art for a children's book of 80 poems with accompanying illustrations.

He already has released one of these poems "Go out! Go out!" as an iStoryTime application for the iPhone and iPod Touch. He will soon release three more poems as iStoryTime applications. They will include the sun surfing illustration and poem "The Surf Ace of the Sun."

Many of his paintings have nature themes. They include a skunk smelling flowers in "A Smelly Smeller Smelling," a bird riding on a turtle's back in "Friends," and a bee in "Just Bee." More has kept bees for two years with his sister-in-law, Marsha Giambalvo, and they have located two of their hives on Green Center property.

Mohr said nature just naturally finds its way into his work.

"I've always loved just being out in nature," he said. "I've always been an environmentalist by nature and I want to protect what I love."

Mohr's other endeavors include writing content for the websites of companies including mSpot, which sells ring tones for cell phones; creating editorial cartoons for; and writing about environmental issues.

His message might be best illustrated by one of his paintings that depicts a pea pod with six smiling Earths inside. "Want world peas?" it asks. "Then grow your own and share."

Want to go?

What: An exhibit of paintings by Joe Mohr

When: July 10 to Aug. 21 - opening reception from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. July 10

Where: The Green Center, 8025 Blackberry Ave., University City

Cost: Free

More info: (314) 725-8314 or

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