Joe Petagno: Show No Mercy

Joe Petagno is a name that all avid fans of metal art know and all artists truly respect. He created Motorhead’s Snaggletooth as well as a lot of amazing artwork for them over the years. He has created album covers for bands such as: Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Nazareth, Marduk and The Black Dahlia Murder. He is craftsman, a creative genius and a true legend in the metal art community. MBA is proud to present the man, the myth, the legend….

How did you get your first paying art job?
It was in 1964 in High school, I was commissioned to do 20 sweatshirts for a school club. Each one was hand airbrushed and I received 2 dollars apiece… I never looked back.

What words best describe your artistic style?
I been asked this on numerous and the only comment I have been able to come up with is Petagno Art.

Tell us about your studio space?
I have a small studio  in the rural countryside which I share with my wife who is also an Artist. This is also where I run Whiteline Merchandise. It has what you would expect a studio to have it’s quiet, intimate with some beautiful country side just outside the door for long walks etc. if the ol’ brain isn’t up to being creative I  just go for a walk in the woods and lay back.
In the summer months it doubles as a summer house. We live in the local town about 10 miles south so it’s easy to get to and if I’m into something and don’t want to go home I can crash there.

Take us through a typical day ?
There’s nothing really typical…although most days go doin’ what I do best and love doing, which is painting, but it’s not like I can say – Up at 8 lunch at 12 etc. I hate that anyway and one of the many the perks of being self employed is the freedom it affords you, if the sun is shining I might split to the beach or if it’s snowing maybe walk in the woods. I work when it suits me and when I’m in the mood…which is pretty much most of the time, but I like to get out and about too.

How do you create your work? Take us through the process from concept to final.
I usually start as most of us do with sketches and concept ideas scribbled loosely on a pieces of  paper, if I find at the end of one of these sessions I have some ideas I like, I will  do a more comprehensive drawing of it and then go straight to paint, sometimes I will combine 3 or 4 or more of these scribbles to form a type of collage and then run it thru the copy machine and use white and black acrylic colour or pencils on top of it and run it thru the machine again, repeating  this process as many times as it takes to get the idea to a stage where I think it’s ready for painting. Then I will transfer it to a support, usually watercolour paper mounted on wood if I’m using acrylic or gouache and canvas if I’m using oil paint.
Then the fun part comes, throwing colour at it until I think it’s finished.

Do you use reference materials or does all of it come from your head?
I’m a commercial artist so I use whatever I need to get the job done, I take photos and use reference material when needed but 90 % comes from my head.

Your paintings colors are so rich and vibrant. However, they still come off as evil and dark. What is your secret?
I don’t know really I just do it, although I like strong colour’s  even though my palette is usually simple in classical terms, normally only  5 colours and black and white, perhaps it’s the way I put them up against each other in a sort of battle where they are all fighting for supremacy while being held together by one main albeit sometimes chaotic composition.
I think Art seeks to create a marriage for want of a better word between complimentary aspects of the psyche i.e. the Masculine and feminine, if you do this successfully it can cause in the viewer a feeling of elevation.

What size are your original paintings?
That depends on my mood and the materials I choose to execute them in as well as the effect I want to achieve, not to mention  the time limit imposed upon me  by the client which also is a major factor you have to take into consideration as a commercial artist.

You don’t start a large oil painting if you have to deliver in 10 days, you use a smaller format and acrylic for example otherwise it’s no fun is it?
And it’s about fun, it’s about play and it must be enjoyable otherwise why bother, generally speaking though most of my work these days is  around 40 x 40 cm.  I do larger pieces up to a metre or more in size but they are normally for my own personal paintings.

Do you keep all of your originals?
Yes, I always have and in todays pdf file world it makes it even easier. In the early days you had to get the art to the client, they sent it to the photographer and then to repro etc.  then you had to get it back from the client, usually damaged and sometimes lost. It’s easy today just scan and send it in a file – isn’t technology great?

After watching some videos of you online talking about your work, I realized you would make a great college art teacher. Have you ever thought about teaching a class? What would the class be called?
I never thought of myself as a teacher, although if I were invited to do a class I might considerate it. What it would be called, how about Killer Art the Petagno way- ha.

Do you have any advice for artist’s who wish to do artwork for bands?
Just keep at it and  build  up a good folio and/ or website and get out there and meet some people playing music and remember you have to be equally as loud in your Artistic expression as the music you wish to portray, maybe even louder since Art is ocular and not auditory you gotta’ shout really LOUD If you want to be heard!

What are you currently working on?
A new series of paintings entitled the Wasteland which is a reaction to current state of world events especially Japan, Libya, Egypt, Syria etc.

Is there any project out there you would like to try?
Yeah absolutely, I’m working on a concept for a video game which I would love to see put into production, so if you know anyone interested give me a shout!

Who are your favorite bands of all time and what bands are you listening to right now?
I don’t really have any favourite band of all time, it changes with the years.
However I like early Monster Magnet, Spine of god, any Slayer, Deicide, Marduk, Down, and Ministry to name a few.
Right now I am listening to the new Buzzov-en, Clutch and Insolitude.

Check out more work at: And this really cool video interview:

All Artwork copyright J.Petagno

About Vertebrae33

Through hard work and dedication, Vertebrae33 has established himself as one of the most prolific and exciting illustrators on the scene today.  He has received much acclaim as of late for his innovative designs, attention to detail, and wholly unique, raw style.