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Psychology major spray paints the city like a canvas

Photo Courtesy of Joseph Peterson
Senior psychology major Joseph Peterson spray paints a wall in Downtown El Paso.

Two giraffes share their last kiss as they are set on fire, while a panda tied to a multi-colored balloon floats over pyramids. The sky is filled with pink planets, swirling with yellow and blue gases, as a peacock walks by and says, “Keep it real.”

The world of Joseph Peterson, senior psychology major, is grandiose with color, coming alive on concrete walls, street signs and canvases, with an assortment of spray cans.

Peterson creates these quirky abstractions to be visually appealing for city dwellers.

“I have always been attracted to street art, it’s interesting. While walking about, it makes the normal different, like when you’re walking and you see stickers on stop signs or a wall with a stencil,” Peterson said. “It’s just odd. It’s like a Batman or Spiderman of art—you never see them do it, it just appears.”

Influenced by Henri Matisse, Banksy, Jean-Michel Basquiat and David Choe, Peterson uses epigrams of these artists and their styles by making his own stencils to spray paint on surfaces.

“I like to let the art sell itself. People find different things in my work, so a lot of (them) are untitled. They have subjects for me, but that may change to the person whose eye it catches,” he said.

Using his own optimistic approach on life, Peterson uses bright colors to represent happiness since, as he says: “Life is too short to be stuck in the mud.”

However, with a 0.48 percent employment rate per 1,000 jobs in Texas as of May 2013 (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics), making a successful career as an artist in El Paso is a difficult task.

“I think the whole town is a bit of a struggling place for the arts. People’s attitudes often are not accepting of the action into purchasing art,” Peterson said. “People often treat art as unattainable, but for the artist to be self-sustained in their craft, people need to support the artist financially.”

Peterson will graduate in May and then go on to graduate school at UTEP, where he will study personality and art therapy.

Peterson also bartends at a local Olive Garden to help pay for school and his art supplies.

He also sells his artwork at events like Last Thursday’s and the Art and Farmer’s Market.

“I receive a few grants and financial aid, then I cover the spread. I barely get by and sometimes I need to take a loan out,” he said. “If I didn’t have a ‘real job’ and tried a straight art approach it would be choices like dinner or red paint. It would be a stressful time.”

Peterson began to sell his artwork two years ago after speaking with the owner of Lucy’s Restaurant.

“He told me to start selling it and make money off of these mother fuckers,” he said. “It was a harsh statement, but a novel idea. I don’t think people are fuckers, but his point was made.”

Yet, Peterson will still give his art away for free even though he may be struggling financially.

“It’s a good vibe to give things away,” Peterson said. “The best things in life are free, especially if it’s a kiddo who’s viewing it. Money shouldn’t get in the way of art, money fucks art up.”

When Peterson does have an interested buyer for his artwork, he ships his pieces out on a national scale.

“It’s already gone further than I ever thought,” he said. “I can only hope my technique improves since I want to ship overseas.”

Peterson is currently working on a project to have an international campaign that will build on his art and image.

For more information or to view Peterson’s artwork, visit

Lorain Watters may be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Lorain Watters
Lorain Watters, Editor-in-chief Editor
Lorain Watters is a senior psychology and multimedia journalism major. She is currently the managing editor at The Prospector, previously holding the position of entertainment editor. Along with the newspaper and classes, Lorain is also a part of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars honors organization on campus. In her spare time, she enjoys reading at coffeeshops, discovering new music and driving. Lorain strives to work for the New York Times or the Huffington Post in the future.
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Psychology major spray paints the city like a canvas