Faces in the Crowd: Joe Pawlowski

January 20, 2020

Joe Pawlowski
Painted casket by Joe Pawlowski.

By Gene Bodnar

My daughter, Christi, said that Joe Pawlowski would make a good interview. A few years ago, Joe had painted a mural of Rocky on a wall in her home. I contacted him on Facebook to arrange an interview. He responded the same day, and we agreed to meet in his studio on W. Stevenson Lake Road in Farwell.

Joe was born in Mt. Pleasant in 1982. He attended K-12 grades in the Harrison Public School system, graduating in 2001. He loved playing football in his high school years. He also loved art, and he became quite adept at drawing. In fact, he won a number of art awards. He entered a contest called “Walk for Warmth,” creating a piece that won first place, which included a $50 savings bond. He also created the cover drawings for the weekly school newspaper. He remember that one cover about Y2K that had an alien theme.

After graduating, he worked in construction for a couple of years. In 2003, Joe joined the Marine Corps. He spent two years in the reserves as an Infantryman. Meanwhile, his first son, Deven, was born in 2004. At 15 years of age today, he is an outstanding athlete who is attending the Clare Public School. In 2005, Joe married the mother of his son, but it was a short-lived marriage.

In 2005, Joe was deployed to Fallujah, Iraq. His two general assignments were to capture enemy terrorists and to win the hearts and minds of the civilians. On December 28, 2006, while attempting to get a buddy off the streets, he was shot twice by a sniper. Both bullets entered his left arm above the elbow. He showed me pictures of the wounds, which could only be described as horrible. He almost lost his left arm, ending up with multiple surgeries and a plate in his arm. He spent 6 months in Balboa Naval Hospital in California before being sent home in mid-2007, and was officially retired from the Marine Corps. He’s gone through extensive therapy but still has difficulty with pain and mobility of the arm, still unable to lift anything at all over his head.

Joe spent the following two years in recovery. He says that his wife. Lily, whom he married in 2009, “was a huge part of that recovery and is an awesome Mom.” They have two children: a daughter named LilyAnn Marie, 8 years old, who attends Clare Public Schools. Joe says she is super-funny and loves crafts; and a son named Parker, who is 18 months old.

Joe says that he did spend one semester at Mid-Michigan taking a painting class, which he enjoyed but couldn’t deal with the environment. This represents the only formal training he’s had in art. Yet, his artwork is outstanding in three areas: Tattoo designs, air brush work, and canvas and mural paintings.
He has created numerous tattoo designs. He is not set up to execute tattooing, but he might be some day.
He creates air brush work for motorcycles and other vehicles. For Quest Ministries he air-brushed an entire bus, filling it with deer and turkey paintings.

He has created numerous canvas and mural paintings. One of his large military murals appears in the Freedom Park in Harrison. Another of his murals took first prize in veteran’s art contest. He has also painted a military mural for Joe Bradley, who is very active in military collections and veteran’s affairs. He also was highly honored to have been contacted by Robert O”Neill, the man who killed Osama bin Laden, to paint a wall mural for him. He also painted a casket for a marine who died of a seizure caused by injuries sustained in Iraq. He painted another casket of a race car driver.

I paged through dozens of pages of his artwork, ranging from pencil sketches to detailed paintings, from views on the streets of Iraq to skulls filled with patriotic symbolism. I can assure you that his work deserves far more recognition than he currently has.

Joe says the easiest part of creating a piece of artwork is thinking of an idea. The hardest part is making that idea happen.

Joe says his artwork focuses mainly on military and patriotic themes. Initially, he started out painting for his own personal therapy, but now he has branched out to include other veterans. He calls is “Paintherapy.” Its goal is to bring guys, especially veterans, closer together.

I asked him how he determined the price to charge for a particular mural or other piece of art. He responded that sometimes he charged his material costs; sometimes it was donated. On occasion, he has charged a bit more. He is still considering how to determine a fair market price for his work.

Joe’s family has several pets, including 4 dogs: A German shepherd named Duke, a Lab named Yogi, an aggressive Yorkie named Sissy, and a Dalmatian named Dexter – all of whom gave me a royal greeting when I arrived. The family also has 3 horses, a goat, and a potbellied pig.

Joe has a couple of pet peeves. The first involves people who don’t rinse the milk out of a cup. The second, vastly more important, involves people who don’t support America.

I asked him if he had any skills or talents that most people don’t know about. He responded that he writes poetry, and he loves to build things with wood. In fact, he and a few others built the barn that’s on the property. Most of the items in his studio were also hand-made.

I asked him if he could be anywhere else but here, right this minutes, where would it be. He responded that he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. He liked it right where he was.

When he was around 10 years of age, he wanted to be a cartoonist for Disney. In fact, he started out in his youth drawing cartoons and became quite adept at it. He considers this to be the beginning of his career in art. For birthday and Christmas presents, his Mom would always include paper and pencils as gifts to encourage his artistic abilities.

I asked Joe how he would like to be remembered. He answered, “As a good guy and loving.”

I asked him how he would describe himself in 3 words. He said, “Faithful, Warrior, and American.” Before I even asked my next question (which was “how would your colleagues describe you?), a friend of his, who was present at the interview, answered, “Grateful, Faithful, and Honest.”

I asked him what he would like to accomplish before he died. “Help as many veterans as I can,” he said.

Within the next year Joe hopes he can build a business from his artwork by getting more people to want him to paint wall murals and other creations.

Joe loves the outdoors, and he loves to hunt deer. He cleans out the deer heads (a project he didn’t particularly like), and then paints them. There were at least 6 painted heads in his studio, and he said there were several more inside his house.

Joe especially likes to help veterans in any way he can. He’s active in Freedom Park in Harrison, and he always donates to veteran charities. He is also active in the Clare Assembly of God, and Joe says that if there is anything he can assist Pastor Scott Harper with, he is there to do it.

Every year on September 11th, Joe and a group of friends hold a pig roast and a shootout on his property, which contains a shooting range. The goal of the shootout is to fire one shot in remembrance of each of the 911 victims.

Joe’s most embarrassing moment: He once passed out while on a toilet, and all of his buddies took pictures of the spectacle.

If you’d like to learn more about Joe Pawlowski’s artwork, you can go to one or more of the following locations:

Website: www.devildoginkandpaint.com
Instagram @devildog_inkandpaint
On You Tube: Devildog Ink & Paint, LLC
Email address: devildogink@gmail.com

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