Super Surrealist – Josh Keyes

I recently came across Josh Keyes’ work online, and was amazed by his talent. I decided to ask Josh a few questions that I had about his work and Josh as an artist. I’ll let his work speak for itself, but I highly recommend visiting Josh’s site to view his work in it’s larger, more beautiful form. Enjoy 🙂

Josh Keyes - Super Surrealist

Alternately passionate and playful, outraged and absurd, the artwork of Josh Keyes is memorable both for its resonant imagery and the haunting themes those images convey.
– Excerpt from “Animal Planet”, by George Melrod

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Inspiration for my work comes from many sources, dreams, literature, and the experiences of daily life. I would say that the core of my inspiration draws upon references to alchemical diagrams from the 16th and 17th century, I find the surreal and fantastic imagery of these engravings captivating. The fusion of scientific apparatus with personified mythological states of change can keep my mind brewing all night long with wonder. Events in the world, whether dealing with climate change, or some political or social issue can also bring a painting idea to light.

Josh Keyes - Shedding


What is your artistic process? (how do you do what you do so well)

I spend a great deal of time thinking through the different possibilities the painting can take shape. What imagery would best suit the subject matter, and also what title best fits and conveys the concept. This process can sometimes take months before the paintbrush touches the panel. Some ideas come faster than others. I love the ideas that spring into mind as a complete image one that I can see when I close my eyes. I spend many hours taking reference photos and searching for just the right material to begin building the painting. I get immense satisfaction during the composition stage, arranging the different pictorial elements so the image has a flow and balance. After I have worked through the composition, the rest is just pure painting and mixing colors; I use acrylics, which dry fast so I have to work rather quickly.

Josh Keyes - Scorch II

Scorch II

What do the butterflies symbolize in your art?

I think the butterflies function for me as standing for something that cannot be seen, it is probably the closest element in my work that hints at the transference of energy or what some people have expressed to me as standing for the soul or spirit. The butterflies are my device for expressing the metaphysical or phenomenological states of change.

Josh Keyes - Treadmill


If you could go back in time (or even in the present) to shadow one artist, who would it be and why?

Difficult question, as I love and admire so many artists. Two come to mind mainly because I have been researching both artists at the moment, Goya or Isidore Granville. I think it would be fascinating to see Goya’s duel lifestyle of creating his own personal work while maintaining his profession as a court painter of the Spanish Crown. I would have enjoyed finding out more about his thought process and how he came up with some of his truly whimsical and disturbing imagery. The same applies to Granville’s work, he was certainly ahead of his time in terms of fantastic and at times prophetic imagery.

Josh Keyes - Tic Toc

Tic Toc

What was your favorite piece to work on and why?

A few come to mind but I have to select my current body of work. For me it is ambitious on many levels and is a work that has consumed me in an almost obsessive way. Though the work is made up of nine separate paintings it is the first time I have created a body of work that follows a complete narrative or story. Since it is a work in progress I do not want to say too much at the moment and would prefer to wait until its completion to say more about it. It will be exhibited at my show with the David B Smith Gallery in November.

Josh Keyes - Rising


Do you have any social profiles you would like people to follow you on?

If you are interested in seeing more of my work you can visit my website,, I am on Facebook and there is also a forum link listed on my website you can visit to discuss the work and possibly find a good deal on prints and original artwork.

Josh Keyes - The Call I

The Call I

Thank you for your time Josh, I admire you as an artist and love your work.

Thank you Lee, I really enjoyed your questions and I am so glad you like the work. Thank you for the interview.

Josh Keyes - Roar I

Roar I

Josh Keyes -  Howl


Josh Keyes - Self portrait as an old man

Self portrait as an old man

Josh Keyes - Flutter I

Flutter I

Josh Keyes - The Exchange

The Exchange

Josh Keyes - Exhale III

Exhale III

Josh Keyes - Swarming (The Hollow Rumble of Wings)

Swarming (The Hollow Rumble of Wings)

Josh Keyes - Exhale


Josh Keyes - Dog Park

Dog Park