Early works were mostly small in scale and painted in watercolour. The subject matter was predominantly landscape or streetscape and often painted in a traditional plein air manner to capture fleeting changes in atmosphere and light. A development towards a more realistic style was apparent with his first serious portrait works ‘Portrait of my Father’ and ‘Portrait of Tina’ (Triptych) painted in 1983. These were among his earliest paintings in egg tempera, a versatile medium which was to become favoured for most of his work to date.
His first solo exhibitions took place in Dublin and Freiburg Germany in 1980. Between 1980 and 1997 he also worked as a freelance illustrator and designer which included commissions for a number of stamp design sets from An Post and the Isle of Man Post.
Subsequent solo exhibitions took place in Dublin in the 1980’s and 1990 and his work has also been selected for numerous group shows including the Oireachtas, RHA Annual and Gala Exhibitions, Íontas small works in Sligo, Arnotts National Portrait Awards, BP Portrait awards in London, Claremorris Open Exhibition and Éigse Carlow Festival.
A decision to focus only on painting in 1997 led to a landmark exhibition at the RHA Ashford Gallery in 2001. Many of the works in that exhibition marked a stylistic development which has continued into the subsequent and present solo shows at Jorgensen Fine Art in 2004 and 2007.
Joe is probably best known for his portrait work. A number of portrait and figure paintings exhibited at the Tom Caldwell Gallery in Dublin in 1990 drew comparisons with the work of the realist painters Andrew Wyeth and Lucien Freud. He has received a number awards including the RHA silver medal for a self portrait in 1986 and the Don Niccolo Caracciolo RHA Award for a period of study in Italy in 1993. He subsequently spent six weeks at the Charles Cecil Studios in Florence in 1994. He won two awards at the Arnotts National Portrait Awards in 1990 and 1993 and more recently the Keating McLoughlin Medal for a group portrait at the RHA Annual in 2006. Commissions by the Office of Public Works include his portraits of former Toiseach Eamon deVelera and of President Mary McAleese.
In 2003 he completed a residency and was awarded a fellowship at the Ballinglen Arts Foundation in Co. Mayo and in 2004 he was selected by Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council as artist in residence Scoil Naithí gaelscoil in Ballinteer, Dublin.
His work is included in the collections of the Royal Dublin Society, the Office of Public Works, Irish Independent Newspapers, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, the Irish Management Institute, Maynooth University of Ireland, the Ballinglen Art Foundation Archive, the Dublin Dental School and Hospital, and the Boyle Civic Collection.