In-Sight: The Artists and Writers of San Quentin Prison – Joe Avila (#P-38500)

The Guardians
The Guardians by Joe Avila

Founded in 2015 by London-based artist Nicola White, Art Reach is a charity which gives purpose and hope to death row inmates in the US, providing art materials, regular meaningful contact, and the opportunity to exhibit their work here in the UK. To support the valuable work that Nicola is doing to support some of America’s most ostracised citizens, and to recognise the human rights of death row inmates in the US and beyond, we will be dedicating the next few weeks to the artwork and writing of the men she supports at San Quentin Prison, California.


Jo Avila
Joe Avila was sentenced to death in 1999.

When asked why he started to make art, Joe said: “I started drawing as a means to pass time while in my cell, but now I do it to pay off a court imposed fine when I am able to sell my work.” Joe enjoys creating cultural drawings of Native Americans and uses several different techniques including collage, acrylic paint and ink stippling. He also does portraits from photographs using the ink stippling method.

One piece of artwork can take several weeks such is the meticulous detail. Joe says of his art that it is not as good as he would like it to be, but he feels it is decent and enjoyable to look at.

He says it is therapy for the mind while locked in a cell.  Creating art has given Joe a lot more patience than he ever had. When asked what art is to him, Joe said: “It is a peaceful mind, imagination and culture.”

Be sure to pop along to THE ART OF TRANSFORMATION: Redemption versus Death at the Old Deptford Cinema before the end of April to witness in full effect the many talents of San Quentin’s death row artists.


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Tickled Inc. joins together a unique pool of writers and artists from diverse backgrounds, bringing into focus through their work and personal experiences the issues that affect us in the contemporary world.