Step by step, Andy “Cosmo Joe” Watkins learned he could create a living in the creation of new worlds.
And though he’s yet to find riches, there’s been rich satisfaction in putting his daydreams and musings into tangible form to the wonderment of others.
“It’s an amazing feeling to take people out of their heads for a few minutes, create a fantasy world for them and then be able to give that to them as a keepsake,” he said.
The only limit is his own imagination — and there’s never been an issue there.
Watkins, a Fox Valley artist and owner of Menasha’s 6d6 Studio, will welcome the community into his creative space on July 5 for a deeper look into his world. He’s found his niche in fantasy and continues to build a name in the hobby gaming community. At home, he remains most recognized for the medium that kick started his momentum.
Cosmo Joe dazzled passersby once again this past Saturday during the Downtown Appleton Farm Market with his mesmerizing mastery of the spray paint can.
He says there’s a real give and take to his painting process — even as his fantastical scenes take form with the speed of a developing Polaroid photo.
In that realm, he’s equal parts painter and performer.
At the market, he’d combine the confident voice of a carnival barker with a friendly demeanor and the natural curiosity of his would-be audience to pull the crowds around him. Once settled in with his spray cans, the audiences were anchored at College Avenue and Morrison Street until each of his works was complete.
They’d watch with curiosity as a spritz here, a spray there or a pull of the knife across the painting would keep the secrets of their ultimate purposes until a few additional colors were applied. It didn’t take long for eyes to widen, and by that point, Watkins was ready to cut the painting free at the corners and hold up the finished work to applause.
His tools consist of knives and scrapers, canister tops and bright array of paint cans.
In a matter of minutes, blank white gave way other-worldly landscapes or glances to the heavens as they’d appear from the planets he conjured.
Beyond spray paint, Watkins has dedicated his skills to those who share his imaginative passions whether through designer game dice or other, smaller accoutrements of hobby play to custom-built tables for the most dedicated.
He’s had his studio at 309 De Pere St. in Menasha for five years, but will now present a more public face with a gallery and retail space.
Visitors to his Friday grand opening will be able to take in his full-scale dungeon game — an experience he describes as an escape room meets Dungeons & Dragons.
“There’s only one other company doing anything like it,” he said.
Overall, it’s been a quest and he chuckled when thinking to how things have developed. Today, he’s welcomed to events such as the farm market.
“When I started, every art show was illegal,” Watkins said.
He’d set up all around the Midwest, and in those early days, it sometimes wouldn’t take much longer than a painting or two before the authorities had him moving along.
But he built up a few experience points along the way.
Street art led to painting for laser tag arenas. Today, his studio is winning over fans and he’s set up shop at major events in the gaming world, such as the annual Gen Con convention.
He’s been inspired by the creativity of others whether its character generation or story lines that have come through as part of game development.
Watkins expressed some humility, noting it’s common for creative types to build their worlds.
“I think a lot of people could do it,” he said.
But not just anyone could welcome others in.
The Studio 6d6 grand opening event will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on July 5.