It all started with palm fronds.

“When I first moved down here, there were three or four different palm trees at the home we had and some of these were interesting,” said Joe Vuich, a palm frond artist. “Someone had used acrylic paint on fronds and I wanted to see if I could do that. So, I started with African masks and things like that with more and more animals, and adding more and more color. And it just snowballed.”

Vuich said he doesn’t want to attempt oils since he has used acrylics since he began. He waters them down, so they act like the watercolors he has used before.

“I have many different frond sizes, bigger than 2 to 3 feet and usually get those painted into elephants or a horse face,” Vuich said. “Because of the long length of those animal faces, these lend themselves to those kinds of animals. Smaller fronds like 1 to 10 inches are used for almost anything. Turtles and manatees are extremely popular, as are anything related to Florida wildlife.”

The artist usually paints a little everyday — an hour or two in the morning and again in the afternoon.

“It is very relaxing, and I really enjoy doing it,” he said. “What makes me a little different from other palm frond artists, some fill in all the holes and make the frond perfect, but I don’t do that. If it has a defect such as shredded or having a hole, I leave all that and it is more natural. This is recycled art. Rather than tossing the fronds, I am recycling and using fronds as something that can be displayed in your house. It is reused art in other ways.”

Vuich has been in Melbourne for 11 years. He has painted for 10 of those years.

Self-taught, he has never taken an art course. He sells his artwork in two locations, the Green Circle in Cocoa Village and My Own Narrative Art Consignment Shop across from the Publix plaza in Suntree. He also has painted on consignment for customers, including pets, dogs, flowers and, in one case, turtles on canvas.

“One man took his gun apart and wanted a buffalo painted on the handle,” Vuich said.

At Christmas, Vuich has painted seashell ornaments.

His favorite color is blue and, of course, painting the sky and ocean he gets to use that color often.