Joe Brubaker was born in Lebanon, Missouri and raised in Southern California. He received his B.A. from Sacramento State University, then attended UCLA where he earned his MA and MFA. From 1980 to 1988 he lectured in Art and Design at UCLA, as well as at Long Beach State from 1982 to 1984.
In 1987 Joe moved with his wife and two children to the San Francisco Bay Area. He continued to teach as an Art and Design lecturer at both San Francisco State from 1989 to 1994 and Academy of Art College from 1989 to 1997. He retired from teaching in 1997 to begin full time work on his own sculpture.