With the end of World War II, having served his enlisted tour of duty in the Army, Joe Putman moved with his family to the Los Angeles area where his wife had relatives, and where she had lived and worked prior to their marriage. Joe enrolled there in Woodbury College located at 1027 Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, California.  Attending on the G.I. Bill as did many returning veterans, Joe worked nights making tires at Goodyear to support his family and attended Woodbury during the day. He and his brother-in-law also had a small business painting houses on the weekends.   It was a difficult and demanding schedule for him,  working nights, attending college during the day, and painting houses on the weekends. 

After finishing his studies at Woodbury College, Joe enrolled in the Bisttram School of Fine Arts. At that time, the Bisttram School was located at 636 South Ardmore at Wilshire Boulevard, in Los Angeles.  The Bisttram School was founded by Emil Bisttram who also taught at the school and had established a strong and lasting artistic presence in Taos, New Mexico. During his studies, it is known that Joe took courses from Emil Bisttram, Bene Duer, and Color Theory classes with Mrs. Georgia Richards.  It soon became apparent that Joe was a hard-working and talented student, and he was invited to study figure drawing privately with Bisttram, along with a small group of students.