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Check out Joel Tokarczyk’s Artwork

Today we’d like to introduce you to Joel Tokarczyk.

Joel, we’d love to hear your story and how you got to where you are today both personally and as an artist.
I grew up the middle child in the South Side of Chicago to a middle-class family. From where I’m from, art is not considered a “realistic” profession – just a hobby to pass the time. The fears of being a starving artist are common for most artists, right? But from a young age, I recognized that the ability to create and to imagine were such powerful forces intrinsic to my identity; I could not separate myself from my dreams of being an artist. When I was a child, art was my escape. The passion to create, to doodle, gave me so much joy. I think when you know from a young age who you are, it’s almost impossible to ignore what makes you come alive. After high school, I enrolled at Columbia College Chicago where I pursued a degree in animation and film, believing it to be my only option to work as an artist.

However, due to financial struggles, I decided to leave Columbia and work as a makeup artist as a cosmetics counter – hopeful that I’d be able to continue my education and make my dreams come true. Unfortunately that didn’t happen – in fact, I moved with my family to Indiana. The fears and sadness of having left my passion behind, coupled with my coming out as an LGBTQ+ individual, led me to fall into a deep depression. However, it was during this period of my life that I discovered the true beauty of art and what art truly meant to me. As of last year, I enrolled at Purdue Northwest University where I am now studying psychology. I realized that psychology brought me to art but art brought me back to psychology. Although I am no longer pursuing animation, I intend on using the therapeutic benefits of art and self-expression to help others as well.

We’d love to hear more about your art. What do you do you do and why and what do you hope others will take away from your work?
My passion has always been children’s art because of the stories & children’s books that I loved as a child. I have always been drawn to the unique and whimsical illustrations of Dr. Seuss but also to the fantastical worlds of “The Wizard of Oz” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” I believe it was the message of embracing imagination and the artistry that inspired me to create. Visually, my artwork incorporates a lot of these influences (and others) that I loved as a child. But beyond aesthetics and style, the feeling of being different, especially for being gay, has encouraged me to create artwork that inspires children to embrace themselves and to be true to who they are. Mister Rogers has always been one of my childhood heroes and my goal is to continue in his footsteps by combining uplifting messages and themes into my artwork, such as love and acceptance for ourselves and others. I strive to create artwork that lets children know that they can be different and that different can be beautiful.

Since my style has sort of a whimsical flair, I hope that children would be receptive to that and be inspired to create artwork themselves. Considering my love for children’s books, I have always loved creating my own characters and the worlds in which they live so a majority of my work is character design and children’s illustration. However, as the years go by and I develop as a person and an artist, I find my work incorporating a lot more fine art influences, such as Picasso and Matisse. It would be so great to make fine art for children they deserve so much more. I am hoping that people will look at my art and remember the importance that imagination played in their childhoods. More importantly, I am hoping that children will be inspired to create and find the joy that comes from creating for themselves. I want each and every one of you who are reading this, and who see my art and story, to know that there is always hope. Dreams do not die – they simply evolve.

Have things improved for artists? What should cities do to empower artists?
Now, more than ever, it is important that we support and lift each up – to embrace our individuality and to celebrate our differences – so that we may overcome hate and live courageously. Although we face incredible difficulties and challenges today, I think social media has allowed us to share with the world who we are and what makes us beautiful. This is not just about improving the lives of artists but improving the lives of all of us. However, when I was growing up, I lived in a city that didn’t appreciate the arts – schools were constantly underfunded and it was painful to watch as my friends and fellow artists suffered from not having the encouragement to pursue their dreams and passion. I would love to see more artistic representation from the South Side – an area FULL of talented and wonderful people that not receive as much recognition and support that they DESERVE.

Do you have any events or exhibitions coming up? Where would one go to see more of your work? How can people support you and your artwork?
For people that are interested in seeing more of my work, I have a website that they can access online:

However, for those wishing to follow me and to see some of my everyday doodles, they can follow me on Instagram @JoelieCrayons.

Just showing interest in my art and hopefully being inspired to create themselves is all that I desire.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Stephanie Pizzoferrato

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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