Joanna is a painter of urban abstractions in Toronto, Ontario. Inspired by the energy and vibrancy of urban spaces, she paints with bold color and lots of energy. Joanna creates daily and is a member of the year of creative habits course. Welcome Joanna!
Crystal: What led you to cityscapes?
Joanna: When I moved to the big city from a small town for college, I felt really lost and unhappy. I was living near my school which was in a pretty rough part of the city and was surrounded by industrial parks and suburban sprawl. It was my first time living away from home and I began to realize how much a person’s surroundings can affect them. We began learning in school about the negative effects of suburban sprawl and how having to drive everywhere was having such a significant impact on the environment and on people’s sense of community and that really resonated with me. After school finished, I moved closer to downtown and took the subway every day to my design job and started realizing how amazing Toronto is. I became really interested in how living closer to transit, in higher density housing with a mix of retail, restaurants, residential and commercial spaces really increased my quality of life. I could step out of my doorway and feel a part of everything that was happening. I could walk to everything I needed or hop on the subway and get anywhere I chose. I began to feel this intense connection to my environment so I began photographing and painting the urban landscape. I wanted to convey the structure of the architecture in contrast with the energy and vibrancy of all these people living so close together.
Crystal: I love the lines and the movement and the color in your pieces. Where do you think your style comes from?
Joanna: Thank you so much! It has taken me a lot of experimenting to get to this point. And a lot of my growth has come over this past year of painting something every day. I think it comes from a combination of my desire to create something that references the recognizable landscape, contrasted with my pure joy in applying the paint to the canvas and creating free and gestural marks. It’s like I make a bunch of straight lines and then I have to get a bunch of scribbles out of my system. But I think the combination of the two really works for what I’m trying to show in my paintings.
Crystal: Who are your big artistic influences?
Joanna: Oh my I have so many. In terms of inspiration, Denyse Thomasos has to be at the top of my list. She made these incredibly expressive and intuitive architectural paintings which are so sophisticated. Xochi Solis is also one of my top favorites right now. Her colour combinations the effortless grace of her compositions is stunning. And I love Erin Loree, another Toronto artist who makes these incredibly thick, gestural oil paintings that are so full of confidence, they make my jaw drop every time. Although not related to my style, I LOVE Emily Jeffords’ paintings and also her work ethic and the way she brings beauty to everything she touches.
Crystal: That's gotta be one of my favorite questions because every single time I ask it, I'm introduced to an amazing artist that I wasn't familiar with! Ok, so what’s a typical day like for you? How do you fit creative habits into your schedule?
Joanna: I get up around 5:30 and shower and get ready for work. Then I sit down at my table in our living room around 6:15 and put on my headphones and paint either in my sketchbook or a sheet of watercolour paper. Around 7:15 I finish and photograph the piece and post it to Instagram. Then I make my breakfast and lunch and head to work at my interior design job at about 8:30. I come home from work around 6:30 (on a good day haha!) and I go for a run or do some type of quick workout. Then I have dinner with my fiancée and my best friend, the three of us share an apartment together. We usually put on a show of some sort while we eat. Sometimes I will piddle around in my studio corner after dinner, stretching canvas or priming or doing something that doesn’t take a ton of thought or effort but usually I’m pretty spent by then. I read whatever library book I have currently for a half hour or so until I fall asleep. On the weekends I wake up early and paint most of the day in between trying to fit in visits with family and friends. Life is pretty good right now.
Crystal: What do you find most challenging about the creative process?
Joanna: Starting a piece is always the hardest for me. Those first few marks dictate the direction the painting will go, and I’m always hesitant at first. I also struggle with trying to make each one of my paintings different but to still have continuity between them all. Recently I have tried to tone down my colour palette because I feel like it makes them more coherent and sophisticated. But I still always have a few bright accents in there.
Crystal: So what's ahead for you?
Joanna: Right now I am working toward an art fair July 8, 9 and 10, the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition. It’s Toronto’s largest art fair and it’s right in the heart of downtown at City Hall. I did it last year and had the most amazing time meeting new people, and connecting with other artists with booths around me. Even the mayor stopped by and talked to me about my work! I can’t wait to show all the new stuff I’ve been making this year.
I am still trying to paint every day although I have been giving myself some grace in preparing for this show because I need time to do stuff like order supplies and have prints made and design my booth etc. But I am so excited about how making one thing every day this year has really helped me refine my style and become disciplined in creating my work.