Joanna TOKARCZYK (TOja) has always liked to be by herself. It's not, however, through sadness and loneliness, but rather to be in her creative world with her imagination, which then takes a more physical aspect on Joanna's canvases. She is constantly collecting images and emotions which inspire and nourish her imagination. Illustrations from children's books were Joanna’s first influence, and her receptiveness to the art around her contributed too. Nowadays, she shows her young boy her favourite paintings by Maria Orłowska-Gabryś.

Joanna Tokarczyk, The colors of freedom, oil paintingsJoanna began her art education in 1992 at Antoni Kenar High School of Fine Arts in Zakopane. She chose to study artistic furniture making, which developed her spatial awareness and tri-dimentional thinking. She spent 5 years in this inspirational area, where she had the freedom to self-develop her experiences and creative processes. This famous school, in Zakopane is a unique place where local highlanders, strong-minded, determined people come to study, along with other artistic students looking for their individual path of talent. Joanna’s  combination of hard work and creative imagination has enabled her to express her inner emotions and feelings through different artistic media, and through her experiences, she lives with an openness to the many diverse experiences of life.

The High School of Fine Arts was situated then, on Kosciuszki Street, in one of the old Austrian buildings. It was a manor house with a glazed hall, beautiful twisting staircases, alabaster framed windows and over 100 years of archived works. Students wandered from this place to an old, wooden building on Krupówki Street to participate in their art classes. The smell of wood and the extraordinary people that Joanna met, are still prominent in her memory. One of Joanna’s strongest memories, is her meetings with Władysław Hasior. He displayed slides, spoke on a very personal level with the students and introduced Joanna to interpreting both abstract and conceptual art. Another influential professor, Marek Szala, also had a profound impact on Joanna's artistic development. By modelling fine self-discipline, he taught Joanna how to respect the artist's profession. Thanks to him Joanna welcomed her first artistic commissions.

After her graduation, Joanna found a job in the marketing department in Tymbark. Having daily contact with a computer, she decided to explore its potential, using her creative talents. Fascinated by the immense potential of  new technology, Joanna decided to go to Poznań to study computer graphics at the Academy of Fine Arts. During that time she has experience of painting in the studio of the Krakovian artist, Professor Jacek Waltoś. Joanna needed to combine her classes with finding work to maintain a living.  After completing her 4th year of study, she rented a flat in London, where she could frequently visit the Tate Gallery, admiring the paintings of William Turner and the pre-Raphaelites’. Even though she spent the majority of her day behind a bar, she kept working creatively. Eventually, Joanna established a secure connection with Arkadius fashion house, for which she now designs 'Urban Orchid' - a leitmotif of the Autumn/Winter 2004 collection. She then moved over to Florida where she spent a few months devouring the smells and warm climate that often inspire creative people. She was and still is beguiled by the colourful, organic paintings of Georgia O'Keeffe.

In 2004 Joanna returned to Poland and achieved her master's thesis, gaining top marks in the specialisation of Graphics and Multimedia Communication. In the same year, she moved to Kraków, where she started her Management in Marketing studies at the Polish Open University and worked  in Bene Nowy Styl. During this time, she created two series of paintings, predominantly using a red tone: 'Woman in red' and 'Opium' and over 50 book covers.

Combining a business and maintaining the freedom for creativity is intensive, though very rewarding. However, the body does need breaks to promote physical well being, which has lead Joanna to practise yoga. She practises and meditates with specialists and has now gained professional qualifications to teach her own yoga classes. At the turn of 2008/9 she was traveling through Northern India. A place where no-one is in hurry, trains come in sometimes with a 24-hour delay and where women in rainbow saris carry stones on their heads to build railway embankments. This tranquility further opened another doors of awareness for Joanna. At the end of 2009 Joanna's son was born. Motherhood encourages reflection and it helped Joanna to look deeper into herself and her own personal environment. Consequently, she is now a mature and self-conscious artist. She happily lives in Kraków, where she has her intimate world filled with the smell of oil paints. Her life can be compared to the colourful carpet into which multicoloured threads are intertwined. The variety of experiences and the people she has met, have all added to her rich life and unique character. As she says: 'in the life as in the picture, there are many colors and shades.'


‘There are no crowds and trashy fuss on these paintings  …   I can see myself with the feeling of loneliness and my awareness passing. This truth is depressing, but it's bringing the confirmation that Me, You, All of us and each one of us exist once and inimitably. An awareness of this fact carries the sense of fear but can also be a source of earnest and dignity. The painted figures seem to say: yes, you are one, one but not alone'.  Jan Plata.


Artistic Education: Antoni Kenar High School of Fine Arts in Zakopane; Art Furniture graduate (1997); Academy of Fine Arts in Poznan, Graphics and Multimedia Communication; Painting practice in the studio of prof. Jacek Waltoś; Master of Arts, diploma in the studio of prof. Mirosław Adamczyk in Graphics – Visual Communication (2004).