Meet Joe Yonke: Up-and-Coming Oil Painter

Photo from Joe Yonke

From dedicating time as the Research/Strategy Co-lead for the AAF National Student Advertising Competition team to working as an Account Associate for Happy Valley Communications, Joe Yonke has a lot on his plate as a third-year student. Despite busy days filled with meetings and classes, many people would be surprised to learn that Yonke is an incredible oil painter, who has received attention nationwide for his artistic talents.

On Oct. 16, Yonke was able to host his first art show at the Third Street Gallery in Pittsburgh, PA. Yonke was able to donate a portion of the proceeds to the Carnegie Boys and Girls Club, an organization supporting and servicing kids in the region. In the future, Yonke plans to make this show an annual event.

Yonke, a Pittsburgh native, came to Penn State along with his siblings, Hazel and Thomas. While he knew he wanted to pursue a degree in advertising, he didn’t want to give up his passion for painting during his time in college. Through a lot of hard work and dedication, Yonke has been able to balance his academic pursuits along with his art career, in hopes to become an established figure in the art world.

VALLEY: What inspired you to start painting?

Joe Yonke: “My grandfather first inspired me to start painting. He’s always been a painter and he started pretty early on. Being around that influenced me to get into it. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been painting.”

V: How would you describe your artistic style?

JY: “My style is more abstract expressionist than anything else. My biggest influences would be Willem de Kooning and Pablo Picasso. While growing up, looking at the works of both these artists in particular, I’ve definitely got a lot of inspiration from them. How I discovered my style was by starting really early and putting a ton of time in from that early age, because I don’t think there’s another way for an artist to get a unique look without a very significant amount of time invested into the craft.”

V: What has balancing school, extracurriculars, and painting been like for you during college?

JY: “I’ve definitely had to make some sacrifices to be able to meet certain standards in each and because of that I’ve missed out on some things I’d like to be doing for fun, but in the end it always end up being more fulfilling. Seeing the progress I’ve made in each regard has been pretty exciting and I’m proud of it. Each of these things, I’ve put a lot into.”

V: Describe your experience organizing your first ever art show.

JY: “There was a good amount of planning that went into the art show. I really wanted to make sure there was enough work that I was happy with to hang in the show. I also knew going into it that I wanted to give a portion of my sales to a foundation for children, and I eventually came across the Carnegie Boys and Girls Club. It was really overwhelming transporting the paintings to and from the gallery, which was 32 in total, but luckily it all worked out and everything went according to plan.”

Photo courtesy of Joe Yonke

V: How was the art show itself? Was it what you expected it to be?

JY: “The show went really well. All my family was able to make it and there was people from all over Pittsburgh. The feedback was great and it was a really special night.”

V: How do you see your art career evolving once you leave Penn State?

JY: “I’m going to be painting and selling my work part-time and depending on which city I’m in, I’ll plan to be in a few galleries within that city, and potentially in other areas as well. Eventually, much later in my career, I’ll probably end up doing art full time.”

V: What would you tell someone who also wants to pursue a passion that isn’t directly related to their studies?

JY: “If it makes you happy just do it. You’re going to be a lot more spiritually sound as a person if you put time aside to do what you like to do.”

Interested in learning more about Yonke’s art? Check out his website to view more paintings, read his blog and commission work.


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