Venturing into Joseph Yonke’s apartment reveals his walls covered head to toe in paintings, with at least one half-finished canvas hanging out in the open.
Penn State student Yonke has been selling his art since he was a teenager and has its own website to present it.
“Since I can remember, [I’ve been making art]said Yonke (junior publicity). “I grew up painting with my grandfather, who is a professional painter… So obviously he was a big influence on me when it came to painters, but we do quite different things.”
Although Yonke was inspired by his grandfather Robert Yonke, their artistic styles don’t have much in common. Joseph found his own style, which he calls “abstract expressionism”.
“Joseph took [painting] like a very young boy,” Robert said. “He used to hang around our garage in Maryland and cheat [around with] stuff, so we gave him stuff… He went his own way, and I think that’s why his stuff is so good.
Although he attributes some of his inspiration to his grandfather and artist Pablo Picasso, Robert said Joseph’s artistic skills were entirely intuitive.
“He’s able to sit anywhere and get his things out, and he’s not afraid to work in front of people,” Robert said. “I remember he was a very young kid…he would sit there on a bench and do sketches.”
Cory Bonnet, who hired Joseph to work as an intern at New Vision Studio in Pittsburgh, said he was constantly impressed by Joseph’s enthusiasm and ambition.
“I would say my first impression of Joseph is that he is an extremely hard worker. He’s dedicated, which is always a great trait to have when you’re starting out at an entry level,” Bonnet said. “There was never a single complaint, just enthusiasm.”
Robert also said that art collectors have been interested in Joseph’s art since he was little.
“When [Joseph] was a young man, he helped me if I organized an art seminar. He would have chores to do, and because of that he got a lot of older fans,” Robert said. “They love Joseph, and they were interested in his art. For that [day], they are either followers or buyers. That’s his artistic career in a nutshell.
Although Joseph painted hundreds of artworks, he said his favorite work was “Mandola Man”, which depicts a man playing the mandola. A performance at a music festival inspired the painting, Joseph said.
“Some [paintings] don’t have a story behind them, but this one has one, which is why I particularly like it,” Joseph said.
And, according to Joseph, most artists gain exposure by word of mouth, “especially in the early years.”
“[I am] pretty well known here in particular,” Joseph said. “The main goal is to try to get my name out in bigger areas.”
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