The vibrant world of Joanna Pilarczyk Radecka


Over a decade ago, contemporary figurative painter Joanna Pilarczyk moved from her native country Poland to London, where the city’s multicultural energy inspired her to paint oil portraits of new acquaintances & friends within the artist community- the starting point for the vibrant paintings she’s made herself a name for ever since. Joanna has participated in numerous exhibitions in the UK & internationally, and her newest works were recently presented at StART Art Fair in Saatchi Gallery, London. Her latest pieces focus on leisure, intimacy & self-awareness, as well as the relationship with other people & nature. In our interview with Joanna, who holds a degree in Visual Art & Art Education, we talked about her beginnings in the arts, her love for paint and artists tools and visual art as a healing force. Enjoy!

Daydreaming, 2022
Oil on canvas, 76 x 76 cm


For those who don’t know you, who are you and how did you get into art, specifically into painting?

My adventure with art started very early. My parents realised that my sister and I were very creative so they signed us up for after-school art classes in the local community centre. In primary school, it was clear to me that I was going to go to Art College. I took every opportunity to learn more about art techniques. I was lucky to have great teachers from the very beginning up to University. I was so focused on art that I spent every summer taking part in Art Plein Air. It was a yearly summer trip that usually took place in Poland, Germany, and France. I spent my time on painting with other artists from different countries. Throughout my formative years, I was always fascinated by people and I focused my art on portraiture.

After moving to London over a decade ago, I fell in love with the city. Amazed and entranced by diverse cultures and the vibrant energy, I began to paint oil portraits of new acquaintances and friends within the artist community of North London.

Could you put into words how painting makes you feel?

The painting process makes me feel fulfilled, excited, and energetic. I wake up every day to challenge myself, learn something new, relax and put my mind in a different place. I enjoy the whole creative process, starting from the idea and building to a painting on canvas. Sometimes I feel frustrated, but often I am happy that I achieved something. Painting is a therapy, a form of meditation which helps me with my anxiety.

The painting process makes me feel fulfilled, excited, and energetic.

Lazy Weekend, 2021
Oil on canvas, 100 x 100 cm

Nowadays, many people venture into digital painting and drawing. What would you say analogue painting offers to you, compared to working digitally?

It’s a good question. I am having this conversation quite often with my partner who is a motion graphic artist and works mainly in digital mediums. Following his passion, I tried to learn more about digital techniques and programs. For me, it feels unnatural and less intuitive. I love traditional media and their physical appearance. Texture and thickness of the paper or canvas, various paints with their fluidness and smells. The tools like brushes, pens, and pencils. I can feel it all with my senses, touch them, and be inspired by their possibilities. Also, the scale of the large painting’s surface. I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the painting process while working on a small tablet.

I love traditional media and their physical appearance. Texture and thickness of the paper or canvas, various paints with their fluidness and smells.

Family, 2021
Oil on canvas, 100 x 100 cm

Please tell us a bit more about your creative process- from an idea to a finished painting.

Before I start working on a painting, I take a few photos of myself, or I arrange a photo shoot with my models – friends in various places such as parks or their immediate environment. I usually wait for the right light, which is very important in my paintings. I set up some space for photo shoots with various exciting fabrics and patterns I can find in my flat. My flat studio is full of plants and flowers, and I like to capture them in my paintings too. I take many photos of them at different times during the day to catch extra light and shades of green. Recently, while working on the paintings ‘Under the Blue Sky’ or ‘In red’, I arranged a suitable space for my models in the park on a sunny day. Or, while preparing to work on the ‘Serene’ double portrait, I took photos of my models in their flat. Based on the reference photos, I worked on the digital sketch for the elemental composition, which may change later during the painting process. When the project is ready, I start with a pencil sketch on the canvas before I start to paint.

I like to work with a bold and clean colour palette. I mainly use oils with the addition of fluorescent acrylics and spray paint. They add this unique summer vibe to my paintings. I don’t paint in a very realistic way; instead, I prefer to simplify every object and work with a block of colours. I start with light shades and then add contrast to find the right balance of light and shadow in the composition. The final paintings are very different from the reference photos. The colours are entirely changed. The painting process from start to finish takes around 2 – 3 weeks.

Under the Blue Sky, 2022
Oil on canvas, 100 x 100 cm
Serene, 2022
Oil on canvas, 100 x 100 cm

When reviewing your works, one can see that you transitioned from rather darker colours to very vibrant ones- was that something that you consciously wanted to try out or did it rather just happen?

It just happened:) I admired some artwork made by Jose Luis Cena, one of my favourite painters, and I got the idea to add some flushes of neon colours to my works. Then I decided to experiment more by mixing the neon acrylics with oils to achieve a more vivid palette, even for the flesh and skin tones. As a fan of street art, I wanted to add something extra by using kaleidoscopic spray paints and get more even coverage of the painting surface.

At some point, I got addicted to very bright, almost clashing colours. I enjoy finding a balance within colour chaos in my paintings.

Blue Velvet, 2022
Oil on canvas, 100 x 100 cm

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