Interview with Joanna Concejo for Toi Art Gallery: Creativity and the importance of paying attention.

August 07, 2023

Interview with Joanna Concejo for Toi Art Gallery: Creativity and the importance of paying attention.


Interview with Joanna Concejo for Toi Art Gallery.

Joanna Concejo was born in 1971 in Slupsk in Poland. She graduated in 1998 at the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznan. Since 1994 she moved to Paris, France, where she lives and works. Her work won numerous awards and recognitions all over the world; to name some of them: n 2004 she was selected for the Illustrators Exhibition of Children's Book Fair in Bologna and in 2004 won the Calabria Incantata "Abracalabria" Altomonte (Italy) prize. Her work was also selected for the Biennial of Illustration "Ilustrarte" Barreiro (Portugal) in 2005, 2009 and 2013. She participated in solo and group exhibitions in Europe and Asia.

Joanna's pencil drawings are like everyday magic. She captures ordinary scenes with meticulous detail, revealing the deeper significance in everyday things. Her art prompts us to uncover hidden meanings and beautiful details that we frequently miss. 

This is an english translation of an original interview in Spanish.

  1. What are you working on now?

I am working on a text by a French author - Gilles Baum. It will be an illustrated album. I’m still at the beginning of the book. I’ve only done . Lots of work is missing. We do not yet know how the book will evolve. It is always so. The book is formed while I’m doing it. It’s a bit like life: it’s what happens while I’m making plans.

  1. How did you meet Olga Tokarczuk?

We have known each other for many years. We were both invited to the Paris Book Hall. We had a dinner at the Polish Embassy, and we met there. We both went out at the same time to smoke a cigarette, and I went to greet her and congratulate her for her books that I liked so much. But she also knew my books, and that was a surprise for me. We talked for a few minutes, that’s all. It was so. Then we met again and exchanged emails. And one day Olga sent me a text...

Joanna Concejo and Olga Tokarczuk


  1. What is the connection between your work and that of Olga?

I think there could be several connections between my work as an illustrator and that of Olga, as a writer. Especially a connection of similar sensitivities. She writes, and I draw, but they’re just different media. In fact, both of us are trying to convey the things that are important to us. It would be all that results from our human condition, the loneliness, the difficulties of living, feeling, time passing... These are the things that matter to everyone. I recognize myself a lot in Olga’s literary work-- it excites me and touches me very deeply.

Olga Tokarczuk toi art gallery


  1. What is your work process to illustrate a book?

The process can be different from one book to another. But it is true that I always start with reading the text :) I read it several times, and then I forget it. I carry it inside of me and just hope it’s the right time to start. I always need something I can grasp: an idea, a meaningful object that will help me develop the narrative, an old letter that invites me to draw on it... I never know what it will be until I find it. And then I start with the sketches, drawing in my notebook. Without drawing, I cannot invent anything. I must draw and look at what comes out to continue developing my ideas. Gradually, I go to the final drawings to find the tone of the book, to see if my ideas work. One illustration always leads me to another.

I need a good amount of time to process, experiment, and be able to reflect and let myself be carried by what I discover when I’m drawing.

I always find the illustrations while I’m working on it. I can make plans, but the book is always different from what I could have planned. The book is what happens while I’m making plans.

joanna Concejo for Toi Art Gallery

joanna concejo for toi art gallery

joanna concejo for toi art gallery

  1. Choose an illustrated book and tell us why.

 It’s hard to choose just one book, but well, I’ll choose “Quand les groseilles seront mûres.” This book, like others I have written and illustrated, is born from a need to express things. It was like a very strong desire to find a way for that thing that could no longer stay within me. The need to give it light and that is something I can see and share with others, with the hope to cast away pain and fear. It may be that writing books is a way for me to find relief and give comfort to that little girl that I once was.

joanna concejo toi art gallery


  1. I love how you tell in an interview the creative process between “your hand and your head”, it seems to me that putting the importance and enjoyment in the doing – or the process – and not the result is part of a work philosophy that is clearly perceived in your drawings, in the drawing and textures of paper and pencil, and in the details in the characters or the scene – I am thinking of Family Dinner, for example, – tell us more about how you see the work process. If you don’t have a specific project that organizes your work, do you have any methods to work/inspirate yourself?

I have no special method. Every book is different, and I have to adapt home every time I start a new book. The thing that I do is to try to be always available and receptive to everything that can happen at any moment around me so that I can capture things that can help me make the book. I could say I never know what will inspire me because inspiration is not in a special place, with special people, seeing special things. In fact, I don’t like the word “inspiration”, I prefer to say attention. If you pay attention, you don’t need anything else. I function like that.

joanna concejo toi art gallery

joanna concejo toi art gallery

joanna concejo toi art gallery


  1. Some of your drawings are a "micro-story": Renard et le garçon, Landscape, among others. In some even let us see the color palette with which you experiment. (Mouse, for example). What does this detail add to your work?

I like those details. I like to stop seeing a little of what you normally do not see because it is part of the process of looking for ideas and usually always remains in the notebook. I don’t know how to explain why these things happen. I just like to do so. I think that’s a reason enough to do it, isn’t it? :) It doesn’t have a special meaning, it’s just a way to enjoy the moment when I’m drawing, a game, one way to share the joy of trying out things and just leave them here so that others can see them.

mouse by joanna concejo toi art gallery

Mouse, limited edition print.

Renard et le garçon joanna concejo toi art gallery

Renard et le garçon, limited edition print.

family dinner joanna concejo toi art gallery

Family Dinner, limited edition print

  1. Who is M? (Come il mare)

M, within the book M come il mare, can be several things. I wrote the text when all the illustrations were already finished. I wrote it in Polish, as always when I have to write something. And in Polish many important things for me begin with the letter M. Above all, the sea (morze), mother (mama), love (milos). My children’s names also start with the letter M. I wrote the text thinking about my children, especially my son. I draw my son in that book. I made this book for him. I wanted to express the things that for me, his mother, are difficult to say. Maybe in the drawings I can better demonstrate my love for them as a mother.

joanna concejo toi art gallery

joanna concejo toi art gallery


  1. What are you reading?

Well, I am reading a lot of things. But now I am reading a book by Anda Rottenberg « Prosze bardzo ». Anda Rottenberg is a well-known author in Poland. The book is autobiographical. It talks about difficult relationships, her search for identity, the things she has had to lose...

joanna concejo toi art gallery

Karina Miller

Discover more wonderful limited edition prints by Joanna here

Read more about Joanna's work here











Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.