Artist Spotlight Series: Paul Yanko

My latest art crush is one to watch. The colorful works of this artist are mesmerizing to say the least filled with texture and movement. Enjoy getting to know

Paul Yanko

Greenville, SC

working in studio

What is your training? 

I received a B.F.A. in Illustration from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 1991 and an M.F.A. in Painting from Kent State University in 1995. My wife Enid Williams, who is also a painter,


and I taught in the NE Ohio region and based our studio in downtown Akron, OH for ten years. We relocated to Greenville, SC in 2004 after I accepted a full-time teaching position at The South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities.


What inspires you and your designs?


One of my most longstanding sources of inspiration comes from the didactic materials that I encountered in my mother’s kindergarten classroom. Her classroom was always a bright, colorful and stimulating environment for students to learn in. The room was large and fully stocked with oversized building sets, art supplies, large posters, and puzzles. The upper level classrooms seemed so bland, almost underwhelming, by comparison.

 Puzzle 3

The large, chunky crayons were my favorite item – they were made by the Prang company as part of their Kindograph line. These crayons were denser than Crayolas and designed with a hexagonal profile that prevented them from rolling. Their size and weight made the color seem even deeper and more saturated, almost like cakes of encaustic.


I am not a very dedicated collector of anything in particular, but I do maintain a collection of learning sets that address basic mathematical concepts like fractional divisions and geometric shapes.

 Puzzle 1

My set of influences expanded greatly while pursuing my undergraduate and graduate degrees in college to include art historical influences as well as: textile designs, stained glass, and mechanical objects. Most recently, I have been thinking about a proportional system, called Modulor, developed by Le Corbusier.


Puzzle 2 

What is your favorite piece? 

I would feel inclined to select a mixed media work on panel dating to 2013 titled “Frame Angle Module”. It measures 36 x 36 and represents a synthesis of ideas about color and surface that I have been addressing for roughly 20 years. In recent months, I have found myself returning to reference specific passages within this piece. Acting like a template, it continues to inform considerations regarding color and surface that I am incorporating into current work.

Frame Angle Module  3

How has your area influenced your work?

In many ways my current work is very consistent with the body of work that I developed while living in NE Ohio. In fact, when I moved to Greenville in 2004, I was at the midpoint of a series that I was working on. Since that time, I would cite broader environmental conditions like quality of light and seasonal changes as exerting an influence on features of my work.

Mainly, I feel very fortunate to have been able to relocate to a region that supports an expanding gallery network. Over the years I have been able to secure gallery affiliations, which have allowed me to continue building an audience for my work.


 What is your favorite restaurant in Greenville?

The Korean BBQ In Greenville has been a longtime favorite of mine. Interestingly, I am not a weekly regular and usually plan our visits around invented causes for celebration like: “Finally reached the end of the semester” or “I just finished mulching the beds and I don’t want to cook.”

I could go on and on singing the praises of this restaurant but I think one reviewer on Yelp summed it up best:

“Don’t let the gas station outside fool you; this place is worth it.”

Also, they use steel chopsticks.

Favorite restaurant


What is your favorite cocktail?


I like simple mixes like 7 and 7 that fall under the highball category. There is a nostalgic quality to these cocktails that reminds me of the kind of drinks ordered at the upscale restaurants and neighborhood taverns that populated my hometown. Of course, the selection of the highball glass itself is critical and we have a great collection of mid-century Russel Wright Eclipse tumblers.


How do you balance personal life and work?


It is truly a juggling act between teaching, home life and studio work and thankfully I have a dog to walk in the mornings. Walking helps me to center and prioritize the day’s upcoming activities. Ideally, I like to begin working in the studio by 8 o’clock and work until 4 or 5 in the afternoon. Oftentimes work spills into the weekend, but I try to set aside some time for gardening, extended walks (possibly a hike), and doting on my Jeep. My approach to structuring time has always been very workmanlike and has   in no doubt been shaped through years of teaching and working in the trades.


Dream trip?

Visiting Japan. I am equally interested in immersing myself in the culture of modern, sprawling cities like Tokyo as much as learning about traditional culture through visiting cities like Kyoto.


Dream commission?

Actually, I think that I am working on my dream commission right now. I recently received a painting commission through the George Gallery in Charleston, SC that has very favorable terms and general conditions. Parameters like timetable, imagery, and selection of palette are very flexible, which makes it easier to work on a commissioned piece alongside other ongoing projects in the studio.



Your favorite host / hostess gift to give?

A carefully selected bottle of wine.


Who is your style icon?

Designers like Charles and Ray Eames and artists like Jorge Pardo and Yayoi Kusama. The expansiveness of their thinking and ability to move between various disciplines such as: painting, sculpture, architecture and design is inspiring to me.

Your favorite up and coming artist?

I am interested in what artist collectives like Brooklyn-based Bruce High Quality Foundation are doing. Their ethos, commentary on the art world, and recent foray into offering classes has been worth following up on.


 What is your most treasured possession?

In 1996 I collaborated with Enid on a small mixed media drawing to be included in our first exhibition out of graduate school titled “Searching the Grid”. We started by using a pen to establish a precise grid over a 12 x 12 area. Next we took turns embellishing marks and shapes that each other made within each of the cells. The end result appears almost like a sample board of random marks, yet remains cohesive. We haven’t collaborated on a piece since that time but have often exhibited together in group exhibitions.


What are you reading?

My usual mix of fiction and non-fiction. Currently, I am reading “Sign Painters” by Faythe Levine and Sam Macon, with a forward by Ed Rucha. Other times I might by reading a book on some aspect of automotive history or searching the NY Times Book Review for ideas for fiction selections.


What are you listening to?

I am listening to a little bit of everything these days. My taste in music is very eclectic and ranges from 80’s new wave to classical jazz to classical Indian. I stream a radio station out of LA called KCRW Eclectic that seems to linger the longest on my iPod.

I think my selections are partially based on the stage of completion that my paintings are in. The music either slows down or stops entirely when work is finishing up.


What are your favorite blogs / publications?


Studio 24/7 by textile artist Terry Jarrard-Dimond


and The Raving Artist Wife of the Ranting Economist by Katya Cohen. There is also an interesting website called “Bad at Sports” that covers a broad range of art related topics.

 I am also a magazine junkie and keep Car & Driver, JK- a jeep magazine, Motor Trend, Art in America and Harper’s on my nightstand. Basically, I’ll read anything in magazine form.


Enjoy seeing a few of my favorite works by Paul Yanko


Detail of a work…





















Add Paul’s work to my ever growing list of art wants.

John Baldessari Painting

Paul is showing at The George Gallery in Charleston. See available works HERE.  I cannot wait to go see them for myself during The Southern C Summit. 

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