Finding Purpose on Concrete: Jonathan Todryk

In conversation with the concrete-painter on optimism, the intersection of God and creative materials, and why he never throws away a canvas.

Jonathan Todyrk started as a young-fervent- creative, but found himself having to rediscover his art medium, identity, and purpose after beginning a family. When he found the perfect canvas, everything changed.
After falling in love with art in high school, Jonathan turned to music as a creative practice. For ten years, he played with a worship band in churches, camps, and several cities—including Montreal, where he met his wife. After getting married, they moved to Illinois to raise a family. His music career morphed into an “ordinary” job, and creativity faded from his daily routines. This ushered Jonathan into asking a critical question: “What is my purpose?”
“I found myself really, really miserable,” he said. “I went through a long season of searching, praying, and wondering what my purpose is in life. I was struggling with depression.”
When his father gave him an old set of his paints, Jonathan felt that a creative hobby might help with his well-being. Day after day, he came home from work, put his two kids to bed, and painted in his garage. Painting became his escape—it spurred his creative spirit into life. Soon, the hobby began to feel more like a calling.
“I really started to see during that time that this is who God created me to be,” he said. “It’s been a coming to terms with who I am. I believe my work comes from an overflow of my intimacy with God.”
As Jonathan’s developed as an artist, he’s explored new materials and ideas of motion, expression, and depth. Stumbling upon acrylic-based concrete, he struck gold.
“It came from a desire to create more texture and depth in my work,” he said. “I wanted it to come off the canvas and really blur the lines between sculpture and in painting. I love the use of bright color, but I didn’t want to use it against a white background. When I found this material, it worked. It made sense for me. This is one thing I found on this journey that I can hold onto.”  
In Jonathan’s creative process, there is no “failure.” 
“To me, no work is a loss,” he said. “I’ve never thrown away a canvas. I never consider a painting ruined. I always believe there’s potential for a work—even if you hate it in the moment. It’s just a matter of committing to find that.”
Some pieces come together seamlessly—others take months or even years. But Jonathan insists that artists are optimists. They have the potential to see what isn’t yet there with clarity. He references the gospel as a blueprint of persistence.
“The story of the gospel is a story of not giving up on something,” he said. “God never gave up on us. Every person in existence is of immense value to God and never outside his reach. And he can restore anyone, even the most lost and broken of us. That’s a bigger picture of what my art represents.”
Jonathan sees his art as an extension of himself and a tool to reach others. This year, Jonathan’s started a full-time painting practice. Taking a step out in faith, he’s felt released, free to dream and create. And as he paints, he remembers how God sees potential in us and pursues it.
“God can restore anything,” he said. “The most lost and broken of us all, he can restore.”

Words: Daniel Sunkari and Bryan Ye-Chung
Images: Reed Kenney

Learn more at:

Additional readings

Victoria Park Explores the Connection Between Acting and Reflecting God's Image

We talk with Victoria about her start in Hollywood, her acting methodology, and trusting God in the highs and lows of the creative journey.

Jon Collins Explains Everything: An Interview with the Co-Founder of The Bible Project

We discuss the Portland-based studio, Jon's creative process, and why he doesn't think of himself as a storyteller.

Jae Jin Music

An interview with the musician, and his new song, "Heart Smiles".

Adaobi Ugoagu Is On A Mission

We talk with fashion blogger/model Adaobi Ugoagu about the intersection of fashion, art and justice.