Jonathon Romain In Honor of Black History Month our February artist of the month is Jonathon Romain from Peoria. Romain is a local artist who travels to various cities and states each month in hopes of catching an art show.

 How long have you been an artist or when did you start? I have been a professional artist for over 20 years. As far back as I can remember I’ve loved creating artistically. I won my first art award at 15 and a year later first place, at a Chicago city-wide arts competition called the Buckingham Fountain Art Fair in 1983. The prize was a check for $150. I had all the signs early on that I was destined to be an artist, but I never thought I was good enough when I compared my work to professional artists. Consequently, I only halfheartedly played around with it.

 Was there a single incident or moment when you realized this was your passion and if so, would you tell us about it? After going to Triton College to pick up my grades I was accepted to Bradley University the following year.0123456 I got caught up in the whole drug craze of the ’80’s  and was arrested for selling at the end of my junior year. The trial lasted up until two weeks before my graduation, when I was convicted. I was able to bond out in order to graduate but was sentenced to 15 years a couple weeks after graduation.While in prison, I reacquainted myself with art and it was there that I decided, half out of love and half out of being destitute, I would pursue art. With a sense of desperation after my release I threw myself into the art arena head first. Coming out of prison pursing art was one of the most challenging things I ever did and worth all the sacrifices I ever made.

 my brothers keeper 20x30 10x15What opportunities does Illinois present to local Illinois artists? There are so many opportunities for artists to express themselves in Illinois from the different art shows and competitions to the public art programs.As a kid growing up in Illinois, I was able to participate through school and state-funded programs in various art shows. Looking back over the course of my life, it was those experiences that brought me so much pride and joy. Winning awards for my artistic ability was the only claim to fame I had as a child growing up in the inner city. 

What is your favorite medium to work in? Although I play around with most mediums, I tend to prefer oils because of the flexibility and forgiveness it affords.

Where can people view or purchase your work? My art can be seen on my web page at and my Facebook page at romainart.

What artist inspires you and why? I have so many artists that inspire me for different reasons; Dean Mitchell, Kevin A. Williams, Frank Morrison, Kehinde Wiley, Ted Ellis, Kadir Nelson, Theaster Gates and I can go on and on. Each of these artists are individuals that I have met and watched grow at some point or another. They represent excellence at every level of the art world. Some have made it in the mainstream and others have created a way out of no way at all. I admire their hustle, creativity and brilliance. I’m honored to know that at some point in my life I shared the same air as these individuals and so many more.

 DSC8535What do you like about Illinois? The thing I like about Illinois from an artist’s perspective is its central location to the rest of the country. I drive to a different city and state every month for a show of some sort. In traveling throughout the state there's so much character to absorb and incorporate in my art. From barns to subways there is so much visual stimulation. 

What does being able to live and work in Illinois mean to you? After leaving Chicago and moving back to Peoria I realized that a smaller town was better for my art career because of the cost of living. Illinois has a lot of small towns with affordable homes. As an artist I decided I wanted to put all of my resources into my art and not rent to someone else. So now I'm based in Illinois but sell my art all over the country.