Joi Fulton inspires happiness and nostalgia in her blend of 2D and 3D illustrations
We talk to the Chicago-based young artist on the vast expanse of her incredible talents, and marvel at her unwavering positive disposition.
- Joey Levenson
- 21 September 2021
Joi Fulton is one of those rare instances where an artist’s name matches up so exactly to their work, that it almost feels like a self-fulfilling prophecy. And by this, we mean to say that Joi’s work is simply joyful. The Chicago-based illustrator and animator creates 2D and 3D worlds alike that pop with graphic colours, dense texture, and a smiley face or two. It’s hard to look at Joi’s work and not feel overcome with a sense of juvenile happiness, something akin to watching your favourite cartoon television show, or nostalgically revisiting your favourite iconography as a child. “What I love about 2D illustration is just how limitless it is in what I can create,” Joi tells It’s Nice That. “And then to tie that into 3D and be able to bring my little characters and worlds into a three-dimensional space.” It’s true that Joi’s 2D and 3D works tie into each other with aesthetic ease, maintaining a cohesive vision throughout that feels inviting and exploratory for audiences. “The mediums both complement each other beautifully,” they add. Despite how confident and capable Joi’s work may seem, there is a remarkably greater sense of the unknown in mastering a 3D technique. “Most of the time with 3D I honestly feel like I have no idea what I’m doing,” she says. “But that’s really the fun part I feel like.”
“I’d definitely say I have a signature style,” Joi says. “It’s very bright but also nostalgic, and I think that resonates with a lot of people that come across my work.” One particular nostalgic reference that comes to mind in Joi’s work is that of the old cartoon Miffy, which Joi remarks as something she’s been told before. “It’s one of my favourite shows so I was very happy to hear that,” she says. However, it’s not just the factor of nostalgia that creates Joi’s signature style, nor is it solely responsible for her litany of fans across social media. “Another visual indicator of my work is the simple shapes that I tend to use, and that comes from my time working with young kids and making sure my work is digestible for them,” she explains. “And so with having these recognisable shapes, it makes it more enjoyable for them and also easy for them to draw.” This experience has certainly influenced Joi’s clean, elegant, and fun style – but there is an undeniable refined and mature talent in the young artist which often shines through.
“My process for my work honestly varies from piece to piece,” Joi explains on how an idea comes to life. “But in general I will get a random spark of an idea or see something either online or out and about and just get immediate inspiration from it.” Most of the time, the young artist jumps into the flow of things and starts working even without a sketch. She lets everything from “music, television, friends, and even old work” inspire her ideas. It’s a process that has worked out for Joi time and time again, right up to her recent feature in the new Giphy book, Frame by Frame. “It definitely was a blast to work on,” Joi confirms to us. Joi was brought on to the project after making an array of fun quarantine GIFs back in June of 2020, when they were only just getting started with the 3D art world. “There are definitely some little goofs in there, but I love to see it because I can very much see the growth,” they tell us. “The theme for the book was ‘get animated,’ and dancing is a pretty animated activity so I made my little dude his own mini disco party!”
Of course, Joi’s talents don’t stop on the digital screen. She’s recently endeavoured into rugs, giving her illustrations a new life. “It definitely wasn’t planned to start making rugs, but at the beginning of quarantine, along with everyone else, I was hooked on the idea of making my own rug,” she explains. “And then within a few weeks of watching tutorials, I had a tufting gun already on the way in the mail.” It’s a body-intensive labour of love for Joi, but she tells us she’s pivoted to yet another venture as her parents currently want the tufting gun for themselves. “I really would love to make some blind box figures of some of my 3D buddies at some point,” she says. “I also really want to hone into animation more to maybe make little shorts or something with my characters Dainty and Bobby, but I’m honestly open to any fun opportunities that come my way.”
Joi Fulton: Dainty & Bobby (Copyright © Joi Fulton 2021)
About the Author
Joey is a freelance design, arts and culture writer based in London. They were part of the It’s Nice That team as editorial assistant in 2021, after graduating from King’s College, London. Previously, Joey worked as a writer for numerous fashion and art publications, such as HERO Magazine, Dazed, and Candy Transversal.