A person’s art truly represents their values, culture, ideas and individuality. Antoni Roko Ivezaj, better known as Tony Roko, certainly puts his heart and soul into his work. Roko, who identifies himself as an expressive painter focusing on portraits and figures, is a local Detroit artist quickly making a name for himself.
Roko’s impressive list of accolades already includes commissioned work for global superstar Lady Gaga and comedian Jay Leno. Now he is focusing on Detroit, the city he grew up near in a tightly-knit community. Roko’s latest project is creating the newly redesigned labels for Atwater Brewery.
“Atwater was brewing before it was cool, probably before it was even a good idea. When you have a grass roots start, you grow as you go,” Roko said. “They’ve obviously come a long way since ‘brewing in a bathtub.’ Their packaging needed to reflect the fact they’ve grown into a company that is now in 28 states and two countries. They wanted the imagery to allure people. Their product is up there with the best and they wanted a brand that would expose them to a wider market.”
Roko will be responsible for 26 labels, and that number could possibly grow. So far, labels have been released for the following beers: Going Steady IPA, Corktown RYE IPA, Tunnel Ram Imperial Bock and Cash For Gold. Roko said his connection to Atwater for the project was quite organic.
“We were hanging out at Ye Olde Saloon, our favorite watering hole, when then manager Donna Giles asked if I would be willing to create a label to help celebrate their 40th anniversary party. Coincidentally, it came at a time when Atwater was already entertaining a rebrand. I believe the one off label had such a positive response that we became a natural fit for the project.”
On a personal level, Roko draws his inspirations from many of the great painters before him. He cites Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec as artists that have influenced him. He also notes that today’s theater, music and fashion play a role, as well as the city of Detroit.
“I still find Detroit to be one of the most exhilarating places I’ve ever been. It always feels fresh here. The excitement of our comeback aside, Detroit’s architecture alone could inspire an artist of any medium for a lifetime. I believe the texture and wonderment of our great city is in every piece I create.”
In addition to the labels that have already been released, Roko has 10 more “in the bag.” He expects the Atwater commission to take him through the better part of 2016. He is continually evolving and developing his own personal body of work as well. You can check him out at www.artofroko.com or at the LaFontsee Gallery in Grand Rapids, Mich.