Juan Bernal Aguilar (1981) conocido como Tokebi (Korean: 도깨비), is a Guatemalan illustrator and university professor, who rose to popularity when his social media channel was discovered by Brann Dailor, drummer of the heavy metal band Mastodon who requested a design for the poster of their UK & Europe 2019 tour. Tokebi is known for his bright neon colors and quirky line work, mixing retro and sci-fi influences, and using skulls and skeletons as main characters.
Thanks to social media, most of Tokebi’s career has evolved online, with his artwork being sent as far as Australia, Netherlands, Argentina, Korea and Japan. Most of his work is in the music scene and is especially popular among rock bands, rappers and djs. He has created numerous CD and LP covers for bands around the world.
Tokebi was born in the city of Guatemala (Guatemala) in 1981. He studied in a Opus Dei Catholic school. His penchant for drawing skulls caused trouble at school, on several occasions nearly resulting in expulsion. It was at this time that his interest in rock music began. One of his defining moments was listening to heavy metal band Metallica for the first time at age seven. Since then, his taste in music has developed towards rockabilly music and instrumental rock. Later he would integrate himself into the music scene, collaborating with bands through his art. He moved to Chicago, United States in 2003 to pursue his dream of becoming a game developer, but a lack of economical resources pushed him to study multimedia design, which he applies in his visual art compositions. In 2010 he moved to Seoul, South Korea to study the language and immerse himself in the culture. During this period, he also completed a Master’s degree in Public Policy at the Korea Development Institute. Always an Asian devote, Tokebi traveled frequently to other parts of Asia to gather inspiration, but it was Japan and Korea, with their neon lights and vibrant culture that caught his attention. This, together with the old western culture of the United States, became the main inspiration for his work.
Professionally, Bernal Aguilar goes by the name of Tokebi, a Korean word that means “Goblin” and refers to a creature from Korean mythology. Tokebi is an ugly fiend that rewards good deeds and punishes those evil; to use an analogy, Tokebi rewards people with his art. His art career started in 2010, in the streets of Seoul, where he used to sell his prints. Later, in 2014 and 2015, he participated in an artistic space for international and Korean artists “Nothing Serious I” and “Nothing Serious II”. In 2018 he also participated in the exhibition “Etereo Estereo” held in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. However, most of his work is related to branding and music, especially to the rock scene, creating logos, flyers, CD and LP covers, LP sleeves, posters and video animations. Tokebi is also a professor, he taught Spanish and English while living in Korea, and is currently teaching Graphic Design, Multimedia and Illustration at the Istmo University in Guatemala.