What is the art community like where you live?
The art dynamic in Charlotte is a lot different than [where I’m from, Wilmington]. I came here to go to school and I ended up staying, because if I would have gone back home I wouldn’t have had the same support art wise. And after I graduated it took me two years to get back into art and get in touch with the art community here.
When you go to art school you either become an art teacher or go the fine art gallery route. They don’t teach you about the connections of a smaller art community. In Charlotte that community is very close-knit.
Was art your major?
Yes. An art major with a concentration in painting. So four years of painting.
Were your parents or your guardians cool with your major? A lot of our guardians, when we want to do anything in art or entertainment that doesn’t have a clear path to money, might not want us to pursue it.
My family is extremely supportive of my decision to go into art. Neither of my parents went to college so they didn’t have an expectation of what I should’ve be [doing there].
My mom has every single thing I’ve drawn since I was five. She came to every single one of shows, she drove three and half hours, even now she makes the same trip. She sends me pictures of myself all the time and I wake up to texts from her about how proud she is of me. I wouldn’t have made it this far had I not had that.
Having your loved ones support your vision is so motivating. Did you always know you were going to share your art with the world this way?
I had been drawing and doodling stuff since I was really little. I always knew art was my thing. In third grade my rooms had dimensions while everyone else’s were flat. I knew something was different.
How would you describe your painting style?
It took me a long time to develop my style. It’s kind of scribbled, because sometimes when I’m working I’m working through something. I used to try really hard to make everything perfect. To make everything look very smooth and very blended and have sharp edges. But life happened to me and I was like okay, this doesn’t have to be perfect. I can show people and it doesn’t have to be “perfect.”
Oftentimes when people are creating they might say that they’re working through stuff. Is painting therapeutic for you?
It’s something that I’ve been doing for so long that it’s become a part of who I am. It’s not something I do to get through something or get past something. And honestly if I’m extremely upset I don’t produce anything. It’s a completely different style, it looks different.
So I don’t paint to work through things, instead I paint to explain stuff. Which is why I can look back at a painting I did at a certain phase in my life and it will make sense.
It looks like it’s making sense, you have thousands of followers on your social media. Do you remember what painting you posted that set it off?
Yes! It was about eight months ago when I painted Lil’ Kim. I had painted Chance the Rapper and Cardi B before that, and I wasn’t getting the response I expected. So I decided to paint Lil Kim, and I finished it in one night. It was the one I thought I should’ve done in the beginning.
When I posted it a few days later it attracted hundreds of people. But I realized people really supported my work with the OutKast painting. That one got posted on The ShadeRoom and my followers went up to 2,000 and then more overnight.
Walk me through your process when you’re creating a piece.
The first step is starting, because I’ll think about a painting I want to do for days. And I have to be happy, I can’t be upset. But I’ll try to find pictures that have different perspectives, then I’ll draw it on a canvas and paint. Depending on my mood I could finish it one night or it could take me a month.
A lot of the paintings on your site and your social media are of these prominent Black, Hip-Hop figures. Why do you choose to paint these people?
It takes me back to my childhood. I remember Saturday morning when my mom woke me up to clean and music was playing. Aaliyah, Diddy - they remind me of my childhood, of a time when I was really happy, of me.
And being African-American, we all relate on a similar level when it comes to music. We all have the same vibe when we think of our childhood.
What advice would you give to a young artist?
Follow your dreams. If you don’t have the opportunity to go to art school, reach out to people. Artists I looked up to and would reach out to on Instagram would never respond to me, and now they follow me. Even if people don’t respond you have to keep pushing.
Also, say yes to everything. Don’t say yes forever and don’t say yes for free. Don’t say no when you don’t have any other options. In the beginning when I was being lazy I would look for every reason to say no, until one day saying yes repeatedly put me in a higher place.
And be your own cheerleader. You can blow up. It can be you.