How did you get your start in Art?
I got started in art when I was a child. In elementary school is when I knew I had a real interest in it.
How would you describe your artistic style?
To be honest, I don't really think I have a style, even though everyone else thinks so. I experiment a lot and try new things, so my style to me is being able to combine many styles in one. Most people excel in one or two styles that they've mastered. I haven't mastered any just yet, but I'm good at many.
Where do you draw your artistic inspiration?
I draw artistic inspiration mostly from life. Things going on around me inspire me. My environment, family life, work, current events, and my people. Black people are all things that you can see from looking at my artwork.
What was the first artwork you ever sold?
I actually first sold artwork when I was 18 years old. I used to do hand painted apparel, t-shirts, jeans, hats, shoes, and things like that. But the first time I sold a painting was actually in 2013 at Art Walk in Jacksonville. I think it was an abstract piece, with silhouettes of birds and different shades of green paint. After that I was hooked. I never thought my work was good enough to sell before that. I love proving myself wrong.
Detail some of your notable (or just plain fun) projects or collections.
I have fun with all my projects, but I think some of my most notable pieces dealt with issues of Black people in America. I like to touch on things that are going on around us, similar to how a journalist writes articles on what's going on in the world, I just draw it. One of my biggest pieces of 2016 was one I did called "Please". It depicted a young boy with his hands clasped in the praying position. In the painting you see a side profile of his face and the top half of his hands. That painting showed a child who has gone through a lot at a young age. From poverty and growing up with only one parent around, to seeing young Black boys being gunned down on the news and being scared to go out, I imagine this is how many of our children must feel. The inspiration to this piece comes from my own upbringing as well. I can remember having my hands clasped asking "Please" many times.
What has been the most memorable response(s) to your work?
It's crazy, but I never thought of myself as being a great artist, even to this day, I’m just alright. But everyone sees me as this motivational, inspirational, and prolific artist. I get messages via social media every day of people telling me how I inspire(d) them, or how I motivated them to start creating again, how they look up to me as an artist, and how I'm their favorite artist. It's an amazing feeling to know that your imagination can have such a major effect on people. People really feel my art. I think it's because I keep it real and raw, when you see my art I want you to think, not just see a nice picture.
What are some of the challenges you have faced as an artist?
My biggest challenges as an artist are being consistent, pushing myself to be more creative, and time management. These are all things I plan on improving on in 2017.
Who is your favorite artist? Why?
I don't think I have one favorite artist; however there are many artists whom I admire. One of them is an artist named Alim Smith (@Yesterdaynite). I've been following Alim for quite some time and the thing I like most about him as an artist is his creativity and willingness to try new things.
On upcoming projects:
I just completed my first children's book titled, "Glonda's Hair!” It's a short story inspired by my oldest daughter about her natural hair and all the things it can do. It is due to come out this spring and I can't wait to share it with the world. I also have a joint art exhibition coming up in February with two amazing artist, and it's going to be epic! Right now I'm working on a new collection of illustrations to use in my next book, a book of poetry.
On dream project:
My dream project would be to do a piece for the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC)! It would be an honor to be among such talented Black artists.
What is one motto/phrase/mantra you live your life by?
"Give 'em something great to be like" is my mantra!
My dad said this to me some years ago and I’ve been doing my best to live up to it ever since.
For more on this artist, please follow on social media @cooli_ras_art