1. Throughout this month of May, we partnered with illustrator and art educator, Desiree Vaniecia, to produce exclusive digital wallpaper for you to download straight to your digital devices. I had the pleasure to speak with Desiree on her artistic style, where she gains her inspiration from, and what we can expect to see from her in 2019. 

    1. Check out our exclusive interview with Desiree Vaniecia below.
  2. 21N: What is your earliest memory of knowing you were meant to be an artist?

Desiree Vanieci: I knew I was meant to be an artist at the age of 26 when I was pregnant with my son. I had always created art before but it was more of a client service then it was for personal expression. However, when I was pregnant with my son, I knew I wanted to create art that I could be proud of — art that could tell stories on its own and that could be shared with him. 

Photo: Desiree Vaniecia

21N: In much of your illustrations, you depict Black excellence using a richness of acrylic on canvas. Can you describe why you choose to paint with acrylic?

DV: I chose acrylic paints because of accessibility. Like I previously said before, I didn’t think myself much of an artist, I just worked with what I had around. Lucky for me, my husband is a painter. I started to play around with his acrylics and I fell in love with them. As I progressed more into my works, I began modifying them in pursuit of my style. My style I am always trying to achieve is less is more, with acrylics especially black I tend to get results that are striking and moving.

21N: How do you define Black, female empowerment?

DV: For me, that is hard. I once read that black women die earlier than any race of women and that black women are most likely to die during childbirth. This had me thinking that what we go through, are things we always have to go through and instead of letting that defeat us or prevent us from living our lives to the fullest we feel a sense of obligation to be the one to rise above it. We have to be some many things for our families, for our jobs, and for our sanity. That’s where our empowerment comes from, it comes from within. Taking in everything that is going on in the world; all the negativity, all the obstacle and also all the positive and the love and empowering ourselves with it. 

Photo: Desiree Vaniecia

21N: In addition to being an illustrator and lettering artist, you also educate and teach art to children. In your opinion, why is it important to practice creative outlets no matter what age you are?

DV: Something I always tell my students when they are unwilling to try is, “Who told you that it was bad to try?” I feel like art helps people take risks. It allows people to put their all on materials and try to create something worth wild. Art is an amazing example of trial and error and everyone should have the opportunity to do it. 

21N: Where do you gain your inspiration from?

DV: My family is my inspiration. I grew up surrounded by women. My mother has five sisters and many cousins who were seen as my aunts growing up. My grandmother and my great grandmother both very much alive have always been around to tell me their stories. So the conversations that we have and the stories we tell each other are always things that I save in my sketchbook.

Photo: Desiree Vaniecia

21N: Who are some illustrators, painters, etc. that move you artistically? 

DV: There are so many but here are my top 3, Joonbug, KAWS and Kara Walker. An illustrator that has always moved me since I was in college has been Joonbug. I love the way he tells stories with his character designs and drawings. When we were in college together, I always noticed how hard he worked and I also admired that about him. I have loved KAWS for a while, he was my main inspiration for my style of painting. I remember seeing his exhibit at The Modern in Fort Worth Texas and thinking to myself, I want my paintings to be as sleek as his. Seeing his work only motivated me to try. Last is Kara Walker, I don’t remember when I learned about Kara Walker but I do know that it was when I was very young. I remember seeing her work and the stories that they were telling. It stuck with me. Out all three of these artists, she is the one who really artistically moved me in the direction I am currently at. 

21N: Are you currently working on any projects at the moment? What can we expect to see from you in 2019?

DV: I am also currently working on a series of paintings that are inspired by the women in my family, it’s called “Our Story” and it is extremely personal and different but I am so excited about it. I am also working on printmaking and doing smaller and intimate paintings using gouache. My main goal for 2019, however, is to eventually paint a mural. It has always been a dream since I started to really see myself as an artist to paint one of my women on the side of a building. 

Photo: Desiree Vaniecia

21N: Do you have any words of advice or encouragement for Black women striving to break into the art world?

DV: There is a place for you in the art world. There is a place for your narrative, there is a place for your art and there is a place for you to thrive. Don’t let the first negative comment you get, dictate what you do or create. If you love it, people will come. 

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