Disclaimer: A few months ago, Jamie and I began working together in finding new Black artists to profile on the site. It was awesome to already have artists on my roster that I’ve come across through Instagram and Tumblr, but it was even better coming on to Twitter and finding a platform for us to find so many Black artists promoting their work on the social media tool we use so often. THAT is how Jamie CC’ed me to Takeia, and how Takeia ended up getting a, “I love your work! Can I feature you on Black Girl Nerds?” tweet.
There’s something so fun and yet dark about Takeia’s work. It’s such an amazing borderline that keeps me intrigued, and even more invested in the stories behind the art. And reading Takeia’s interview opened me up to so many artists (Black and otherwise) who have inspired her, in which I linked so generously, while also inspiring me, as well. You guys always tend to do that, and I’m not even an illustrator.
The power of art.
Enjoy the interview below!
Name, Age, Hometown: Takeia Marie, 29 yrs old, and from Coram, NY, but currently living in Bronx, NY.
When did you start drawing (or when did you begin to take drawing more seriously), what made you start drawing, and why do you continue?
I started drawing when I was about five or six years old, somewhere around there. I had these Looney Tunes coloring books and I remember I would trace the characters out of them. Then I started trying to draw them on my own. At first it was just something that I liked to do, but I began to take it more seriously a little later on when my cousin, who was also an artist, started showing me his drawings and comic books. It showed me that people draw for more than just the fun of it, that it’s possible to make a career out of it. I continued to draw because I wanted to create the worlds that I saw in my cousin’s comic books, or the anime and manga he would show me. It fascinated me that people could create entire worlds and stories from nothing, and I wanted to be able to do it too.
How would you describe your main (if you have many) drawing style?
I would say my main drawing style is comic book-ish with a touch of anime. That’s naturally what I do now, when I’m just drawing for me, because anime was such a huge influence on me growing up.
Do you practice discipline, where you draw even when you don’t feel like it, versus drawing when you want?
Keeping it 100, no I don’t; not all the time. There are times when I have to force myself to do it because of a deadline. But there are times when I go through periods of frustration where I’m drawing and things are not coming out right or the lines I’m putting down are not carrying the energy I want. So I’ll change gears creatively and work on something else, like a piece I’m writing or graphic design work I’m doing for somebody. While those things are still creative or artistic, it’s like I’m using a different part of my brain or something because it’s being creative in a different way. I find that it helps me to switch gears like that for a day or so and come back to drawing, more refreshed.
Where do you want to take your art, career wise (if it’s more than just a hobby for you)?
I’ve always wanted to tell my own stories and I think that’s the biggest goal for me, to produce my own work. I want to be in a position where I can help other people to achieve their goals as well.
What are some of your favorite pieces you’ve created? Your least favorite?
This is a funny question because everything is simultaneously my favorite and least favorite thing I’ve ever done. When I draw something, I think it’s so awesome when I’m finished and then after I’ve had time to sit with it and spot mistakes, I always end up seeing how it could be better. I think that’s just the process though – constantly applying what you learn to the next thing and the next thing.
Althought, for sentimental reasons, my favorite thing I’ve done is actually this set of comic books I would draw when I was younger called “Axel.” I was into Sonic The Hedgehog real heavy at the time and so every character was inspired by the Sonic comic books. I remember I would draw them and staple the pages together and give them to my younger brother to read. He was my first audience and I remember wanting to draw them just so he could read them. I’m a lot better now and I realize that they have all kinds of technical problems but those books represent something I created when I first fell in love with drawing comics.
What piece of illustration (whether it be a cartoon, a comic, an animated film, fanart, etc.) inspired you so much, your views on art took a turn for the better?
It had to be when I got my first taste of anime. After we moved to Long Island from the Bronx when I was young, we would always go back on weekends and my cousin would have new anime every time. It was before anime got really popular, and I think two of the first ones he showed me were Nausicaa (it was called Warriors of The Wind when I first saw it) and Vampire Hunter D. I never realized that you could animate something that had so much detail and make it look so cool. Ever since then it made me realize that art could be taken to levels I couldn’t even imagine at the time and it made me want to draw every day.Sites like Tumblr, Deviantart, and Instagram give artists a chance to share their art with a community of artists.
Did your confidence shift when you discovered other artists and their styles of drawing? If so, how do you stray from that mindset?
I think it used to be a blow to my confidence, for sure, to see other artists’ work that was light-years ahead of mine. This was especially the case when I was younger, and of the mindset that I had to be THE best artist. And not to say that having a competitive streak is necessarily a bad thing, but what I learned is that you’re setting yourself up for disappointment and failure when you aim to be the best, because your worth as an artist becomes dependent on what someone else is doing. Instead, you should aim to defeat yourself. Once I started thinking like that, it opened me up to being inspired by other artists and learning from their way of doing things.
Another thing that helps, I think, is looking back at my old work. I won’t lie, it makes me cringe to see some of my old stuff, but when I compare it to what I can do now and how much I’ve learned, it’s a reminder that I am getting better. I think most creative people are naturally hard on themselves when it comes to improvement, and comparing old work to the present is a visual reminder that you are improving, even when you can’t see it.
Social media has definitely helped me to get my work in front of more people. Even this interview came as a result of my being on Twitter, lol. It has also allowed me to network with other artists and creators and learn from their approach both artistically and business-wise.
How do you prep yourself for a drawing session?
I need a cup of tea and some good music. I tend to cater the music to the energy of what I’m drawing. So if I’m drawing a fight scene or action pose, for example, I might listen to something like Disturbed or Hip-Hop with aggressive beats. Most of the time I’ll throw on just instrumentals or Hip-Hop remixes of game music from guys like Raisi-K or Asis Galvin. Because it’s just the music without words, I’m able to just zone out and draw.
Sometimes I’ll warm up with a personal sketch to get the juices flowing. But if I already have an idea in mind of what I want to draw, like if I’m doing something for a client, I’ll start off by doing rough sketches of my ideas and try to figure things out. Whether I draw something traditionally or digitally depends on the work I’m doing and how I feel.
What struggles have you endured on your journey to becoming a better artist to your own standard?
Being told “no” A LOT. The hardest part is not allowing yourself to become completely discouraged by being told no time and time again. That’s why I admire artists who tell you their personal stories of how they got started or how they broke into whatever industry they were passionate about. Those stories are important because you start to realize that the common denominator is that they were all rejected over and over again, before they got that one “yes” that mattered.
I started my own small company called Atomic Latte Studio so that I could work with small businesses and individuals who are trying to build something from the ground up. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some good people along the way. While I feel I’m just getting started in the direction that I want to take it, I think that all those rejections I received helped me to get better as an artist, and forced me to figure out how to do things business-wise, in order to start building something of my own.
Who are a few artists you’ve made friends with online (or who’s work you admire from afar)?
So many, and for reasons other than art too. I’m a big fan of Khary Randolph and Sanford Greene both for their art and how they are as people. Whenever I see them at cons, they’re so helpful and giving with their knowledge of the industry and advice on how to improve as an artist.
I also know a writer named Robert Jeffrey who created a comic book called “Route 3,” and co-wrote another called Radio Free Amerika. All around cool guy, hard working, and writes some awesome stories. Shameless plug: if you haven’t already, you should go check out his work.
Some other artists whose work I really admire are Mshindo Kuumba, Shawn Alleyne, Shawna Mills, Afua Richardson, Chuck Collins (a past “Black Artists Collective,” member! Click for his interview HERE), Becky Cloonan, Fiona Staples, LeSean Thomas (another “Black Artists Collective,” member! Click for his interview HERE), and more.
Is there a person of color who you thoroughly admire for their eccentricity and artistic style of being?
It’s hard to name just one because there a lot of people of color who are doing some awesome things in comics right now. If I had to name one though, I would say LeSean Thomas, and actually it has less to do with his art and more to do with what he represented. Way before he started working on Boondocks, Korra, Cannon Busters, etc, I remember seeing a flash cartoon he did called Battle Seed. I was probably in my early teens at the time. It was heavily anime influenced, but the main character was a young black girl in high school. That was a huge deal for me at the time because I couldn’t remember seeing too many strong, black girl characters back then. She looked like me and she was being drawn by a black artist who clearly was inspired by anime the same way I was. It was the first time that I saw the gap bridged between anime and my own culture and it showed me that kind of fusion of influences was possible.
Do you aim to spread your artistic horizon, such as doing comics, graphic novels, or even animation?
My love has always been with comic books, since I was young, and I would like to be able to tell my own stories. I have branched off into doing other work for people, such as character designs, illustrations and some graphic design, but comics are what really inspire me.What message do you want your art to represent?
With any work that I do for myself, meaning stories that I write or comics that I draw, I want them to always get to the core of who we are as people, why we end up doing the things that we do, and how we end up dividing ourselves when we have more in common than we would like to believe. I recently read The Golden Theme by Brian McDonald and the idea that “we are all the same” is the core principle of his book and the thing that he believes is the common denominator in stories that resonate with us. I would like my art to represent that because I think that principle, as simple as it is, can change a lot of how we deal with each other for the better.
What’s the BEST advice, from experience, you can give to an aspiring artist and/or fan?
I would say to any aspiring artist that endurance is a huge component in whether you’ll be able to pursue your goals or not. Many times it’s even more important than talent, because there are plenty of super talented people that I’ve met who gave up on their goals simply because they didn’t have the thick-skin, confidence, and endurance to keep going even when things seemed grim. You will get told along the way that your work isn’t good enough, that you’ll never make it in the field you’re pursuing, that you’re not a right fit, that people of your background don’t make it, and any and all kinds of different things that amount to reasons why you should give up. At the end of the day, you have to be willing to invest in yourself. Endurance, confidence, and knowledge of self is important because you will face those days of self-doubt and days where it seems like everything is against you. You have to just know that your goals are attainable, even when others don’t, and even when the road there isn’t very clear.
Do you have any projects in the works that you’re okay with sharing?
I’m working on a comic called The Forgotten which is about a group of people, who are of their society’s lower class, that are shipped off to a Manhattan-sized city under the guise that they will be better able to prosper there. This place effectively becomes a prison for them. The people will fight back, but the comic will explore the price of revolution and what must be given up in order to fight for something that you believe in.