Black Female Educator + Colorful Painter

Three words that describe you?

Ingenuitive. Detailed. Focused.

What's your first artistic memory?

The first thing that comes to mind is an advertisement I made when I was like 6 or 7 years old for this kids clothing store that my mom would take me to. It was called Ruby’s. I don’t remember how it came to be but they printed my drawing on their postcards for the store. UGH, I wonder if my mom still has one...

What was your biggest influence (artistic or other) growing up? Were there any Afrofuturists or female artists that has inspired you?

My biggest influence has been my great grandmother. She did everything; crotchet, needlework, painting, the works. I always LOVED visiting her because she’d have all of these projects and crafts around. Her house was magical to me and it didn’t hurt that she had horses in her backyard!

What's the first step in your creative process?

My creative process usually starts on my phone. I don’t work in sketchbooks, I keep digital libraries of reference images and articles I’ve found online that stir something in me.

When / How / Where do you get inspired?

I really enjoy going to libraries and looking in books. It’s a zen time for me to study old works, find new things, and be nostalgic.

Women seem to be the primary subject in your work. Tell us more.

I’m a black woman and that’s what I know best. I choose to focus primarily on us because in 2019 we are still undervalued and misrepresented. I want my work to be part of the catalyst in changing that.

Ytasha Womack, author of "Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy" states that Afrofuturism differs from science fiction in that it “engages the feminine aspect of consciousness and looks at intuitive and feelings as a source of knowledge.” How is feminine energy (healing, intuition, emotion) translated through your work?

It just comes naturally. It’s intuitive and I believe it’s a result of being raised in a predominantly femme family of southern women. So when I create, I enjoy using florals and bows because as strong as we are, we’re also soft and sensitive.

Womack also notes that imagination is a core tenet of Afrofuturism, which she connects to our sense of agency and the resilience of the human spirit. How is being a female creator connected to your sense of personal power?

Through my artwork I’ve been able to separate myself from situations that didn’t fulfill me and live on my own terms doing what I love. That’s powerful.

What’s your favorite piece you’ve made? A piece you’ll never let go of?

I painted a portrait of Solange a few years back when A Seat at the Table came out and I vowed I would only part with it to gift to her.

What are you working on right now? Any exciting upcoming projects?

Something very exciting is on the horizon but you’ll just have to follow me @erinleannworks to see.

Your fantasized collaboration (anyone dead or alive)?

Kerry James Marshall

What would you imagine your last words to be?

Keep looking beautiful.

Erin Mitchell is based in Chicago.
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