The following is a guest post by Carolyn McMurry, whose artwork appeared in Issue 11 of Typehouse.
Scrolling on Instagram can make you feel obsolete about your skills. I know I did, but I also knew I wasn’t so much obsolete as I was on a different level artistically. I mean, I have a lot to do, I have a family to take care of, school, work; so drawing wasn’t exactly my first priority. Not to mention, I just don’t have the time to devote to a heavily detailed work. However, I saw what abilities I wanted to accomplish in those Instagram artists. I mean, I really, really wanted to get there. So I decided to make time and learn from them instead.
This particular series, “Pride, Excellence & Beauty,” was inspired by many of those works on social media and the techniques that were used to create them. I have also currently been very aware and inspired by my culture and natural hair movement. This embraces our skin, our hair, our bodies, and our pride. I wanted to show that in my work. For the longest, I didn’t have any real meaning behind most of my art. Portraits have always been my thing but they were just random photos from the internet of my favorite celebrities. I took a new direction. Still portraits, but they were more culturally aware with opportunities to improve on texture, shading, and detail.
In a way, I wanted to give myself some form of a foundation. I asked myself, What about my art do I want to change, improve? I didn’t want my outlines to be too heavily defined, so I picked up different textured pencils and experimented. I didn’t realize there were so many shades that resulted in different outcomes. Graphite, soft and dark charcoal, layering…I can’t believe it took me this long to figure out why a No.2 pencil is a No.2 pencil. I studied the shading, blending, posture, and detail of many other artists (@ts_abe is my favorite). I worked on curls and the texture of hair, because curls are a significant part of the culture; and our hair is much of our pride in itself. Not to mention, curls are a challenge all their own. Shaping the face and its features properly was a major goal. To think, all this time and I still hadn’t gotten it right. In my defense, using a reference was simple. I was great at that. But that wasn’t the case for my freehand style. Freestyle was the struggle.
I challenged myself to draw differently on purpose to get away from what I had always done, while still expressing the beauty of what I had always known. Thus, the pride was born. Pride in my culture, pride in my work, and pride in my choice to learn rather than envy. This series was a part of my coming out, artistically and as a new woman who refuses to let others dictate how I express myself. If I took a risk with nudity, I told myself not to care what someone else might say. In fact, I was going to freehand the same type of photos until I was satisfied with my improvement. So really, “Pride, Excellence, and Beauty” was reflective of my own personal journey and where I’m trying to go. Hopefully, people can be inspired by this change of life artistically and personally.