URL IRL Resident Artist: Kwanzaa Edwards

 Kwanzaa Edwards is a mixed media artist and occupied our  URL IRL residency in March and April 2018. For her residency, Edwards help created the community mural for our "International Women's Day Yellow Hour" which was later debuted at the 2018 Spring craftHER Market. Below she discusses her personal influences and her process.

Kwanzaa Edwards is a mixed media artist and occupied our  URL IRL residency in March and April 2018. For her residency, Edwards help created the community mural for our "International Women's Day Yellow Hour" which was later debuted at the 2018 Spring craftHER Market. Below she discusses her personal influences and her process.

How would you describe your creative practice? Do you have any rituals or particular styles that you find inherent to your work?

A ritual I have is that before I start to work on a piece is that I have to get myself into a state of focus. I'm easily distracted when I have chores or other worries going on. Once I'm focused, I can really enjoy the making process. As for styles, I have a few motifs that I rotate through from piece to piece. It always keeps me interested in what I'm painting and adds consistency to my work.

What motivates you to pursue painting and mixed media, in particular?

Painting was one of the few mediums I really connected with growing up. The action of just pushing paint around is very soothing and keeps me in a calm mood. I am a firm believer that everyone should do something that makes you happy (as long as it's not harmful to your self and others), and painting gives me that happiness.  

How do you approach a new piece?

My approach varies from painting to painting. If there is a concept that I really want to hit home I'll plan though sketches or writing. Sometimes I'll just be flipping through my sketchbook and I'll find something from maybe months ago and just go with it. A few of my best works have been just me playing by ear and doing what feels right.  

Who/what influences your work?

My artistic influences are Audrey Kawasaki, James Jean, and Happy D, to name a few. I have tons more but these particular three are a continuous source of inspiration. Personal influences are a lot of the women in my family and my circle of female friends. I don't mention it often but the personalities of the ladies in my work are loosely based off of their personality types.

Your work incorporates themes of Afrofuturism themes. Could you expand on that?

To be honest, I've only recently made the comparison of my work to Afrofuturism.  For a long time I didn't even know that was what it was called. (Thanks, Internet!) I love the idea of combining African culture with technology and surrealist concepts because it's something that's not seen often enough in art, literature and pop-culture. I guess my draw to it comes from not feeling like you fit in anywhere in terms of what you like. The attraction to combining pop-surrealism elements with black culture creates that world I want to belong in.

 Kwanzaa Edwards in front of the craftHER Market Spring '18 community mural. Photo by 1778 Photographie

Kwanzaa Edwards in front of the craftHER Market Spring '18 community mural. Photo by 1778 Photographie

 Progress shots of Kwanzaa Edwards' mural, courtesy of the artist.

Progress shots of Kwanzaa Edwards' mural, courtesy of the artist.

 Progress shots of Kwanzaa Edwards' mural, courtesy of the artist.

Progress shots of Kwanzaa Edwards' mural, courtesy of the artist.

Tell us a bit about your experience painting the craftHER Market piece. It was a new thing for all of us!

It was so awesome! This was a first for me, so going into it was a bit daunting at first. I questioned every decision I made and had to do quite a bit of problem solving. I had issues even choosing the right paint. (Thank you to the guy at Lowe's for being so patient with me!)  I was so nervous up until the night I brought the canvas to the Women's Day event. Seeing the enthusiasm of the people painting with me made all the stress worth it. This was my largest piece to date, and it has motivated me to try more large pieces in the future.

When working, do you find yourself working in silence or with noise in the background? If noise, what kind of noise?

I prefer silence while listening to music or have something playing on Hulu—usually a sitcom I've watched a bunch of times or some mellow beats playlist on Spotify.  This has somewhat turned me into a night owl. Living with two roommates who are noisy gamers is really distracting even with headphones on.

Why do you find art important? Expression? Problem-solving? Tell us!

I think its vital for so many people. Finding an art piece that captures you is a great feeling. The best thing about art is that it can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be.  Don't like thinking? Just push paint around on a canvas. Want to create something hyper-realistic? Learn proportions and value. It's so available and can literally be anything.

Keep up with Kwanzaa Edwards on Instagram.