art:. karina parris, the tea lounge, brooklyn, new york

If her art spoke up for her, it might call her admission of being “shy by nature” a falsity.

She draws out loud, in colors that remind you of morning oatmeal and the browning of toast. For a girl who never thought she’d be an artist, a happy accident freed her and her limbs from the mental straight jacket that is in fact the thought she can now only imagine.

This is the liberated artist Karina Parris.

smdlr: Tell me about who you are.

Karina Parris: I’m a regular girl who lies to draw.  I wasn’t raised to be an artist but I’ve always doodled.  I wasn’t supposed to be an artist though, maybe a secretary, doctor or lawyer but I never really wanted to do that. Then I was working as waitress, model and a bartender when about four years ago I broke my finger in a random accident.

I’m right handed and thank God it wasn’t my right hand.  But I needed my left hand to manipulate the paper in a way. I couldn’t really draw comfortably. But, I had a lot of time on my hands and said ‘let me try and draw and create something.” And, when I did, I said, “Wow, you see, you have a gift.”  Now, I have lovely earthlings.

s: Its amazing that out of an impairment that you discovered the artistic you.

kp: Oh, I’m all about it now. Its’ been a year that I’ve been in business, having art in coffee shops and doing greeting cards on Etsy.

s: What helped you get to that point besides knowing that you had something.

kp: It was my friends and family encouraging me and saying you can draw, you can actually do something, Then, I just needed to figure out what to do with it and how I wanted to express myself.

s: How do you choose to express yourself?

kp: I love drawing girls, our hair, our color of skin, our shapes, I love girly stuff and stuff that is about girls.  I love men too and I love my boyfriend but I think guys are boring.  Luckily there are girls out there that like what I like.

s: You can include me in those girls. When I saw your art at The Tea Lounge, it arrested me in a good way. I couldn’t stop looking at these colorful figures – a whole diaspora of color and scope.

kp: I’m glad. I try to draw girls of different colors usually the eyes and necks are the same. The limbs are long, skinny but different shapes of body. The skin color and hair are what’s different,, they are like alien girls, lovely earthlings.

s: How did you come to that idea of alien yet earthlings.

kp: I knew I wanted to draw a character. I started off with animals but got bored with it. I had to research animals and it was something that I didn’t know about so it felt like more work, than fun. I started off with animals but I got bored with it. I had to research animals it was something that I didn’t know enough about. Felt more work than fun. Then I said ok just do what you like. I’ve heard that a lot, especially from Oprah. If nothing, at least your happy with what you’ve done.

I didn’t want to draw regular girls or pinups, I wanted it to be not so human, so I kept playing with it until I got something I liked, then I was like hair. I’m a black girl and I was like I’m going to draw all kinds of girls with hair.

s: sounds  like an aha-hair moment.

kp: And as more and people said they liked it, I felt it could work. I just try to draw women of color that didn’t just say something tribal or super ethnic. There is  an us in the middle who aren’t either of those things. My family is from Panama, I grew up in Atlanta, I’m smart, not super duper religious and I’ve never taken any art classes.  But being raised around all brothers, and getting with my girls and doing girly things inspires what I do and I usually draw the girls around me.

s: What is your actual artistic process?

kp: For an 8 x10 it happens more late at night and it’s just me. I love magazines – all kinds. I love photography too. It’s those images that people can capture, I translate into my artwork. There are a lot of poses that I’ll draw that are interesting, subtle and not too sexual and Ill make my own backgrounds. Usually I’ll look at magazines and steal poses.

The greeting cards are something more structured, every season is different. So the process is different. I wake up go walk the dog and get a coffee, start thinking and start thinking about lines. I’ll just start drawing and get on it, I’ll try to bang out three a day. Sometimes I’ll do it and hate all three. I notice that there’s art work I don’t like and people do, they’ll love what I hate.

s: How do you color?

kp: I’m not a huge fan of color. I like a little bit of color. The black I use is Indian black ink, then I go back and color it in with marker. From when I was little, I loved drawing and then coloring and going back to fill it in. So, it starts with pencil, I go back over with ink and then certain places I color it in with the marker.  There are a lot of nudes, brown and khaki, you know we come in all colors.

s: Yes, we do.  Given that, what is the value of bringing -in your instance- such color by way of art to the coffee shop space?

kp: I never understood people who didn’t have art up to me it feels like an unfinished space, like a blank piece of paper up. I do understand the industrial look, but for how long?  Different types of art gives a coffee shop a different feel and no artist is the same. Well, no one is exactly the same. I don’t understand why people wouldn’t put it up.  Some people aren’t interested in art and some feel its too much work.

For me, there’s nothing better than seeing a brick wall with art on it.  It’s like you put your heart out there and someone says I like your heart.

For more of Ms. Parris’ are visit here.


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