Name: Arielle Wilkins, artistically known as Brothas N’ Sistas
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Bio: Brothas N’ Sistas spawned from the mind of Arielle Wilkins, a New York-based artist/graphic designer who was raised in the heart of Texas. Inspired by her father’s performing arts background, she quickly immersed herself in music and naturally visual arts.
Color, creativity and black pride intertwine in the magical mystery ride that is Brothas N' Sistas. Arielle's work effortlessly notes the evolution of the portrait painting tradition and makes anyone who views her pieces smile. Initially, her designs were inspired by the 1970’s funk trend, but as she honed her skills Brothas N’ Sistas developed into a company with the mission to introduce urban culture in a positive light. Her characters exist in a world more bold and colorful than our own. Where natural hair roams free and strong yet relaxed/confident/ personas come to the forefront. Arielle's work is meant to prompt a wide spectrum of untapped exposure and celebration of black culture. The evolution of the modern woman and man, curls and bountiful afros on deck.
Brothas N’ Sistas believes the lack of representation for the urban culture is a shame. For that reason, it’s dedicated to delivering the quality design of culturally relevant products to the unfortunate souls who have yet to discover the awesomeness.
Describe your experience as a current artist.
I have been in the arts for as long as I can remember. Being from a creative family in Houston, Texas, I was exposed to the visual arts at a very young age. I remember going to art galleries when I was six years old. My dad even enrolled me in art lessons at seven where I created tiny clay sculptures and also did my first block printing. I attended an arts Middle School, an arts High School, the School of Visual Arts and obtained a degree in Graphic Design here in New York. I am a 24/7 creative, but my full-time is as a Graphic Designer in corporate agency while my passion (my art) is part-time. My purpose is to create and to express myself. I use it as a way to escape reality. Hopefully, soon I can make my art my full-time career.
What was your biggest challenge in pursuing art and how did you overcome it?
My first challenge and a challenge that I am still trying to work through is balancing my full-time with my art career. I am lucky enough to have my full-time in the creative field, but working in a corporate office it is really draining.
I look forward to coming home and working on my art, but I am always too tired and discourage to even work on something that I am passionate about. But my art is something that I care about, so I push through because I know the result will be worth it.
The second most significant challenge is getting the work and name out there. I am not great with marketing, and I am terrible with social media. But with advice from friends who works in communications as well as research, I am slowly building up a following.
Describe your biggest milestone or project achieved since pursuing your art.
The biggest milestone I have to say would be vending at Afro Punk in 2016. I use to keep my identity hidden with my work, and solely just posted my illustrations online mainly because of my anxiety when it comes to being in spot light (I like to be behind the scenes). I realized I had to take that leap to further my progress as an artist and just so happen I decided to choose one of the biggest festivals to introduce myself. I have to say it was an amazing experience, and it really boosted my confidence and I met really wonderful people during the experience. People were coming up to me saying they have seen my work but never knew who was behind it. I also realize how much hard work goes into putting up such a display. Having to produce and manufacture all my pieces, having to figure out the team and branding of the space, and having a full-time job, I never slept. I actually came into work the day after only to have my coworkers send me home to rest. From that, I learned to balance my time and figure out a timeline for production, so that I won’t be working until the last minute. I also managed to find really great manufactures that can create the items that I need.
How does your personal style and identity translate into your artwork?
My work is very quirky and expressive. That is generally my personality. The topics of some of my illustrations come from me just daydreaming (I do that a lot). I love anything that is eccentric and surreal, which I try and reflect with my work.
What is one thing that makes your art unique?
What makes my art unique is how that I removed main features such as eyes and nose only leaving the lips which are slightly bigger than standard size. I see that as my signature. Sometimes I include all the features, but I have more fun with only having the lips and having that be expressive.
What is your favorite art technique and why?
My favorite art technique is acrylic paints on wood. I love the smoothness of the wood surfaces and the textures that come from applying paint. I also go towards using black outlines and bright colors. I see the black outlines as a way to structure and control my ideas, and the bright colors to soothe and bring a calming happy aura.
How do you maintain your mental health and inspiration?
To keep myself from going crazy, I started back painting and using that source as my meditation. Being focused, zoned out, painting out my frustrations helps so much, and seeing the outcome is fantastic. As for inspiration, I follow a lot of other artist, websites, attend galleries, and I collect art magazines.
What is some advice or tips you would give to a fellow BGWP interested in furthering their art goals?
Advice 1: Go with your gut. I get so many suggestions on what to paint next, what to produce next, which direction to take my brand. Some were terrific suggestions, but there were some that didn’t align with where I was going. So I pick and choose which advice to pursue, knowing that in the end, I have the final decision.
Advice 2: Do not compare yourself to others. There are so many wonderful artists out there, that I would get apprehensive that my work wasn’t up to par. But then I realize everyone has that gem that makes their work unique so I just keep doing me.
Advice 3: Chill out. I still tell myself that every day. I have so many ideas that I want to pursue. That I would start and never finish because I come up with a new idea. So there will be ten projects just slowly progressing. I realize that I will continue to come up with ideas, but I am mapping out timelines to complete them and writing down the new ideas to come back to them later. It also helps that I have a manager to refocus my brain. Ha!
Advice 4: Go for it! Eliminate the what ifs and go after what you want. There is no wrong way to create art. Art is expressive; art is unique, it is part of your identity. So don’t question opinions that aren’t even there, go and get messy.
What is next for you?
My primary focus is to have my passion become my full-time job. I love doing this and just having to wake up and create things I genuinely care for will be my happiness. Secondly, I would like to get my items into more stores. Lastly, I would love to produce toys. I already have the prototypes but now need the funding. I would love to see my characters on shelves and in households.
What does being a "black girl who paints" means to you?
It means a lot, mainly because we are in a society that doesn’t see the magic that we have. It also really brings me happiness to see people’s reactions to my work. I have seen so many kids excited; their smiles encourage me to create more work.