Artist: T a t y a n a F a z l a l i z a d e h

When I first saw Tatyana's work I was enlivened by the power of it. I love a concept or a dual meaning in artwork. Even if it's not readily available at first glance, a deeper meaning or twist of a visual makes my damn day. Tatyana delivers that again and again. Even when it's just a portrait the feels very surface and impenetrable, there's something to be said or even unsaid about that stoic veneer of subject's front. Her boldness with color taps you right between the eyes and says come closer or just think deeper, the choice is yours. 

Tell us about why you created the 'Colored Girls' poster and what does it mean to you?

"For Colored Girls" is a really important piece of work. The topics addressed in Ntozake Shange's choreopoem were relevant when she first wrote it, and they are still relevant today - it's a work that I know has personally transformed women's lives. Now, I'm a freelance illustrator working mostly with magazines. But I've been wanting to expand my portfolio by doing film posters. So, when I heard that they were making a film out of "For Colored Girls", I immediately thought to do a poster. The title alone evokes strong imagery and color; "Colored Girls", "Rainbow", "Suicide". I thought that the title made for a potentially beautiful poster. So, staying close to the original poster done by Paul Davis by using a portrait of a woman, and infusing the colors of the rainbow, I came up with the posters I have.
How did you discover your artistic ability?
Since I was a kid I've always kind of known that I housed some sort of artistic abilities. But it wasn't until late in my high school career that I sat down with a pencil and paper and completed a detailed rendering. After I finished that one drawing, I realized that visual art was what I really liked to do and had a talent for. So, I continued drawing. Eventually started painting. And I'm still painting today. 

How is your ethnicity a source of inspiration or strength in your work?
Or is it just sort of a default setting that has little bearing.
I think ethnicity in general inspires my work. I'm very interested in race relations, African-American history, my experiences with being a black woman, my environment, etc. I'm interested in exploring social and political issues that deal with race.  
Is being a woman artist different from being a man designer, do you find it liberating or challenging?
Is that question irrelevant?
Well, I've never been a man designer so it's a little hard to say! I have experienced a lot things in my life that happened to me specifically because I'm a woman. Those experiences greatly influence the art I create, subsequently influencing the jobs I go after. But I don't think there is a notable difference between men illustrators and women illustrators when it comes to creating good work and getting gigs. When it comes to the contemporary art scene, however, I do find it difficult as an exhibiting fine artist. The art scene has always been dominated by white males, so that world can be a challenge to break into as a woman. 
What aspect of your art do you really love? 
There are a few aspects of my art that I love. Some very small, some, like the general aspect of seeing an idea that existed solely in my mind manifest into an actual painting, are larger. I love the physical aspects of painting - the brushes, the paint, the smells, the messiness. I love being able to express an idea, or make a comment on a social issue with a painting. It's funny - painting and drawing is really just creating an illusion. A portrait can look realistic and 3-dimensional. But it's really just a combination of brush strokes on a flat surface. I love creating that illusion. 
What's the most challenging part of what you do?
Artistically, the most challenging part is coming up with solid paintings that marry a strong concept with a strong and to-the-point image. I often have topics that I want to comment on in a painting but, I have a hard time developing images that express the topic in a clean and simple design. Professionally, the most challenging part of being a freelance illustrator is the constant promotion and marketing of yourself. It's like running a small business. You have to stay busy, otherwise, you aren't eating. 
What's your dream job?
My dream job used to be illustrating the cover of Time magazine.That was a big thing for me when I started doing editorial illustration and I'd still love to do that. But as I've moved into different arenas with my fine art and illustration, my goals have branched out. (Also, the recent decline of print publication prompted me to reconsider my goals.) Now when I think of what my dream gig would be as an illustrator, I think of doing work for/with people I really admire - to have someone who I think is amazing in their own right seek me out for my art because they think I'm amazing too. Example: I would love to do album art for a favorite musician. Or, to do a collaborative piece with someone like Kara Walker.
Can you discuss any specifics about the process of creating a few of the pieces you sent.
Well, my process is pretty much the same for each illustration. Take "For Colored Girls...". I start out by doing loose sketches of ideas, deciding on one or two ideas to make the final illustration(s). Then I have to shoot reference pictures. Since I mostly paint portraits and figures, I have to find a model to pose for the pictures. For "For Colored Girls" I took a few photos of a friend of mine. I knew I wanted her to have a sad facial expression, and that I would crop her from the chest up. I chose the photo with the most interesting use of light and shadows. From there, I played around with the rainbow colors in Photoshop. I print the photos and paint from them. I use oil paint on canvas. I'll scan the painting to get a high resolution digital image of it to send to the client. 
Any advice for neophytes?

My advice for any beginning illustrator is to be persistent. Most of the jobs I've gotten have been from persistently contacting the same art directors over and over again. Be memorable and keep knocking on their door. Also, I think it's really important to keep a strong belief in your talent and your purpose as an artist. Don't lose that. 


T a t y a n a  F a z l a l i z a d e h 

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