Art with Magical Realism
Your work has been featured in galleries across the USA, including scholarly works. What is your ethos behind each illustration?
Sheeba Maya: I’ve been making art my entire life. My parents were also artists so art as a lifestyle and an interest in cultural exposure is written in my DNA.
It’s definitely woven into my psyche. It’s so ingrained into how I process information and express thoughts. Filtering my life through art really sharpens my senses as a visionary with an undying drive to actualize what my mind can conceive. I am and always have been seriously self-motivated to learn and grow.
Along with the passion to develop creativity came a desire to share my process and final work. This started a conversation between myself and whoever was looking. I reflect often on this overwhelming amount of feedback and put that together with what I learn about people and the world around me.
So now I’m also developing empathy for humanity through art and art-making. This is especially useful when making art for clients and I have to reach into someone else’s mind and spirit to translate and create THEIR vision that will have an impact and meet a goal.
Your work has been featured on Shondaland as well. What did that feel like?
Sheeba Maya: Amazing! Anytime my art is featured on a large platform like that it’s a proud moment. Getting into ImagineFX was also a big-time goal that felt great. I like getting notes from other artists saying that they were inspired to push themselves creatively or professionally because they saw my work featured somewhere. It all reminds and affirms me that my work is purposeful.
What would you describe your style as?
Sheeba Maya: Generally I specialize in portraits, people, and characters. Thematically I would call it Fantasy Realism. My work is considered part of the Afrofuturism/Black Speculative Arts Movement.
“When I read a story, I start to imagine it playing out in my mind. Like a daydream or a mind movie. The moment that best describes the story is thejump-offconcept. From there I can develop that concept or create alternative ideas by asking myself questions and exploring the “what if ?”. These are jotted down as thumbnail sketches.”
Do you think we still have a long way to go before black women artists do not have to work twice as hard to get the recognition they deserve?
Sheeba Maya: If this question is still being asked, then, yes! It is 2021 and we’re still celebrating the first Black female ‘this or ‘that’. The real question is who do we allow to validate that recognition?
What kind of difficulties have you faced as a black woman in order to become a successful artist and reach where you are today?
Sheeba Maya: One problem is this overall ever-present assumption that you lack anything of value or quality. With white men, it’s the opposite. So Black women have to devote more energy to proving otherwise.
What has your experience with Wacom been like?
Sheeba Maya: Simply amazing! I had my eyes set on them as a client for years. Seeing my art on their platform for the first time was a true thrill. I’m always excited for opportunities to create artwork featuring Black people being powerful and fantastical and designed to be enjoyed by anyone regardless of gender, race, or sexual identity.
What software do you use to create your illustrations?
Sheeba Maya: I switch between Procreate and Photoshop as my programs of expertise.
What was your experience while visiting countless Comic Cons and creating art for the Nigerian film industry?
Sheeba Maya: I am very eager for comic conventions of all kinds to return. I seriously miss meeting fans, creators, and other industry pros to exchange ideas, inspiration, and support. It wasn’t just the opportunity to sell my art. I participated in panels on everything from gender & race to ideation and concept development. I also hosted workshops on fantasy portraits, color theory, ethnicity, and anatomy. and digital painting techniques.
What is the first thing you do when you receive a brief? Describe your process
Sheeba Maya: The brief is like a little story. And when I read a story, I start to imagine it playing out in my mind. Like a daydream or a mind movie. The moment that best describes the story is the ‘jump off’ concept. From there I can develop that concept or create alternative ideas by asking myself questions and exploring the ‘what if’.
These are jotted down as thumbnail sketches. Thumbnails and related notes/questions are presented for feedback until the concept is worked out and confirmed. From there research for references or related info is performed and the artwork can be fully drawn and then painted to full detail.
What are some of the most interesting pieces you have worked on so far? And who has been your best client to work with?
Sheeba Maya: One experience that stands out is working with actress Erica Alexander (Living Single, Queen Sugar, Black Lightning). She reached out to me to create illustrative portraits of Michelle Obama and Maxine Waters. The illustrations appeared alongside articles written by Joy Reid (MSNBC) and Alexander herself in a series called MoonRakers featured on medium.com. When Joy Reid mentioned my art, her article mentioned Michelle Obama in the same tweet!
Another great experience was being hired by comic company Sorghum and Spear to paint collaborating actress Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek OTS) as one of their characters. When they shared a pic of her holding my artwork of her it was a seriously proud moment.
All of the women mentioned are personal heroes and have inspired me to discover, develop, and deliver my greatest potential. These were big-time honors!
What are your plans for the future?
Sheeba Maya: I am very eager for comic conventions of all kinds to return. I seriously miss meeting fans, creators, and other pros. My life and work were like a playland full of visionary and imaginative people that created and sustained it. Since the pandemic, I’ve been indulging in a lot of personal art that explores new aspects of familiar themes like magic, witchcraft and voodoo, Erotica, and cosplay. I’ve been enjoying all this in isolation but now I’m itching to share with the public all these new expressions.
I’ll also be offering art talks, lectures, and classes virtually in the coming year. It’s funny how social distancing actually pushed me towards becoming more accessible. Now that virtual learning and events are becoming the norm, I’m better able to offer these things to people who would like to work together but are not local to NY.
These preliminaries settled, he did not care to put off any longer the execution of his design, urged on to it by the thought of all the world was losing by his delay, seeing what wrongs he intended to right, grievances to redress, injustices to repair, abuses to remove, and duties to discharge.