Meet Artist, @kim_art_ee

Winnie Awa -

April 22, 2018

 

I have always been fascinated by artists - their innate ability to hold up a mirror to our society and speak with such honesty and vulnerability. Recently, I was reminded of this on seeing early work by an amazing artist, Kim Myers (@kim_art_ee). In a school project, she was questioning the representation of black women & the use of relaxers - I mean, she was 'WOKE' at the tender aged of 14!!! I needed to know more and pinged her to request a feature interview. 

WE RECENTLY SAW SOME AMAZING IMAGES YOU DREW AS A CHILD. HOW OLD WERE YOU WHEN YOU STARTED DRAWING?

I was drawing from around the age of 5. I was forever getting into trouble for drawing what I would consider murals (haha) on my nan and grandad’s garden wall. I remember my family being really enthusiastic about my little doodles throughout school in the same way that most parents obviously think their kids are amazing at everything. But I fully took it seriously and used to show off to everyone. My mum used to draw a lot with me as a kid and it was always either a little old lady with a top bun or a cat. So random but I loved it. Maybe there’s something in that actually because the top bun is now my go to style for sure.

WOW! DID YOU ALWAYS KNOW YOU WANTED TO BE AN ARTIST?

I always knew I wanted to do something creative. I definitely did very well in art at school and it felt pretty effortless because I enjoyed it. I couldn’t believe there were lessons where I wouldn’t get into trouble for chit-chatting throughout and listening to music. I used to visit the National Portrait Gallery a lot so I have always been interested in portraits. I remember my first portrait was a drawing of my dad when I was about 8. To be honest, he looked more like Bruce Forsyth so I kind of rolled with the latter and was very proud of what I had created of course! I didn't really take my art seriously until last year after a few (not so gentle) nudges from friends. In fact, it had been so long since I had done any art that I wasn't even confident that I could still draw. I surprised myself with the first piece I painted after 17 years which was a portrait of my son as a baby. It feels so good to be back at it.

WE WERE SURPRISED BUT ALSO AMAZED TO SEE SUCH INSIGHTFUL COMMENTS ON IDENTITY AND IMAGE (CERTAINLY FOR A 14 YEAR OLD). TELL US ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH HAIR, GROWING UP IN THE UK. 

Well, where do I start? My hair has forever been a huge part of my identity because it’s always been long and extremely thick. As a kid I couldn’t manage it alone and not many people aside from my mum could. In some ways it kept me out of trouble because if my hair wasn’t done, there was no sneaking out the house behind my mum’s back – trust me, I tried! I adored my hair but my difficulty trying to maintain it led to my mum agreeing to let me relax it when I was 13. I usually received lovely compliments everywhere I went but heaven forbid if I went to school with my hair out I would always get into a squabble because someone would say something rude or try to pull it to see if it’s real. The pulling was annoying. It happened in queues or if I was sat in front of someone on the bus. Quite intimidating really because it would be amongst whispers or giggles and whenever I turned around people would pretend nothing happened. I was always intrigued by people’s curiosity and given my experiences, looking back I guess it makes sense why hair was such a focus point for me.

 

"WHEN WE SEE AFRO-CARIBBEAN HAIR, WE OFTEN SEE IT RELAXED OR TREATED WITH SOME KIND OF CHEMICALS. IT IS FOR THIS REASON THAT I HAVE INCLUDED SOME EXAMPLES OF THE NATURAL APPROACH TO AFRO-CARIBBEAN HAIR. IT IS THIS KIND OF TEXTURE WHICH I HAVE ATTEMPTED TO GET IN THE PASTEL PICTURE IN THE PREVIOUS PAGE."

HAS THAT RELATIONSHIP CHANGED TODAY?

The biggest change with my hair is probably that I stopped relaxing it a good few years ago when someone asked me why I still do it. I found that I didn’t really know how to answer the question. It made me think about the love I had for my hair when it was natural and that actually I needed to change my perception of it being difficult to maintain. I didn't know what to expect because I hadn't really seen my hair natural since I was a child. When I started the transition, I continued to blow dry my hair straight until most of the relaxer had grown out, and after about 2-3 years I finally chopped the last bits off. I will never forget how amazingly liberating that felt.

I would say my relationship with my natural hair has developed through parenthood. My son has grown up around women fully embracing their hair and he definitely wanted to get involved. We roll everywhere with big puffy hairstyles like a little double act. He’s had many bold and varied styles ranging from a HIGH-high tops, cornrows, a Mohawk, plaits and a massive afro - all his choice! I now have a massive appreciation for what it’s like maintaining a child’s hair. I’ve realised through him that I’ve shown how proud I am to wear my crown, because he’s certainly proud to wear his. 

TALK US THROUGH YOUR HAIR ROUTINE?

I keep my routine very simple and my hair’s the healthiest it’s been for a long time so if it ain't broke.... I wash and condition it once a week because if I leave it any longer it gets ridiculously tangly. I leave it in plaits or twists for the first couple of days after washing and maybe throw a hair tie or scarf on or I pin it up. Then I utilise my braid out for the next day or two and when it’s time to comb it again it goes up in a bun of some sort until wash day. I wear a satin cap or scarf to bed but I really should treat myself to a satin pillow....and a TRIM. I’m shamefully terrible at getting myself to the hairdressers! I’ve probably been through most hair products and I’ve gotta pay homage to my JAM and pink moisturiser days. Ha! These days I use the Cantu range mostly but the product my hair absolutely loves the most is probably Big Hair, Whip Moisturising Butter.

WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
I love bright colours and I’m constantly captivated by the vibrancy of African and Caribbean culture in its many forms. One of my favourite artists is Kerry James Marshall as I love how his work shows the richness of black skin as the focal point of his art, surrounded by bold, popping colours. Also...life! I’m a firm believer of surrounding yourself with greatness. Ultimately my biggest inspiration is the fact that I have an amazing circle of positive people around me living their best lives every damn day.

YOU RECENTLY PAINTED ME. COULD YOU TELL US ABOUT THE PROCESS YOU FOLLOW WHEN YOU ARE CREATING A NEW COMMISSION?

The most important thing for me is that we build a good relationship. I feel that it’s just as important for the client to look back on the experience with fond memories, as it is for them to fall in love with the final piece. Also, the more I know about the type of character and style of the client, the more I can capture a true essence of that person within their portrait. So I start off by explaining a bit about me and how I work. I emphasise the importance of them being able to be free and comfortable with their ideas. A lot of the time I work from a photo so it’s really important for me to invest a good amount of time beforehand to ensure we’re both happy. For live drawings it’s imperative that the person is comfortable and at ease throughout, so I come armed with a banging playlist and all the best vibes. My clients and I have a sing along or we simply chat, putting the world to rights. Hopefully it helps. As you know, sitting still for hours is definitely not as easy as it sounds.

DO YOU EVER GET NERVOUS WHEN CREATING WORK FOR A NEW CLIENT? 

Hell yeah! I meditate and carry crystals in my bra. It helps to keep my grounded. I have a theatrical background so I am fairly used to pushing myself outside of my comfort zone but I always get nervous putting myself out there as I want all my work to be extra special. Self doubt can creep in easily but I give myself a good talking to. I’ve learnt that it’s always worth it for the end result. I hope my nerves didn’t rub off on you!

WHAT DOES ART MEAN TO YOU?

Art for me simply means freedom of expression. The process of creating any piece of art can take you through the motions as you start off really confident, then you begin to get frustrated with bits and start changing things. But by the end you feel really proud of yourself. It sounds crazy but I honestly I feel like every single piece that I have proudly created feels like another fluke. Painting or drawing can be a distraction from things and also a confidence booster. It's incredibly therapeutic for me. It takes you through a journey and I hope that shows in the end result. I absolutely love what I do.

 

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