Q&A: Cienna Smith incorporates realistic and surreal elements into her bold illustrations


Name: Cienna Black-smith

Age: 22

Reception base: New York, New York State

You pay: Colombia & Curacao

What was your journey to become an illustrator?

I paint and draw from a young age. I am inspired by the beauty of the Caribbean island of Curacao, from where my parents immigrated to the United States. I started seriously studying illustration in high school and decided to come to New York City to pursue an animation specialization at the School of Visual Arts. Unfortunately, I was never able to complete this degree due to financial instability and a sudden decline in my health. After I came to a more stable place in my life, I decided to focus more on pursuing illustration. I have been fortunate enough to work as a freelance illustrator for two years and in an animation studio for a year.

Muse? Muses?

I always say my main muse is painting women who look like family. I tend to focus on themes like femininity, spirituality, sanity, and folklore.

What makes an illustration vivid?

For me, color is one of the most important things that can make or break a painting. I try to make sure that the colors in my artwork don’t just complement the composition, but also bring an increased level of energy and surreal quality to the artwork. I think by mixing realistic elements, surreal elements, punchy colors and bold shapes, the illustrations really stand out.

Favorite place of inspiration:

Honestly, the streets and the people of New York are a huge inspiration to me. I also like spending time in nature, observing different types of flora and landscapes. My own dreams also tend to inspire me quite often.

What music do you listen to illustrating?

I listen to all types of music, mostly anything that makes me feel calm and focused. Some of my favorite artists that I listen to are SZA, Solange, Mitski, Willow and Kali Uchis.

Unmissable place of creation:

In my apartment, in my room of course! My room is a bit of an oasis of everything. I’m going to light an incense stick and brew a nice cup of tea and this is the perfect place to be creative.

What does Latin culture mean to you at home?

Living in Washington Heights, New York, Latin culture is everywhere! Even when I’m not with my family, I still hear Latin music everyday from my neighborhood and eat mostly Latin food.

Unmissable visual references:

Plants, Fashion, Nature and the City.

What’s the next step for you?

Ideally, I would like to continue to experiment and develop. I think this is the perfect time in my life to branch out into a million different art forms such as wall work, packaging design, graphic design all!

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