Interview: How Renee Antoinette Conveys Faith and Spirituality Through Art
People get into art for different reasons. Some develop an early love for it, which never dies; others get carried away with a paintbrush one day and produce a masterpiece. For artist and illustrator, Renee Antoinette, it was less a question of following her a dream, and more a want to do something creative.
As a born storyteller, she’s used her drawing skills to spread knowledge, and educate others, taking care to ensure that her work is pleasing on the eye. Her interests are as broad as her stylistic choices and, with that, she’s been able to produce an eclectic array of work conveying different moods and periods in time.
She’s one of several female artists contributing to our 2pac – Changes exhibition next week, along with Olivia Odiwe and Isabelle Laight, and we’re very lucky to have her on-board. But, while we can’t let you in on her big submission for the day, we can tell you a little bit more about her as a person. This is her story:
At what age did you first discover your passion for art and illustration?
I first discovered my passion for art and illustration around the age of 7. I was a very strange and creative child who wanted to do and be everything thing on the creative careers spectrum. I wanted to be a singer, an actress, a composer (I was in love with classical music), an archaeologist and a writer/storyteller.
What fueled my passion for Art was my love of anime. Growing up, I used to watch Anime cartoons like Sailor Moon and Dragonball Z, and these inspired me to want to become an animator initially. I loved the idea of telling stories through animation, and I wanted my name in the credits. I wanted to tell stories and have people watch them and know that I was the one who created it.
To develop my drawing skills to achieve this goal, I would learn how to draw anime characters from my favourite shows. I remember I used to read “How to draw manga characters” books and built up a collection of un-returned manga books from the library for study and entertainment purposes.
In secondary school, my style took on a more fine art approach, largely because of my art teacher, whom I had the upmost respect for. He steered me into that direction, as he commented plenty of times that manga wasn’t an art form. He was so wrong but I learned a lot from him.
After I left school, I went on to do an Art and Design course in college, and was at a crossroads when choosing what BA course to study as I wanted to move away from fine art and more into illustration/animation. I felt like this was my time to actually pursue something that I loved doing and unconsciously I was rebelling against my art teacher. I chose to do an Illustration and Visual Communication course which exposed me to various tools for animation such as stop motion and after effects.
Ha, if only your art teacher could see you now! Describe your creative process to us…
It’s difficult to say. Whenever I create work, I don’t really know what will be produced. I usually sit in front of my computer with my Wacom pen in-hand, Photoshop or Corel Painter open and listen to music for inspiration, and that tends to guide me to create aesthetically appealing pieces that subtly reflect who I am.
With my illustrations, it takes me a while to decide what to draw, and sometimes I ask myself: why am I drawing this? Or, what message am I trying to convey? I always try to reference spirituality, nature and the black figure in my pieces.
I tend to go off on a tangent at first. Once I see how the image coming along, I make a stylistic of how I want it to look. Sometimes I adopt a similar palette to French painter, Andre Derain; other times I go minimalist. I always take reference from a photo of my subjects whenever I do portraits and play around with paint brush tools to see what works well with blending selected colours for facial features and skin tones.
How did you come to doing your God Series and what was the thinking behind it?
It was Logic’s new album Everybody that influenced me to create the God’s Gift collection, along with music by J.Cole, Kendrick, Chance the Rapper and Kid Cudi. They all reference faith and spirituality in their work, and how having a higher power has helped them reach their goals and support others in the process.
I thought about how these artists use their gifts to lead and educate others by spreading knowledge and talking about their life experiences. I wanted to do the same in my art, which is why I’ve placed halos behind each figure to symbolize their status as saints, or messengers from God.
I’m not very vocal so I wanted my work to speak volumes, and enable people to hear what I hear in music, take it in and discover that a god force is behind the creation of this world and how we connect within it. Negative or positive, it doesn’t matter, as the energy we put out to the universe is what we get back through people and situations.
Music is a very powerful tool that influences the masses and music nowadays focuses on the material and superficial aspects of life. For me personally, I take care in the music I listen to; I hardly watch television and the news. I think if we want to change our own reality, we need to reflect, look inside oneself and go against our ego. That was my thinking behind God’s Gift.and
Which big events/exhibitions have you taken part in down the years?
I’ve showcased my work about four times this year and counting – twice with my university. In April this year I had the opportunity to be a part of a group exhibition consisting of 29 other female artists, called the Society and Culture exhibition, which was a collaboration between Meet the Artists and Creative Debuts. It was nice to have my history of black hair collages showcased with other über talented individuals.
Also, I was recently involved in Creative Debuts July First Thursdays, where I showcased my Gods Gift series. It’s amazing what a year can do, I never imagined exhibiting my work in front of an audience much less having my work up on display, and this is only the beginning.
Awesome. Sounds like you’ve been on the road quite a bit. What direction do you see your illustration moving in in the future?
With my illustrations, I am constantly developing my approach in terms of trying out different styles and techniques like expressionism, vector drawings, collages etc. But I’ve always wanted to do animation, and that remains my goal, so I think I’ll go back to focusing on that. I have a few projects to do with moving images which I’ll be working on over the coming months, but I won’t speak on them, not yet anyway.