In the past 3 months, many of you all have heard me sing high praises over all things PAUL LEWIN. The brotha is BRILLIANT. I have never seen an artist capture science fiction, Afrikaan inheritance, and Caribbean folklore, all at the SAME TIME, lol. Every single piece of work from him that I’ve ever seen has left me speechless. One day i will have my home filled to the brim with his pieces. Conversations brew from artwork like his, trust me. Sexy parties filled with schmoozing come from artwork like his. He is golden, and it was more than an honor for me to give him this interview. I was too busy gawking at his websites and facebook pages for months, and AfroPunk beat me to it, lol. Come along this journey, and get to know the greatness…
In many of your covers, AFRIKAAN culture is prominent. It’s wonderful to see how serious you take details and incorporate them into the clothing, tribal marks, etc.::
I have always had a thing for detail. I enjoy getting lost inside my work and focusing on detail can feel very similar to meditating. I always liked when I saw a piece of art and every time I looked at it I saw something new.
Who are some of the artists that have inspired your style? Whose artwork did you look up to growing up?::
My father was my first artistic influence. He loved to build things on his days off. He mostly worked with wood. His biggest project was a large scale train set that was the size of our entire back porch, with wooden bridges, mountains made from plaster, and a very elaborate tunnel system. He worked on it for 8 years before it was destroyed by Hurricane Andrew in 92. His attention to detail and his drive were a big inspiration to me. He also loved to collect art. He had paintings and sculptures from many different cultures. Probably the most influential of these was the Egyptian artifacts. To this day the sculpture of Nefertiti is my favorite piece of artwork. I also grew up on a steady diet of tv, sci-fi, and fantasy movies. Aliens (part 2!) is probably my favorite sci-fi of all time. The artist who deigned the alien for those movies, H.R. Giger, was one of my biggest inspirations early on. And somewhere mixed in all that was my love for graffiti.
Your art SCREAMS mixtures of Science Fiction, SteamPunk, folklore, with a pint of Afrofuturism depending on the piece. Each one is like reading a short story. I honestly don’t have a favorite because I have fell in love with every piece I’ve seen thus far. Who are your favorite authors as far as fiction?::
My all time favorite author is Octavia Butler. Her work completely changed my life and my art. I really like the way she dealt with issues of race, gender, and social inequality while also using sci-fi that was truly original and way ahead of its time. The way she depicted human interaction in post apocalyptic times was chilling. Nalo Hopkinson is another favorite. I discovered her shortly after i started my new series. Her ability to combine sci-fi with Caribbean folklore was a huge inspiration.
How does music affect your craft?::
Music has always played a big part in my work. It sometimes functions as motivation and at other times it helps create a certain emotion for a specific part of a painting I’m working on. My collection of music is very mixed from Hip Hop to Reggae, to Punk ,metal, and Afro-Caribbean.
What was your favorite comic book/series as a child, and did it influence your art into adulthood at all? Were/are you a comic book fan?::
I loved almost all media that was about super heroes as a kid ,but i was not such a big reader. I loved comic books for the cover art. Sliver Surfer covers for some reason were my favorite. Whenever I saw comics in a store i would get super excited and run over to them just to stare at the art.
What was your favorite piece of art that you created for a personal project/company?::
My favorite is kind of hard to choose but I would have to say the first painting i did from my current series. The title is “The Crow and the Carnival Queen”. It was the first art i posted after taking a couple years off from showing. It set the tone perfectly for what i’m doing now with just the right amount of sci-fi and folklore. I refer to it before starting every new piece.
Recently, you received a huge feature on AfroPunk, which in MY world, is kind of a big deal. It is a huge helping hand in getting your work out there. We recently spoke on the phone about it, but I still think those out of the blue moments like that can be AWESOME. How important is it to you to be respected in the indie art community?::
The feature from AfroPunk was huge for me. Punk was a big part of my life in the 80’s and 90’s. In those days without social media I had no idea just how many people of color were into alternative music. When I first saw the documentary AfroPunk, i was blown away. I felt a big boost of energy and inspiration knowing that me and the few black friends i had in the punk scene from back then were not alone. So i felt very honored that they posted my work up on their site. The reception from the AfroPunk community was greater than i could have ever imagined. It felt very welcoming and I’ve just been trying to keep the momentum from that going. For me I would hope that people in the art community feel a certain connection to the work and find something in it that inspires them to keep creating the same as those who inspired me.
Whenever I’m excited about someone’s artwork, I always get the opinions of the elders in the art community. I’ve shown two very prominent artists, and they were floored. That’s a good sign, trust, lol. Have you gotten any feedback from them at all, good or bad?::
Not really so far. I’ve been painting for a long time but the past couple years is the first time I’ve made a big push to really get the work out there. I’ve noticed though that a lot of my older work connected more with people my age or younger, but the newer work seems to resonate with people of all ages. To know that there are some elders in the art community that are feeling the work is definitely inspiring.
Spirituality is evident in your artwork. Is it all even, or does it depend on the piece at hand?::
Spirituality has been present in my work for long time now. In some pieces there is a universal spirituality and in others I may have a personal spiritual connection. I have always been fascinated with religion and spirituality from all different cultures around the world and throughout history.
You have a huge centered focus on the black women in most of your artwork that I’ve seen. The way you capture us makes me want to get my energy in order PRONTO, lol. Why do you feel that it is important for you to create us in your various mediums?::
Thank you! The women in my work have a lot to do with my family and my ancestors. I wasn’t raised by just my mom and dad alone. All my aunts and Grandmother were a big part of my life too. The women in my family are some of the strongest women I know. They taught me the basics of never give up and never back down. They persevered through some tough times and always kept a light hearted smile on their faces. There is no way i would be where I am now without them. We all know how the media in this country has historically portrayed black people and even more black women in a negative stereotypical light or just absent from the conversation all together. I feel that it is important to portray the women in my work in a way that shows them with the attributes I’ve always associated with them from my upbringing, Strength, Spirituality, Warrior, Nurturing ,and wisdom.
Your Caribbean roots seem pretty strong. Has it influenced the subjects of your pieces in any way? If so, how?::
Well my current series of works is titled “Roots of the Cotton Tree”. It’s inspired by Caribbean and African Folklore. Much of the folklore of the Caribbean has been passed down from generation to generation dating all the way back to ancient Africa and has been kept alive through the traditional art of storytelling. The title comes from the folklore of the large silk cotton trees that grow throughout the Caribbean and Africa. Its said to be a place where ghosts and the spirits of our ancestors dwell in its roots. I was very young when i left Jamaica, but the music,food,and the traditions remained a strong part of our family. When I started this series i interviewed family members for stories of the old country.
If you had the chance to do a piece with a famous black artist, who would it be and what would the piece be?::
I would love to do a piece with Sculptor Andre Eugene from Haiti. It would be an elaborate alter made from his sculptures with one of my paintings.
Do you think that sexism exists in your industry? (I will ask this every week, America, so deal with it, lol)::
Well I’m not sure what industry my work fits in currently but fantasy and sci-fi art were the biggest influences on me for a long time. And they both have a BIG problem with that. I loved fantasy/sci-fi art growing up but as i got older i kind of grew out of it for many reasons. It wasn’t until years later I started looking up old art that i was into as a kid and started noticing all the degrading and sexist ways that women in the paintings were portrayed and women of color just didn’t even exist. I find that its still there today in the exact same way. I think sci-fi can be a very important indicator of where society is on certain issues because it sheds a light on peoples deepest hopes and desires. And from most of the sci-fi I grew up with, there seemed to be a hope for no black women in the future.
Do you have a hard time ever getting booked for installations because you don’t focus on portraits? Has your style ever harmed your progressive finances?::
I’m not sure. I’ve never really tried to get into any big galleries yet where i feel that might be an issue. I’ve shown mostly at galleries with similar work to mine or just shows that me and my friends would put on. I do feel that there is more money to be made if I were to change my work to something more mainstream or traditional, But i really have no interest in that.
Out of all of your projects, which was the most difficult and why?::
The one I’m working on now has been the most difficult and most rewarding so far. I’ve had to learn to paint in a completely different way than i was used to. I took 2 years off from showing to work on my technique. I had to teach myself how to paint fabric, lace, jewelry..ect which i had not really done before. I’ve also completely changed my color palate and began mixing all the colors before starting each new piece.
Do you consider yourself to be an innovator?::
No, not really. I’m really just painting the images of what i’ve always wanted to see but did not get to growing up. I think that there are many others out there doing the same with amazing results. My ultimate goal is to have my work tell my/our story the same way my ancestors told their’s.
Ok, less serious stuff- if you could have ANNNNY two characters be your homies in REAL time, who would they be and WHY?::
Well I guess Silver Surfer would be the first. I always wanted to ride that board through the sky the way he did. And 2nd it would probably be Robin from Batman and Robin. I always felt a certain connection to Robin because he was always second to batman. I had an older brother and every time we would play Batman I had to be Robin because i was younger. And this pretty much went for any super hero combo out there.
Who is your favorite living artist RIGHT NOW?::
Hmm. That’s a hard one. For me its constantly changing. As of right now its probably Kehinde Wiley or Loyiso Mkize. I just recently saw a PBS documentary on Kehinde and I was really inspired by his process. And Loyiso is just continuing to climb to new heights with his work.
Are there any new or upcoming projects/events you’re brainstorming?::
I’m currently just focused on my next piece and hopefully getting to show some of the new work soon.
Where can we find you online? Links, Handles, Hashtags, Bribes::
Any last thoughts, screams, rants, praises, etc?::
Thank you for this interview and thank you to everyone who has supported my work over the years!!
MECCAcon Weekly is a weekly series of features, interviews, and highlights, all focused around comics and art, mainly centered around the AFRIKAAN diaspora community. We focus on the upliftment and advancement of arts thru various mediums. #MECCAconWeekly can also be found on our sister site, DARK MATTERS.
Maia CROWN Williams is the founder of MECCAcon (Midwest Ethnic Convention for Comics and Arts) and MECCAcon IFF (International Film Festival). She also is the founder of AMONYET ENTERPRISES, an executive management company.
AMONYET ENTERPRISES is an executive assistant and event coordinating company, as well as mass promotion. We manage small Businesses, Events, Marketing, Authors, Activists, Illustrators, Animators, Chefs, Restaurants, Filmmakers, Actors, Bloggers, Musicians, Producers, Poets, Public Figures, Muralists, Spiritual Leaders, and more. AMONYET ENTERPRISES is also the parent company to: Midwest Ethnic Convention for Comics and Arts (MECCAcon), SPIRIT OF A PORCUPINE (#SOAPhats), CROWN'S ROYALTIES and COOKING CIPHERS.
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