Mikela Henry-Lowe is a Jamaican artist based in London whose vibrant portraits celebrate the beauty of Black women. In this interview with Artists Magazine, Henry-Lowe shares her process and her passion for color.
Tell us about your art education.
Mikela Henry-Lowe (MHL): I learned to paint from my classes at high school. I was taught color theory, which colors work well with other colors and why, and I always keep this in mind when working on my own projects. Most artists have to learn about the different “isms” of the art world, and being exposed to Expressionism, Abstract Expressionism, and Cubism has molded the way I approach color in my acrylic paintings.
Can you describe your process in some detail?
MHL: Before I even start to stretch a canvas, I’ve already made decisions on what color goes where and how I want the subject to be positioned within the frame of the canvas. If I’m painting a sap green background, then nothing on the figure can be sap green. When I paint, I see the canvas as broken down into sections of patterns. I don’t see myself as painting a portrait. I see blocks of colors stacked one on top of the other, with and against each other to bring forward the beauty of the subject. It’s about working in layers.
What helps you bring out the individuality of each subject while also keeping in mind that each one is part of a larger series?
MHL: One word: color. I generally source the images I paint from Instagram. I bring out their individuality with the colors I feel best suit them or what might be striking against their skin tone — painting the aura I feel they might possess. My subjects are connected through culture. What country they’re from helps inform my decisions. I’ve painted women who are Haitian, Nigerian, Ghanaian, and South African. They’re all connected by their shared culture, a culture of similarities.
What knowledge do you hope people walk away with after seeing your work?
MHL: That Black women are beautiful, that Black women aren’t only the stereotypes placed upon them by society. I want all types of beauty to be celebrated. It’s all about positivity.
This article originally appeared in Artist’s Magazine. Visit the Mikela Henry-Lowe’s website at mikelahenrylowe.com.