It's almost midnight on a work week in mid-April and the screen from my iPhone is casting a luminescent light into the otherwise dark room where my husband and I are tucked in bed. He's already asleep, he has been for at least an hour, and normally I would be too, but I can't stop looking at Nakia Heard's paintings.
I'm particularly stuck on series called Zoe; the color palette pulls me in with swirls of purples, pinks, and blues. A playful mix of "abstract, expressionism, and figurative styles of art," Heard's art is intimate and emotive. I toggle back to the Urbana series - delighted by the pop of green in Spearmint Gum and unapologetic curves in Beyond the Wall. The five series housed on NH13, Heard's website, are unified in their style and focus on specific color palettes, but offer a spectrum of experiences and inspiration for viewers to pull from.
This May I got to chat with Nakia, entrepreneur and artist, on what inspires her, how she began painting, and advice she has for all of us to live a more creative life.
Influences & Experiences
Erin: Nakia, thank you for taking time to chat with me. I was so captivated by your work when I first stumbled upon it, I stayed up pretty late into the night going through each series. I'm curious, when did you first begin painting, and what got you started?
Nakia: "I was born in Manhattan and was raised in the Bronx New York. When I was young, I tap danced at the David Geffen concert hall in New York City's Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. I was told at a young age that I would mature into a woman of many talents. I’ve always had a desire to be creative and as kid, I’d doodle on everything. My school books and notebooks were filled with doodles, curvy text or a visual depiction of my current mood. Eventually I bought notebooks dedicated for sketching and then graduated to paint. It became a meditative outlet."
Erin: I noted that each of your pieces are accompanied by quotes ranging from Bob Dylan, to James Baldwin and Voltaire. The quotes, as you state on your website, are a “close representation of my thoughts, personal feelings or experience at the time of painting.” Do these voices and quotes come to you as you're painting and feeling your way through each piece, or afterward, when you’ve finished and have time to reflect on those experiences?
Nakia: "The thoughts and feelings usually come first. Then there’s a period of reflection. I spend quite some time searching for the words that reflect my thoughts during that painting session. I’m meticulous in making sure the quote resembles my feelings. In addition to the quotes, the title of that particular piece can be very telling."
Inspiration & Creativity
Erin: For me, I have found that there are certain places and spaces, physical, mental and emotional, that can be more or less conducive to my creative process and pool of inspiration. How does inspiration find you? Where does inspiration find you?
Nakia: "I consider my art a mix of abstract, expressionism and figurative styles. And although my styles range, my focus and inspiration come from the many aspects of being a black woman. This is evident in my paintings of natural hair and beautiful brown skin tones. I’m often asked if I’m doing self-portraits. Perhaps I’m subconsciously painting how I perceive myself. Above all, my mom is my biggest inspiration. She’s done so much in her lifetime that I’m simply trying to catch-up and be great like her."
Erin: Do you ever find yourself ‘stuck,’ and if so, what do you do about it?
Nakia: "Yes! I throw my paintbrushes across the room! Kidding. Usually when I’m stuck I keep going. Which means my painting doesn’t come out as I initially envisioned. Ironically, those are the times I create my best work -- Unrestrained to the exactness of a blueprint."
Erin: What sustains or nurtures your creativity?
Nakia: "Simply put -- Life! My life and the greatness or chaos experienced will always be fuel for my creativity."
Erin: Do you have any special processes, methodologies or rituals that you do before you begin creating?
Nakia: "Actually I do! I meditate. Sometimes I sit in silence with my eyes closed visualizing my current life situation. I try to translate my feelings into a picture and then I paint it."
Erin: Pro-tip: what’s one practice, idea, or mentality someone could implement today to start living a more creative life?
Nakia: "There isn’t a rule book when it comes to being creative. Don’t think about it, Just do it! Try out a DIY project on pinterest, get some paper to sketch, or go to an art event. There are so many ways to indulge in the creative lifestyle. "