SHADES & COLOR February Founder's Pick: Shay (Graphic Design and Surrealist Visionary)
For the Month of February 2021:
Graphic Design and Surrealist Visionary
Written by: Elyana Riddick || Date: February 8, 2021
I stumbled upon Shay’s page in a following frenzy of small artists when I first started SHADES & COLOR. I happened upon many painters, sketchers, and fashionistas, however it was Shay’s photo-editing that caught my eye heavily. Pictured in her feed were personified plant-humanoids modelling in cities and parks, posed and perfect. In the interview and even still to this day, I cannot fathom the creativity of Shay—maybe it’s because she brings creativity so unique that there is a loss of words in describing her talent. Hopefully, with this writing, I can do her justice. Sorry, Shay, that it took so long to write this!
Shay has been involved with graphic design and photo-editing for the last seven years. Her talent first took the form of PicsArt and pictures on her Android. She would first take pictures of food, going to social media in what would be the beginning of a Jamaican food blog. Not long afterwards did she take her photography further. She experimented with combining photos, getting heavily involved with surrealism in her sophomore year in high school after her initial introduction to the work of Salvador Dalí. The experimentation subsequently developed into passion and soon stock photos with PicsArt became her escape after school, spending hours putting together numerous of her early works.
Passion for digital art was itching at Shay. She regaled me of a time in her childhood when she and her sisters shared what careers they would want to pursue in the future. After sharing to her family that she wanted to be an artist, her mom called out from the kitchen telling her that she was going to be a nurse instead. Funny how things work out, huh? Of course, that didn’t stop her. Afterwhile, acceptance came and her career continues to flourish more and more because of it.
I always ask artists what their creative processes look like as a means of dipping my toe into the complexities of their work. Shay’s process is just another example of how I can never understand artists’ talents, sadly for me. Not a lot of thought goes into Shay’s process. She’ll typically spend hours looking at stock photos. I, myself, could only imagine thumbing through stock photos for hours upon end as tedious, however to Shay it is therapeutic. Spontaneity is the name of the game—for Shay, specificity brings limits. A quick explanation to what seems to be a crazed process; however, the products of her process are explanation enough.
Posting her work on social media in the beginning brought uncertainty. For Shay, going to Instagram to post was quick: she would post and immediately get off of social media. Her work garnered traction, and eventually she was getting genuine interaction with her work. Because many people had no idea what she looked like, followers of her Instagram were surprised to realize that Shay was, in fact, a black woman.
We discussed the state of diversity in digital media—specifically the absence of people of color and women in the industry. When discussing what seemed like artistic isolation in the face of her field, she told me that even with the lack of diversity, she loves being a black woman in her work. She loves being able to open doors for herself, even if it means opening thousands of doors to open one door. Shay’s put in the work for opportunity and utilizes her pieces to share her voice. Luckily enough, more and more diversity in digital media is increasing, and for Shay it is a wonderful time to be a black digital artist.
At the height of the George Floyd and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests, Shay found herself sitting at a crossroads in her creative pursuits—producing and speaking about the injustices around her. She used her art as her megaphone, depicting fields of raised fists in solidarity with the social movement around her. Art is Shay’s meditation—a self-conscious escape. It’s not a matter of finding peace, but rather giving voice to the complexities of her inner mind.
Shay’s creativity doesn’t stop with digital design—she takes her talent for fashion in her brand Creative Mafia, bringing her talent to clothes for everyone to wear. From merch to classes, from photo-edits to social media, Shay loves indulging in her artistic pursuits (and the money that comes from it is definitely a plus). With all of these facets of talent, it is important to note that building her platform took a while, and it wasn’t until last year that she really felt that she was gaining traction. Her hard work is meaningful and coupled with her charisma, it is impossible to say that her success is undeserved. For the next generation of BIPOC digital artists and creatives, Shay gives them this advice: do it. Put it out there. Be vulnerable. Don’t compare. Ask questions and that—a very important point—numbers do not matter. There is room for everyone to eat.
Shay is such a sweet and charismatic artist with big dreams and even bigger talent. I wish her all the success and more and hope that she takes the world by storm. Making her Founder’s Pick for the month of February was not a hard choice to make; rather, it is a humble nod to the powerhouse that she is. Thank you for your time, Shay! I really appreciate it!