Today we’d like to introduce you to Christanie Hunter.
Christanie, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
When I was a little girl, I liked to draw the things I saw. I remember getting really excited when my teachers would assign work that required us to “be creative.” To me, being creative means exploring materials that help make my pictures appear more vivid. The positive feedback I got from my peers motivated me to want to keep getting better, so I made sure to really pay attention whenever I had an art class, which was unfortunately rare.
I never considered myself an artist until my freshman year in college. I was at a friends house, and I did a quick sketch of a girl using a piece of scratch paper, a pen and a couple of highlighters. When I showed my friend the sketch, he expressed that he was really impressed and I should do more drawings and sell them. Hearing that was like hearing my middle school teachers telling me to “be creative,” only this time, I had the challenge of selling my work. This inspired me to do a series of neon portraits of women on wood with paint markers. I dropped them off at Jarrods Coffee Shop and not too much later he called and said he had sold one of my pieces just as he was hanging it. The woman that purchased it asked that I come by the shop so she could meet me and thank me for the piece. She asked me things like, “how often do you draw?” and “what was your inspiration?”. At that moment, I felt like a real artist.
During my sophomore year, I took an Art History course to fulfill a general requirement. This course taught me about different painting styles and trends in art over time. What stuck with me the most from this class was the brilliant pigments these artists were able to express with oil and the luxury that came from the golden age. I was inspired by their works, for my final project, I decided to use acrylic paint for the first time to create a portrait of Erykah Badu in a turban. In my essay, I compared my work to Jan Van Eyck’s “Man in the Red Turban” and explained the significance of head wraps in the Afro culture. My professor was very impressed, and I aced the course but, unfortunately, this was the last art class I got to take in college.
In 2018, I was forced to pick a major and stick to it. Though I really wanted to major in art, I had already taken so many business classes that I decided to stick with business administration and develop my art skills on my own, in my spare time. I mentioned to my family that I wanted an art mentor to help me. Shortly after I said that my grandmother told me she walked past our neighbor Karen’s house and saw piles of beautiful paintings in her garage. She told my grandma that she loves meeting artists, and I was welcome to come by whenever she was out painting. I often visited her, and she would tell me about the things she learned in art school, and she always gave me pointers on my own work. She really challenged me to paint as much as I could and continue to explore different styles.
At some point that year, I realized I had done so many paintings I thought I should plan my own show. So that July I hosted my first solo event at Onyx Art Gallery in Phoenix. It was everything I imagined, I had a few friends perform poetry, comedy, and music, there was a great turnout, and I sold quite a few pieces. But unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to try and have my own extended exhibition, so I started vending at events throughout the valley. My experience as a vendor has helped me grow in so many ways. I’ve been able to network with some amazing people, I’ve learned so much about the art market, and it has helped me apply what I’m learning in my business courses to my real life.
Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I most enjoy painting portraits; however, I do occasionally like to branch out and paint other subjects. When I see a picture that I find unique, I try to use that technique in my own piece. So far, I’ve drawn inspiration from impasto, mixed media, gold leaf, and abstract styles. The way I learn a new technique is through studying other paintings that have incorporated the technique I want to emulate and through watching tutorials. This helps me get a better understanding of the materials I’ll need and the sequence of steps that are required for more complex techniques.
The inspiration portrayed in my work comes from the Afro culture. My goal is to represent the diversity amongst Afro people in various parts of the world. I hope my work resonates with people on an international level. That is why often times I will reference familiar artistic representations of various cultures such as the Eiffel Tower, Ori body art or mythical Greek Gods, to name a few. As a result, my artwork often sparks conversations about culture, and it tends to connect people from different backgrounds.
In your view, what is the biggest issue artists have to deal with?
The biggest challenge I think artists face today is differentiating themselves. There are so many people who have an amazing talent that get stuck just doing art festivals. The problem with festivals is that there is so much art by other people that it’s difficult to stand out.
Another challenge artists face has to do with the business aspect of being an artist. It’s almost impossible to experience success as an artist without at least a basic understanding of how to market and sell your work. This restricts many artists from taking their skill from being a hobby to a profession.
What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
My work is currently available on Etsy under the AfroArtCo brand. I also participate in various events throughout the Valley. First Friday in Phoenix is the event I do most frequently.
- Website: www.etsy.com/AFROARTCO
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @christanie__
Juan Velasquez (Personal photo)