Seattle might be notorious for niche coffee shops and scenic waterways, but locals know it's also home to an array of people who love to create. This city is chock-full of artists who we love to feature weekly on Seattle Refined! If you have a local artist in mind that you would like to see featured, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you're wondering just what constitutes art, that's the beauty of it; it's up to you!
Seattle Refined: How long have you been creating?
Shayla Harris: I've been creating as long as I can remember. Though, what I first remember is witnessing creation. I loved watching my grandmother, Irene, make crafts, paint floral designs and turn little rocks into little animals. My mom always made the most exciting costumes based on our favorite animal or animated character. I felt quite Cretaceous as a purple and green T-Rex one year! I also remember being mesmerized by my dad's ability to copy faces with a pencil and hoping I'd have the skill to draw and blend like him someday. I'll always value these moments — the creation of my creativity!
Do you work with other mediums?
At the moment, I primarily work with acrylic paints. From time to time, I also work with graphite pencils, charcoals, chalk pastels, watercolors and resin. Eventually, I'd love to also work with oil paints and fine-tune my skills in each medium.
Can you tell us about your artistic process and how the different stages work into it?
I've never been able to pinpoint my artistic process. I discovered that, for me, trying to define or create it was the very reason it was so elusive. Allowing my process to be in flux forces me to release control and take a look at fear. Sometimes my stages include a lot of planning — brainstorming, researching, experimenting with color palettes, practicing gradients, sketching composition ideas, narrowing final choices and the like. Other times, my stages are impulsive. I'm deeply moved or inspired by something, so I just begin and let the feeling inform my choices. I guess I could say that each project has a process of its own.
Tell us about where your inspiration for your art comes from?
I've been deeply moved by people's greatest joy, people's greatest pain, the silence, the chatter, the state of the world, the gift of life, nature, outer space, dream states, faith, fear, love — my inspiration comes from the world around me as well as the world inside me.
Do you have a specific "beat" you like best – nature, food, profiles, etc.?
Recently, nature is what I've been drawn to. Most of my recent pieces include animals, space, water and light rays.
Do you have one piece of art that means more to you, or is extremely special to you?
Yes. My cousin recently sent me a picture of a drawing I gave him years ago. It's a sketch on notebook paper of a seal chasing a crab, topped with a whale blowing water out of its blowhole but it looks more like a banana clipped to a crab, topped with a bean setting fireworks off. It's titled, "Don't have an ERASSER." What a great laugh. What an even greater reminder that the pieces of yesterday created today, so I shouldn't be so hard on myself. Today's (perceived) failure is tomorrow's success.
What experiences in your life have affected your art the most?
I think my art's been most affected by the times I couldn't find the words. Times when I've felt deep sorrow for something I'd seen, held a truth I was too fearful to vocalize, wanted to share a joy that was too grand to describe. Those experiences definitely caught my attention.
If we want to see more of your work, where should we go to find it?
You could visit Onyx Fine Arts Collective at Pacific Place in downtown Seattle! I usually have a piece or two in the gallery, plus you'll have the chance to see amazing artworks by other artists of African descent. You could also join me as I add to my Etsy (www.etsy.com/shop/ChezLaHarris) and on Instagram and Twitter (@ChezLaHarris).
What is next for you? Anything you're working on right now that you're really excited about?
I'm looking forward to digging into a few new ideas and expanding older ones. Some concepts include allyship, massive plants and refraction. In the meantime, I feel I need to continue educating myself, expanding my skill set and deconstructing my fears in order to create more freely. Simply put, I'm excited to grow inside and outside of artistic expression.
Lastly, how do you take your coffee? (We ask everyone!)
I take my coffee with haste — no time to waste.