Tasia Graham on celebrating the beauty of diversity, amplifying voices, and fusing reality with imagination

Freelance illustrator Tasia Graham specialises in creating artwork that explores womanhood, cultural identity and imagination. We caught up with her to learn about her creative approach and how she uses elements of real life to dramatic effect.

Describing herself as an imaginative storytelling artist, Tasia Graham has found success by working with the likes of the BBC, the Financial Times, and the University of Arts London. And looking at her art, it's easy to see why. Her powerful use of texture, colour and figurative line work all create transformative pieces that encourage viewers to "feel the presence of their conscience."

As an artist, Tasia's creative journey is rooted in her childhood. When she was younger, she would find solace in the pages of children's books and discovered that drawing was a form of therapy. This early connection with visual storytelling ignited within her a passion for the craft of drawing, and within the privacy of her bedroom, she would translate her imagination onto paper.

It wasn't long until Tasia's teachers recognised her creative potential and encouraged her to pursue a path in the creative industry. From here, the young artist embarked on a journey of self-improvement, expanding her skills to encompass graphic design and digital art. The realm of digital illustration was the culmination of her process, combining her love of technology with her desire for artistic expression.

After leaving her hometown, Tasia started another chapter of her life by attending the University of Arts London. Describing the period as "transformative", it was here that she won a commission competition and secured her first professional client. Armed with this accomplishment, she dedicated herself to refining her portfolio and reaching out for even more work.

All her hard work paid off, as during her final year, she scooped up commissions from esteemed art directors at the Financial Times. Marking the inception of her journey as a freelance artist, Tasia has since continued to weave fragments of her own identity into her work, as well as blending the boundaries of imagination and reality.

To learn more about how she creates a fresh and captivating form of illustration, as well as the themes and techniques she deploys, we sat down with Tasia to hear all about her creative approach.

Hi Tasia! Womanhood and cultural identity are recurring themes in your work. Can you tell us why these themes are so important to you?

The motifs of womanhood and cultural identity are threads that consistently weave through the tapestry of my work, each carrying profound significance that shapes both my art and my perspective.

My art serves as a mirror, reflecting my journey through womanhood and the intricate layers of my cultural identity. It operates as a therapeutic outlet, a means through which I navigate the ever-evolving landscape of my personal growth. Each day, I am transformed by new experiences, informed by shifting perspectives, and moulded by life's twists and turns. My artistic practice stands as a visual chronicle, capturing these moments of change, evolution, and self-discovery in a tangible form. This process of self-expression through art provides me with a powerful form of catharsis, enabling me to embrace the complexities of my identity and my place in the world.

Beyond my journey, I profoundly understand the vital importance of representation. Within the expansive canvas of the art industry, I serve the need for a diverse range of voices and narratives, particularly those that celebrate the unique experiences of Afro-Caribbean women. My work is a testament to this commitment, as I intentionally infuse my digital illustrations with the vibrant essence of female Afro-Caribbean representation.

Through my art, I strive to bring to light the nuances, challenges, and triumphs that constitute the black female experience. This commitment arises from a place of advocacy and empowerment, a belief that visibility can lead to validation, inspiration, and a sense of belonging for those who find themselves underrepresented.

Essentially, the themes of womanhood and cultural identity intertwine within my art, propelled by a dual purpose: personal healing and societal transformation. My creations become a mirror for myself and those who resonate with the narratives I portray, offering a space of connection, reflection, and empowerment. Through my art, I endeavour to celebrate the beauty of diversity, amplify the voices of the underrepresented, and contribute to a more inclusive artistic landscape.

Discovering my reflection within the tapestry of my art provides a profound therapeutic sanctuary. As the currents of change and evolution carry me forward, each new experience becomes a brushstroke on the canvas of my artistic journey. In this way, my creative practice serves as a poignant chronicle, capturing the flux of emotions and metamorphoses that shape me.

Furthermore, an imperative undercurrent fuels my artistic endeavours: the significance of fostering female Afro-Caribbean representation within the artistic sphere. Intrinsic to this endeavour is the commitment to encapsulate the multifaceted experiences of the black female journey.

With an unyielding resolve, my digital illustration collection emerges as a visual testament, a poignant canvas where narratives and identities intertwine, giving voice to those stories that deserve both spotlight and reverence. Through this medium, I strive to bridge the chasm between representation and authenticity, crafting an artistic legacy that resonates on both a personal and societal level.

Tell us more about how you combine hand painting and digital design

My artistic process is an intricate play between hand painting and digital design, creating a blend that gives life to my creations. The journey begins with digital design as the cornerstone of my artistic endeavours. Using my trusty iPad and the versatile Procreate app, I craft a foundation that becomes the canvas for my imagination to flourish. This digital canvas allows me to experiment with lines, manipulate composition, and craft distinct focal points. Within this digital realm, I refine the finer details, creating crisp lines that guide the viewer's gaze.

The beauty of digital design lies in its adaptability to various mediums. I harness this adaptability by utilising both Giclee prints and traditional oil paintings as channels to bring my art to life. Regarding Giclee prints, I seamlessly transform my digital illustrations into tangible prints. But the process doesn't stop there – each print undergoes a personal touch. I take the time to hand-finish every print with a careful blend of inks, oil pastels, and pen strokes, infusing a unique essence into every piece.

For my foray into traditional oil paintings, the transition from digital to analogue is just as thoughtfully executed. I embark on a process that involves translating, adapting, and reimagining my digital designs into original paintings. These paintings mirror the illustrative style that defines my work on digital platforms. To achieve this, I leverage the same brush techniques that I've honed with Procreate and Photoshop. By carrying these techniques into traditional painting, I maintain a seamless continuity that embodies the essence of my artistic expression.

My creative journey thrives on the synergy between hand painting and digital design. The digital realm empowers me with the tools to refine and innovate, while the traditional mediums ground my art with a tangible, timeless quality. This harmonious marriage allows me to capture the heart of my imagination and share it with the world in diverse, compelling ways.

What's the key to transforming feelings into atmospheric imagery, as you do in your work?

This art is a delicate interplay of personal experiences, creativity, and technical finesse. Each of my prints becomes a unique narrative, a glimpse into the tapestry of my life.

At the core of this process lies the fusion of reality and imagination. Drawing inspiration from genuine experiences, dreams, and emotions, I weave these elements into the fabric of my creations. Each print becomes a condensed chapter of my life, encapsulating feelings that resonate deeply within me. To infuse authenticity, I embark on contemplative walks, seeking out landmarks and monuments that hold significance. These real-world elements serve as anchors, grounding my imagery in the tangible while forming a bridge to my inner world.

True magic happens when these tangible elements converge with the boundless expanse of my imagination. Melding reality with the ethereal, I carefully combine these elements to craft a unique blend of storytelling. This synthesis lends my work its distinct character, inviting viewers into a narrative that is simultaneously personal and universal.

Central to this process is the intricate use of colour and shadows. These tools are the palette through which I paint emotions onto the canvas of my prints. By choosing hues and shadows, I create atmospheric landscapes that evoke a visceral response from the viewer. The play of colours and shadows serves as a conduit for emotions, channelling them into the very essence of the scene. This approach transforms the imagery into an immersive experience, inviting viewers to feel the emotions that inspired the creation.

The key to translating feelings into atmospheric imagery is the harmonious convergence of lived experiences, imagination, and technical expertise. Through this process, I create prints that are not only visually captivating but also emotionally evocative. Each print becomes a vessel, carrying the essence of emotions and experiences, allowing viewers to connect with my journey.

You say you want the viewer to feel like they are standing in the middle of your paintings. How do you think this makes them feel?

By enveloping the audience within the narrative essence of my work, I allow them to step beyond the confines of their reality and enter the realm of their imagination. This transformational effect is achieved through the interplay of elements that transport the viewer, guiding them to envision themselves as a part of the scene. This sense of presence within the artwork fosters a connection that transcends the visual, inviting viewers to engage not just with what they see but with what they feel.

The narrative dimension in my work plays a pivotal role in facilitating this engagement. The stories that unfold within the canvas are extensions of my own experiences and invitations for the audience to co-create and interpret. This shared storytelling experience empowers the viewer to draw from their own emotions, memories, and perspectives. As a result, they can cultivate a deeper connection with the artwork, finding resonance with the themes and emotions it portrays.

The therapeutic quality often attributed to my paintings stems from this immersive experience. Viewers who step into the middle of my paintings are offered a temporary respite from their own realities. This escapism, facilitated by the narrative and atmospheric elements, allows them to momentarily inhabit a different space – one that stirs emotions, triggers introspection, and resonates with their own experiences.

The effect of standing within the midst of my paintings grants viewers a profound understanding of the human experience, underscoring the universality of emotions and stories. It opens a window into my imagination, thoughts, and feelings, fostering empathy and connection. Through this shared journey, I aspire to create a space where viewers can step outside themselves, inviting them to momentarily walk in my shoes and experience the world through my eyes.

What are you working on right now, and what do you hope to achieve in the future?

I'm currently working on two distinct projects that hold personal and professional significance:

Firstly, I'm engrossed in creating my latest digital illustration series, Behind Bodies. This series celebrates the female form captured in dynamic, fluid movements of lines and colours. It marks a departure from my previous work as I explore a more liberated drawing process.

Drawing inspiration from life drawing sessions and repositioning it with references from my own body, I'm delving into a process of rediscovery, reframing my perception of my own body through the lens of the female gaze. This endeavour involves a transformative journey where I use myself as both artist and muse, combining my own profile with intricate illustrations to create a captivating dialogue between reality and artistic interpretation. These pieces will be on display at Roy's Art Fair in September.

Simultaneously, I'm deeply involved in curating a collection of paintings that bridge the realms of imagination and reality. This collection serves as a narrative voyage through the chapters of my life, from my departure from home to my present-day experiences.

The paintings traverse themes of romance and solitude in the bustling city of London, the evolution of female identity, and the process of unlearning negative habits. This collection essentially tells the story of a woman navigating the intricacies of life, resonating with warmth and nostalgia. The process of painting itself has become a sanctuary of serenity. As I embark on my fifth piece, I'm excited to share the full collection by year-end, debuting it in an upcoming exhibition at JG Contemporary Gallery.

Looking forward, my aspirations are twofold: to continue pushing the boundaries of my artistic expression and continually evolving my creative process while deepening my exploration of the female experience and identity. Furthermore, I envision sharing my work more widely, amplifying the voices and experiences my art seeks to capture.

This involves fostering connections within the artistic community, engaging in meaningful dialogues, and contributing to the broader conversation surrounding art, identity, and representation. Through these endeavours, I hope to leave a lasting impact on the art world and those who engage with my creations.


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