Based in the Fraser Valley, British Columbia, Natoya is not only a talented artist exploring race and identity through her work, but also an advocate for Black women’s mental health and the owner of Studio Natoyaista, an eclectic vintage shop. Natoya is currently finishing her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and when she is not creating art, collecting vintage treasures or exploring the backwoods of British Columbia, you can find her blogging about beauty, nature and small-town life.

“The Griot Recalls the Civil Rights Movement to the New Age Negress”

1) How did you get into painting?  

I’ve always loved art, but I got into painting in high school. I took drawing and painting as an elective course and never looked back.

2) Did anyone or anything in particular inspire your artistic passion?

As a child, I spent a lot of time in church. I would draw semi-nude women in empty spaces of my bible during church as a way to pass the time. This didn’t go over so well with my mother and grandmother. When I moved to Canada, I began exploring my art as a way to help cope with the immense culture shock I was feeling. Imagine coming from a small town in Jamaica to North Vancouver. There weren’t many people that looked like me. And so, I began creating faces I was familiar with.

3) Which techniques and styles do you prefer to work with? 

It changes from time to time, but in this season of my art practice, I am very much in love with watercolours, acrylic and resin. I’m a huge fan of mixed media painting.

4) Do you have a subject matter that you are particularly drawn to? 

The Black woman in all her glory. I’m particularly drawn to the portrait work of Black women. I find that there is so much richness in the values of skin tones, variations in the fullness of lips, the way we wear our hair. The nuances in cultural beauty and softness are very fascinating to me.


5) How is your work a reflection of you?

I find I represent myself in my portrait work in some small way. As a Black woman, all these ladies are variations of myself. I’m telling my story through them.

6) What inspires you?

I get my inspiration from nature. I am especially fond of wildflowers, daisies, antique botanical drawings, nature, fashion, old women and social justice.

7) Can you share with us your process when creating a piece?

I start my creative process by sketching in my sketchbook. I then select a few of my favourites and turn them into watercolour paintings just to see if I’m happy with my use of colour and placement. It’s sort of a dry run to see how the piece will turn out. The final step is either to create a physical painting or create a painting digitally.

8) Other than painting, what are your passions in art or life? 

My passion lies in social justice causes, gender equality, race equality, you know – basic human rights. On the lighter side of things, I love to garden. My favourite plants to grow are dahlias and lamb’s ear, which are very low maintenance and so beautiful in the garden.


9) Any advice you would like to share with aspiring artists? 

This is a very cliché but true answer: NEVER GIVE UP. As an aspiring artist, things are often so discouraging but never give up and do not undersell yourself.

10) Are you working on any new projects you would like to share with us? 

I’m currently working on a book of portraits. The portraits will be of old and new work. I’m hoping to have it available by fall of this year.

“When Mother Was Young”

You can learn more about Natoya here and at @natoyaellisart on Instagram.


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