Why did you make the drawing while black hashtag?
I was inspired by the VisibleWoman tag, and also really inspired by BlackoutDay so I wanted to create an event that was a combination of the two. I really do enjoy visibility tags like those, because they really help emphasize different types of people, and having DrawingWhileBlack would be a cool way to try to build community between black artists on twitter and on other social media platforms.
What have the responses been like?
They've been really good. It's been really amazing. It's been seen by a lot of artists that I'm actually inspired by, and it was awesome to be supported. There was some backlash of course, but that comes with a lot of things so I'm not really bothered by it. I'm just really glad that it happened, because a lot of people got exposure that they rightfully deserve.
Were you surprised by the response?
I was really surprised with how big it got, because it reached my school, [MICA], too. Haha. But, I think the moment that I realized "oh my god, this is big" was when people started to contact me to ask for interviews. That was the weekend of the hashtag. It was such a great surprise, because I've seen people and their art getting opportunities because of the hashtag.
Has the use of the hashtag changed your perspective about the art world?
I wouldn't say it changed my perspective, because I've always had a very positive perspective. I've always thought that if there is going to be change, at least be a part of that change. So I can be really supportive, like a lot of people were supportive [about the hashtag]. It was really nice to actually see that my optimistic values about the art world validated.
I think there are a lot of things that need to be fixed, but seeing these smaller communities come together on some of these issues, make me really hopeful.
Would you say that you're more optimistic than pessimistic in general?
I think so, but I try to be realistic about things too. I try to be positive because negativity doesn't really help me. If I want something changed, it's good to be positive but also realistic, especially if that change involves a system. For the most part, I feel like being positive has helped me a lot.
When Annabelle Hayford picked up the phone for our chat, my quiet room buzzed to life with conversation and laughter from the other end of the call in Baltimore, Maryland. Creating personal work and exploring your artistic potential is often an opportunity to isolate yourself, but Annabelle has started an art career by resisting that temptation and diving deep into fostering community. I grabbed some time with the inventor of the viral DrawingWhileBlack hashtag, and enthusiastic MICA undergraduate to chat about community, cartooning, and maintaining a positive outlook in the art world. I can't wait to see what's next for this energetic illustrator.
Let's switch gears and talk about your work. What do you think propelled you to study art?
One of the biggest things, was that it's the only thing I'm really good at!
But really I've always been into art. When I was younger I was always doig something in it. And growing up, a lot of my inspiration was from cartoons and animation. I think one important thing too was that I often didn't really see myself in the artwork, so that's why I wanted to put myself in there. So I could at least be there, and possibly inspire others.
You mentioned animation and cartoons making an impression on you. What would you say are your biggest influences in that genre?
My big influencers [include] a lot of illustrators so Rebecca Mock, Richie Pope. . . Tiffany Ford is one big inspiration. Rebecca Sugar of course; Lamar Adams who is a storyboard artist and colorist. I'm also inspired by a lot of Japanese anime, and take inspiration from people not just in the U.S. like French animators. I try to take in inspiration from animation around the world.
“I think there are a lot of things that need to be fixed, but seeing these smaller communities come together on some of these issues, make me really hopeful.”
What's in your margins?
I primary work digitally. So often when I draw, I browse Twitter and Tumblr to get inspiration from other artists.
Edited by Alicia DeWitt
“If there is going to be change, at least be part of that change.”
Do you think you have a particular process worked out when you make a piece?
Yeah, but my process varies from piece to piece. Sometimes I'll plan things out with thumbnails; I often work [out the piece] as I go. I'll usually have a color palette in mind, but I do change some things. I like to paint, but I also like to do line art. I like simple pieces, but I also like to push myself and make more complex work. So it varies.
My ideal medium is digital right now, so I do all of these styles digitally.
Talk to me about a favorite illustration of yours.
I think one of my favorite pieces has been an illustration of this girl playing a guitar. I just really enjoyed that piece because it was a piece that I'd done during my internship [as an animation production intern at Warner Brothers] in my free time. It had such a great feeling to it, because I didn't feel obligated to make it perfect. It has a lot of movement, I love the composition, I love the colors. And at the time, it was the piece I most enjoyed that summer.
Do you think you use art to explore your identity?
I do, but it's very subtle. I do a lot of art that revolves around blackness, but it's mostly about the lifestyle of being black. It's not politically heavy per se. I enjoy drawing things that reflect my identity, because I feel like it's needed in the art world.
I want to try to push myself to make work even more personal, but I think one of my dilemmas is how to express it responsibly. I hope I can figure it out as my art continues to express itself.