Hey girl hey! Welcome back to another post and I wanted to let you all know that I’m doing a new segment called ‘Noire Excellence’. Pretty much I’ll be showcasing different people and their talents on here. From up and coming artists, to musicians, chefs, entrepreneurs, fashionistas, hair guru’s, and everything in between, if I you’re awesome and do awesome things..you’ll be featured. So for my first post, I want to introduce you to Ali. A North Carolina native whose a beast when it comes to the acrylic painting game and whose designs you should be on the lookout for…
ATBEL: Well hello Ms. Fabulous ! How are you?
GA: I’m doing pretty well. Thanks for asking!
ATBEL: I just want to say thank you for taking the time out to chat with me. It’s much appreciated.
GA: You’re welcome. Thank you for this opportunity.
ATBEL: Shall we begin? So let everyone know who Gregarious Ali is.. Where you’re from/live and what it is that you do and all that jazz.
GA: Hey everyone! My name is Alexandria Gregory and I’m a 22 year old college graduate who lives in the Piedmont Triad area of North Carolina. I have B.S. in Criminal Justice and now I’m currently looking for a job “in the real world,” but for the time being, I paint as a hobby and for income.
ATBEL: First off, I gotta give you your props out here ma’am. The pieces you create are quite awesome lol how long have you been into art and painting? What made you start?
GA: Why thanks E! Well to tell you the truth, I’ve always had an artistic and creative spirit. I’ve always been doodling, sketching, or crafting something for as long as i can remember. In middle school I got more into art, (specifically drawing), because I was good at it and then in high school, I took it a little bit more seriously. I was an International Baccalaureate art student; so I was painting, drawing, scrapbooking, and also doing graphic designs. I even did some digital photography on the side because I was on the yearbook team. When I got to college, I fell more in love with the world of art so I took classes where I was drawing with anything I could get my hands on from charcoal, graphite pencils, oil pastels, and colored pencils. On top of that, I also took a painting course (2D Design at Guilford College) and really got into film photography. Art is therapeutic and so fun for me and since had the talent for it i just fell more and more in love with it and the possibilities as I got older.
ATBEL: Your type of paintings are hand painted acrylic on canvas, right? What made you want to paint with that certain type of style?
GA: Lol it’s funny you asked that. Honestly, I used to hate painting all together because it seemed so difficult to me and I didn’t think I was any good at it. I was more talented at drawing (with charcoal, graphite pencils, pens, etc.) so I thought welp…the buck stops here. lol I got to college and took an aforementioned class that used acrylic paint and it’s just what I like to use now. We didn’t even paint on canvases in class, we painted in our giant 18×24 Strathmore drawing pads but when I’m at home, I prefer canvas panels. They’re cheap, convenient for storage, and appeasing aesthetically. Painting in the style that i use now just kind of happened and it stuck with me. With practice, I got better at it and started to love it that much more.
ATBEL: So sidenote, I found out about Ali and her artwork on twitter via a RT like about two weeks ago. I’ve been saying I want to support dope black artists and have some different pieces in my apartment. I’ve been on the hunt for some time trying to find the perfect piece so once I came across the “Afropuff Girls”, I knew instantly I had to have it. What inspired you to draw that?
*I got this photo because it reminds me of my sisters and I. Ashley is on the far left because her hair has a natural red tint to it, I’m in the middle because I always have some type of braids plus pink is my favorite color and my sister Erynn is on the right =)*
GA: Seeking inspiration from what’s happening around me helps me create something dope that I can put back into the universe. During that time, I was on a heavy PowerPuff Girls kick that i had been binge watching it on Netflix and I was looking at Black Girls Rock on BET. I wanted to paint something new at that time and it just all came together from there. Since black girls are super awesome on so many levels, why not put my own twist on the ‘Powerpuff Girls’ by making them various beautiful shades of Black with natural hair?” I sketched it out really quick in my sketchbook to get a vision of the hairstyles and complexions I wanted to use, then put it on canvas.
ATBEL: I like the way you think ma’am! & yes..Black women are awesome on an infinite amount of levels *hairflip* lol What makes you want to paint the pieces that you do? The “Big Poppa” and “Lady Nebula” pieces are so illy!
GA: I’m so flattered! I paint things that resonate with me: blackness, the natural hair and the “Black Lives Matter” movement, being a woman, feminism, uplifting other women, body positivity, fat acceptance, and entertainment (hip hop/pop culture, TV, etc.). I just happened to be fortunate enough to have supporters and customers who like what I create and feel that my work resonates with them too.
ATBEL: I also noticed that your paintings don’t have any faces on them. Why is that?
GA: In high school, I came across the work of painter named Lashonda Scott Robinson and I fell in love with her work. She doesn’t paint faces on her drawings and she paints only Black people. I came across other artists who didn’t put features/faces on their work either and I found it so mysterious and intriguing. As I got into painting people, I just adapted that style… plus I was a beginner painter who didn’t feel like I could paint features that well. lol My craft has since improved, but this style has just stuck with me. It has now become this thing where I want the viewer to see everything else that’s going on in the photo and not be so drawn in to a face. In some of my pieces, I just like to leave it up to them to determine what the tone or mood is of the painting…I’ll let the viewer guess what the subject is feeling. For example my painting “Quvenzhané.” It’s my interpretation of a black and white photograph she took and she was crying in the picture. In my painting, the background is a bright happy color, but there’s no face. So… is she still sad?
ATBEL: Hmmm that’s a good question..is she? I’m going to say no since she was nothing but smiles in Annie and I like being happy lol Man I wish I knew how to paint and draw real awesome like you but I can’t and I’ve accepted that about myself. However, I am a badass when it comes to a coloring book so boo-yow lol. Did anyone ever teach you how to do art or is it something that came natural?
GA: Lol!! Not a coloring book. Well the first step is acceptance right? So you’re good. It is something that came natural, but improved a lot with patience, practice, research, YouTube tutorials, and art teachers. I’ve been in art classes with people who barely knew how to draw a stick figure or color in the lines and by midterms, they were creating masterpieces in their own right. If you put in the work, you can do anything you put your mind to and master it.
ATBEL: Is anyone else real big on drawing and painting in your family?
GA: I have some uncles, aunts, and cousins on my mom’s side who like to draw, doodle, and sketch and they do quite well at it. As far as I know, I’m the only one drawing and painting at this type of level and who has a business in it.
ATBEL: I want to give you a huge shout out of congratulations on the for the Harriet article I saw featuring you on being one of the dopest up and coming female black artist out there that we should know. That’s so awesome! How did that make you feel seeing you and your work out there being published like that? http://theculture.forharriet.com/2015/05/5-black-women-artists-whose-work-you.html?m=1#axzz3aXgskhNy
GA: I appreciate that E! I was so surprised when someone sent me the link to the article because I honestly had no clue. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs and jump on my bed but at the time I was really sick with a cold and severe sore throat so i really couldn’t lol. I did cry though. I never imagined getting this type of recognition for my art and it’s so awesome to see the outcome of all my hard work. I’ve been on a high since February trying to process having customers and a website for my own company and then on top of that, finding out someone on that level has been lowkey checking me out, likes what I do, and wrote an article featuring MY work, and is encouraging others to check me out and to also support me? It’s mind blowing! I was so humbled, speechless, grateful, blessed, and proud. I printed out multiple copies for my parents and to hang on the refrigerator. Yup! I sure did and with no shame lol I kind of have that same feeling, now, being interviewed by you.
ATBEL: Awww Ali! =D I’m so happy for you! I love how genuine you are and girl of course I had to interview you. Your artwork is in my home now so of course I wasn’t passing this opportunity up. lol I know that you have pieces for sale that you have created but if someone wanted you to paint a certain idea that they had in mind would that be possible?
GA: It is possible but I have only done that once before. I did a commissioned piece for a friend’s family member who wanted me to do a portrait of her wife. I was extremely hesitant at first because my website had only been up for a month and I wasn’t quite confident in my skills at that time and I told her if I did do it, it would be in my faceless style. Luckily that’s the exact style she was requesting and I did my best to give her what she wanted and more. It turns out she really liked it and so did her wife which made me feel good and made me that much more confident within myself and my painting abilities. I currently enjoy perfecting my craft and painting things that resonate with me, so I’m not seeking commissioned work as of right now. However when that time comes and when I feel comfortable enough to do requested pieces by others, I will definitely let all of my customers and supporters know.
ATBEL: I can respect that. So what does the future hold for Ali and her artwork? Do you want to open up your own gallery or anything?
GA: I feel like the possibilities are endless in my future. I’m just enjoying painting in my bed, for now, and selling them on my site. It would be cool to have my work featured in someone else’s gallery, but to have my own? I haven’t really thought about that. I’m open to any blessings that come my way so we will just have to wait and see.
ATBEL: So now you’ve got to let everyone know where you can be reached so they too can get Gregarious Ali pieces. Set that @ name out! lol
GA: Follow me on Twitter @gregariousali. My art Instagram is @gregariousalisnaps, emphasis on snaps. If you leave it off, you’ve found my personal page, haha. My blog/website is www.gregariousalisnaps.com. To shop for artwork, visit www.gregariousalicreates.storenvy.com. I can be contacted on any of those sites, by those handles and here as well: www.gregariousalicreates.storenvy.com/contact.
ATBEL: For any of the other young up and coming artists out there who want to get their art out there and get some exposure, too, what advice do you have for them?
GA: Put your best effort, patience, and love into it so that you’re making quality work. You’ll develop a following if people not only like what you’re doing, but can see that you’re not just creating/selling any ole thing. When people contact you about your work or an order, try to be expeditious about getting back with them because great customer service is key! If you come across websites seeking art submissions to be featured, send your work in! Build a platform and increase your following. A friend told me about a “Blkwomenart” Tumblr page; I uploaded and submitted three pieces along with my name and website link. They were approved and within minutes my artwork had hundreds of reblogs. I’ve gotten so many page views on my shop and even a few customers. If someone on social media with a large following has an audience you’re seeking to share your work with and that person does promotions, ask them about their fees and go from there. I got in touch with one girl when she was offering discounted promotions and for an hour, she featured a collage of my paintings on her Instagram. It got 700 likes and I gained over 50 new followers on my IG. So little things like that can make a difference when it comes to you networking. Now, if someone is asking you to ship them tangible free pieces of your product (posters, prints, canvas paintings) for “free exposure,” I do not recommend doing that. That’s where I draw the line because you got to know your worth and that not all exposure is good or necessary exposure. A lot of my support comes from family and friends by them sharing my stuff on social media, so don’t be afraid to ask your people if they’re willing to put you out there. Lastly, be patient. because nothing happens overnight. I’ve only been doing this for 3 months and I’m astounded by the blessings that I’ve received thus far. As I continue to do what I’m doing, it will only get better and my following with increase.
ATBEL: Well doll, that’s all the questions I have for you today. Thank you again for the chit-chat and we will definitely be in touch in the near future. I got more Gregarious Ali pieces to obtain. *Hairflip* lol Be blessed love! XO
GA: Same to you, love! Take care.
That pretty much wraps up this post for today. Make sure you guys check out Ali’s artwork and support her because she is super talented and I know she will achieve great things in the future. Keep shining bright girl!
Until next time loves…