Tatiana Poblah is a Montreal-based artist of Haitian and Beninese descent. Her beautiful illustrations ooze bright colours, femininity, and style. (Be warned…it’s hard to take your eyes off of them!) In an exclusive interview with Pride News, Poblah dished about her culture, her creative processes, and her 225 Portraits of 2016 project. Below you will find the full interview with Poblah:
Let me start off by saying that your art illustrations are absolutely stunning! Now that we’ve got the obvious out of the way, start off by telling us where you’re from and a little about yourself.
So let me start off by saying thank you for this interview I was born in Montreal. I spent my teenage years in South Florida, and now I’m based in Montreal. I’m a first generation Canadian and my parents are from Benin (West Africa) and Haiti, which was interesting growing up because we were exposed to different cultures – Caribbean, African, American, and Canadian. This exposure influences the way that I approach my art and the way that I design.
Did you always want to be an artist? What and/or who inspired you to pursue this?
I always knew I wanted to live a creative life. When I was in the first grade I attended a Leonardo da Vinci exhibit which changed my life. I remember seeing drawings of his inventions and seeing the titles next to his name and instantly connecting. My mother saw this in me and pushed me towards a career in art and architecture, and today I hold an AEC in fashion design and both my bachelors’ and masters’ in Landscape Architecture.
If you had to pick one artist who you admire the most, who would that be?
I’m not sure whether the word is admire, but rather respect for me. I admire people who create something and make it incredible whether it’s in an artistic field, in business or in science. When it comes to artists in visual arts, however, I respect those who lived full artistic lives and who impacted their peers and the generations after them – Pablo Picasso, Frida Kahlo, Elsa Schiaparelli, Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, Antonio Lopez, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Jeff Koons are some of the ones whose careers I study most.
What tool (paint, pencils, markers) do you use to create your pieces? Why?
I draw using markers. I learned to paint with watercolors and acrylics before I started using markers but I had no patience to wait so I switched to markers. I love them because of how they flow, because they blend well, and because the colors are so saturated.
We’ve noticed you only feature females in your illustrations. Can you tell us why?
I grew up in a very woman centric environment. My mother is a beautiful and intelligent woman and all her friends were the same way. Growing up, I saw all these Black women with degrees, careers, and families, who were always dressed well and spoke impeccably, and who were so lovely to be around. I loved it. I loved seeing them at parties with their bright lipsticks, chiffon dresses, big hats, and colorful scarves, while we kids looked like little princesses and princes. It made me think that being a woman was wonderful, and it stuck with me when I began to draw girls.
Where do you get inspiration for your future illustrations?
It depends. Sometimes I draw inspiration from the past, sometimes, I draw friends and loved ones, and sometimes I am inspired by bad ass women with great style.
How long do your illustrations usually take to create?
I like to work quickly with markers while they are wet, so on average an 8×10 illustration takes me about 1-3 hours to create and scan. If I am doing a digital collage (working with hand drawings and digital images) it can take 1-3 days, because I have to sketch, lay it out, draw, and create the collage. I usually like to wait a bit to edit the piece to let it sink in.
On your website you talk about your 225 Portraits of 2016 project. Tell us about this and what inspired you to start it? How did you come up with the number 225? Does it have significance?
I undertook a “365 days of Illustrations” challenge in 2013 and it was so much fun that at the beginning of the year I decided to produce 225 portraits this year. I don’t draw portraits often and I thought it would be nice to develop a new skill. I take on these challenges to force myself to draw more often. I wanted to draw and post on weekdays so I chose 225 as the number of days I thought would make sense for my schedule.
225 portraits in a year sounds like a big task! Tell us a little bit about your artistic process. When is the best time of day for you to create? Day? Night? Do you listen to music while you’re creating your art? Are there any other specific rituals involved in the process?
There are days when 225 portraits sounds like a crazy undertaking to me as well, but I take it one portrait at a time. I usually sketch and then draw a week’s worth of illustrations on weekends, and I prefer drawing in the morning because there is more light. I used to do all my art late at night but recently, my brain is mush at night. I rarely listen to music when I draw, but I do like to have my favorite action movies like the Blade and Bourne trilogies playing in the background. I also need to have all my materials set out before I start because I rarely take a break before completing each piece.
What piece of advice would you give to any emerging artists?
Being an artist is wonderful but it’s like any other career choice – you have to put in the work. You keep at it, you improve your skills, you challenge yourself, you grow, and you start again in order to create the best body of work you could possibly leave behind; because at the end of the day, you are the only person who is responsible for the creation of your work.
What is the best life lesson you’ve learned thus far?
I have not accepted all projects that I have been offered because I knew what goals I have for my work. Some people have called me silly for doing so, but I have stood my ground and now I am proud that I have done so. When I was younger, at times I questioned myself, but as I have grown older and more experienced, I have more faith in my skills, myself, and the universe so I am happy that I chose to be authentic to myself and my art.
Tatiana Poblah is a Montreal-based artist of Haitian and Beninese descent. Photo courtesy of Tatiana Poblah