Artist N’kai DeLauter created the cover for FIYAH #24, “Hauntings and Horrors.” We asked how she became so cool, and what inspires her amazing work.
What inspired you to originally want to be an artist?
My older sibling is an artist. As a kid I really looked up to them and how talented they were, I still do. My family has always been very artistic, so when I showed interest in drawing my mother was quick to gift me sketchbooks and books on drawing. Art became my main form of expression and it gave me the opportunity to tell my own story. When an arts high school opened in my town, my older sibling auditioned and was accepted. As I watched them create amazing things I had pretty much decided that I wanted to fully pursue being an artist, and I attended the same high school after they graduated. Once I started going to that school, I started my own art journey.
What advice would you have for people looking to become an artist as a career? What are some of the highs and lows they can expect?
Not everyone is going to like your work, and sometimes, you won’t like it, either. Art is full of trial and error, and it is up to you to decide how to interpret feedback. Will you let it tear you down, or will you use it as fuel to push you to be the artist you want to be? You’ll have to try things you’ve never done before, change the way you see things, and make difficult decisions. Some of the most difficult decisions I have made about my art have built me up into the artist I am now. It’s also important to not change who you are as an artist just to please those around you.
What would you say have been the top highlights of your artistic career so far?
My career is really just beginning but I have had a lot of great turning points in my artistic journey. I would say that one of the main highlights would be when I decided to switch from being a sculpture major to an illustration major and painting minor. I had been focusing so much on being a sculptor during my freshman year of college that I didn’t even want to consider other majors. I had both drawing and painting teachers encouraging me to look at illustration and then on the opposite side I had classmates telling me that illustration wasn’t for me. It wasn’t until I transferred schools that I looked at my interest in illustration as an option and found how much I love it.
Who are some of your favorite artists currently?
Top 5 at the moment would have to be Nikola Samori, Edgar Degas, Evan Boggess, Julia Soboleva and Anselm Kiefer.
What inspired the FIYAH cover piece? Was it one particular thing or a convergence of inspirations?
Besides knowing that I wanted to create a powerful being of chaos and destruction, I also knew I wanted to combine modern day concepts with historical references from many different time periods in the hopes of creating an image that felt nostalgic and dated, but was difficult to pinpoint the exact time and place of. I became really interested in the colonial town reconstruction in St. Mary’s Maryland after visiting my younger sister’s campus and pulled a lot of inspiration from some of their historic structures; one in particular was an old tobacco barn. I kind of mashed them together to create the bizarre structure behind the figure. The figure is wearing clothes that I actually own. I liked that the coat and dress together, added some texture and pattern while also giving off a dated aurora that felt similar to 40 and 50s fashion but with a modern day twist. The hair was heavily inspired by the beautiful hairstyles worn by some of the Cameroon tribes in central Africa. The whole process was very experimental.
What was the most difficult lesson you had to learn as an artist?
There is really no absolute answer to anything in the art world. You kind of have to walk blindly with an open mind, work hard and continue to push yourself. You may not always end up at your original goal, but you might land somewhere better that you didn’t even know was an option.
What projects do you have coming down the pipeline? Anything you’re particularly excited about?
I’m just starting my senior year as an Illustration major. My thesis is a project I have been working on for years. I’ll finally have the opportunity to focus on it and be able to tell my personal story the way I have always wanted. I’m really excited to see it come together.
Tell us where we can find you. Social media, website etc.?
Painting and non-illustration work: @vvvoid.art
Illustration work: @vvvoid.ill