Hopefully by now you’ve been able to check out our This Is My Happy Place campaign. If not, do that now! If you have, then join us as we dive into the artist behind the incredible illustrations.
Enter Elayna Speight. Elayna owns and operates Inked Designs, and collaborated with Alpine Parrot to create five illustrations that depict a diverse set of plus-sized women enjoying the outdoors. We took some time to chat with Elayna about her business, working on the illustrations, and being a woman of color in the design space.
Be sure to follow Elayna on Instagram, here.
Alpine Parrot: Your website says Inked Designs is a black woman-owned graphic design and art studio based in the Washington, DC Metro Area. What inspired you to start your own design studio?
Elayna Speight: I started my own design studio because after working in house for a company for a number of years, I decided I would rather work for myself. Now I choose my own hours, and projects and work from home so for me, it was a great decision.
AP: What does your design process typically look like?
ES: After the client reaches out to me and we discuss what they want, I start with research. I research what the subject matter of the project is, look up reference photos, and brainstorm concepts. For this project, I looked up different hiking and nature scenes. I studied different poses and how people would look in these different scenes; how they fit and interact with the scenery.
Once I collect all my reference photos, I start sketching. Once I feel that I am satisfied and feel that the sketches are in a good place, I share them with the client. The client then gives feedback on the sketch. They tell me what they like and don’t like and I take their edits and make changes to the sketch. We go back and forth about 2 more times to get the sketch finalized and approved by the client. Then I paint it traditionally or digitally depending on the request.
For this project, we went digital. I started with all the sketches and Raquel edited and made critiques based on how the illustrations worked as a group. For example, if this person is in front of a mountain, the next one should be at a beach. Raquel not only wanted a variety of ethnicities and body shapes but also locations; where they were hiking. When we went to color, the same thing, we had to make sure that the group of illustrations looked good together and didn’t clash but were each individually eye-catching.
AP: Was there anything in particular that inspired or excited you about the This Is My Happy Place illustrations?
ES: Firstly, I was excited when Raquel told me that she designed the pants specifically for curvy girls. I am not a hiker myself but I am curvy. It excited me to know that if I ever wanted to take up hiking, I would know where to go. I was pumped to be a part of the campaign that would help get the word out. Now about the project itself, I was looking forward to drawing a diverse group of people in scenic backgrounds. I don’t usually do a lot of backgrounds in my work, but it was a welcome challenge.
AP: Your bio mentions your inspiration is the Carefree Black Girl. While This Is My Happy Place features many different ethnicities, do you feel you were able to incorporate that into this project?
ES: What better way to be carefree but to indulge in some self care and go for a hike by yourself or with friends to center yourself and gain some perspective?
AP: Are there any other artists that inspire you right now?
ES: There are a number of artists that I follow on Instagram that definitely inspire me. They are Kehinde Wiley, Amy Sherald, Geneva D. Benson, J’Nell Jordan, Monica Ikegwu, Veronica Jamison, Sharee Miller, Mimi Moffie and a ton of others.
AP: What kind of work would you like to do in the future?
ES: I would like to eventually do a children’s book or maybe editorial work like illustrations for a magazine would be amazing.
AP: What role do you think art plays in representation?
ES: I think art is the same as media in that you need to see yourself represented in the images you see. Art is no exception. The majority of paintings you see in museums are of white people and from the white perspective and with white women as the standard of beauty. History and to some degree art history is often taught centered on white people as well. When I decided to start creating art, I didn’t see a lot of black artists and their work. I wanted to do my part to add beautiful, positive images of Black women out there in the hope that whoever sees my work sees that Black women are beautiful too; that the Black women that see my work feel valued and seen and see themselves as beautiful.
AP: Is there anything else you would like to share about this project, or your work in general?
ES: I offer graphic design and art commission services but I also have a shop where you can buy prints and original artwork as well as enamel pins and stickers.
Check out more of Elayna’s art at https://www.thinkinkeddesigns.com/