I am an artist in every way. I do nails, makeup, and I paint. I married an artist, so we encourage creativity in each other. I don’t have a favorite color. You can usually tell what mood or frame of mind I’m in by what color I favor at the time. Art is a means of release, emotional support, expression and a display of who I am on the inside. Art is always the inner workings of the artist, their emotions and the fantasy they create in their mind. That’s what I try to do on a daily basis while loving on my clients and treating them like they’re the greatest gift in the world. I focus more on art and properly maintained nails. Nail art is cute but art is the main objective. I offer my clients an experience when they come to Graffiti Nail Bar. Art is everywhere in my salon — on walls, on canvases, on my nail bar, and I’m working on painting the floor and chairs. I love a lot of color. When my clients come in I want them to feel fun, I want them to feel free and uninhibited. I take pride in knowing my clients so well that when they come in they can sit down and never have to look at a polish bottle. I make sure I’m very relatable, so I have a wide range of clients. From teachers to housewives and nurses to attorneys, they all connect to me in some sort of way. When they come in its ‘girlfriend’ conversations every time. We are like a family and Graffiti Nail Bar is our home. I’m excited to be able to create with no limitations in this competition!
Week 8: Gelish
For week 8, sponsored by Gelish, we were asked to create a 3-D fantasy design on one nail tip to bring awareness to a charity that is important to us. My charity is organ donation, specifically Mid-South Transplant Foundation. Thirteen years ago, my son was taken away from me in a very unfortunate way. He ended up saving multiple lives because I agreed to have his organs donated. I was very broken, but to know others didn’t have to lose their loved ones because of my son, ended up being much-needed comfort. My son would never live his life; there was no need to deny others that right if I could help it.
Because I’m in a situation where I have to visit my son’s resting place, when I saw the Guardian Angel statues, I thought it was appropriate for the angel to stand above the entire nail to oversee the passing of life. Now this is only one nail, so I need tons of room to tell my story. Why not sculpt the green organ donation ribbon as a base for my design? I chose to extend the tail of the ribbon to hold up the recipient’s hands. I chose to place the hands inside a green calla lily with the organ donation logo on it, since they’re the curators of the organ donation process. The calla lily represents holiness, faith, purity, and rebirth. Since the recipients are gaining a new lease on life from their faith and determination, I wanted to wrap them in the calla lily. This is also why I chose to cover part of the ribbon in different color calla lilies.
My son was 13 months when he was returned to his energy source beyond the clouds, so I chose clouds to be the place where the hands would come from to give life from their previous earthly life source. Between the two loved ones, is a hand painted silhouette of a tree that is representative of life.
The angel is overseeing all of the beautiful transference of life from one transitioning back to their energy source and one blessed with more time to serve man and fulfill God’s plan for their life.
Week 7: It’s So Easy
Week 7 was sponsored by It’s So Easy, and we were challenged to do a set of wearable steampunk nails on a live model. Unfortunately, I was unable to secure one, so I was my own model; which is perfectly fine because these nails are so sick! Even though I’m a street art lover, this felt much like home to me. I love the combination of the girly, Victorian feel, yet the bold, industrial aspect of it allows me to be who I am. I first started with my base and my newly perfected skill, creating a set of nails without using polish. Now because this is steampunk, I created my color palette to go along with the feminine elements and the metals I’ll be using. I chose colored hard gel to create my set and I used a metallic rose, bronze, and a glitter mix. After I’ve randomly applied the colored gel, before I cured it, I placed the clock pieces on the thumb, index finger and ring finger. I topped it off with gel and cured it.
I could never hear Victorian without thinking of cameos. As a little girl, my grandmother bought me earrings and necklaces with the cameo pendant on it. Well, I’m not all that girly anymore, and I don’t have to be as long as steampunk is a thing! So now, I decide to push myself by sculpting one with black acrylic with blush mixed with white acrylic powder. I sculpted the cameo on top of a nail covered with foil. When I was done, I mounted it on my thumb with acrylic and framed it with silver ball chain to resemble pearls. I wanted a burned out, old love letter to give me that vintage look as well, so I used a calligraphy pen to write random words on my middle finger and used Young Nails canvas gel-polish to get the gold hue and my sepia acrylic ink to give it the burned out look around the edges.
I sculpted two roses for my bold color and I used an acrylic paint mix in red, black, and blue to make them darker so it will go along with the theme. I placed them on my pinky and index finger and hand painted a black and gold design on the pinky to tie it in with the industrial element from the gears. Then I put a chain link I use for my handmade earrings on my ring finger, along with more gears and some Swarovski crystals to frame the embedded gears.
Week 6: Dashing Diva
Week 6 is sponsored by one of my favorite companies, Dashing Diva. We were challenged to make a set of 10 bejeweled nails. I immediately thought about Japanese nail art. I love the colors and the kid-like feel of them. Nails should be fun and not always so serious and sexy, and with the stones, it gives it a grown up feel as well. Although I couldn’t use the charms and 3-D designs, I liked the idea of the colors and stones together.
I created the base for my design using gel-polish and a little bit of standard polish. Once I applied the colors, top coat and finished curing everything, I removed the dispersion layer and removed the shine and started my hand painting. I used a white gel-polish to paint the face for the character and used white acrylic paint for their ears. Using black acrylic paint, I outlined them and painted on their faces.
I always use Brisa Gloss Gel Top Coat to put my stones on. So I used a variety of color stones to complement the color palette for this design. After laying the stones, I applied a gel top coat to the rest of the nail, not over the stones, and I cured and removed the dispersion layer.
Week 5: Entity Beauty
For week 5 we were given four photos to draw inspiration from in order to create a set of nails for Entity Beauty’s 10-year anniversary. We were to create a design based on the feeling it evoked in us when we looked at the pictures. One constant thought when I looked at the pictures was opulent. French manicures can be worn by anyone, anywhere, at any time. The difference between the seemingly austere idea of a French manicure and these pictures, is the way they’re presented. The ads are regal, ethereal, decadent, and bold. They couple the nails with things that give them meaning and represent exactly the culture Entity Beauty is trying to convey.
So for my design, I thought lace, gold and jewels. They’re everything I imagine when I think of regal and decadence. I handpainted a lace design on top of a black smoky color. I used an acrylic paint in white and buff so it wouldn’t be stark white on top of the smoky background. I chose this smoky background so it would feel kind of sexy, like a black sheer netting under lace. Then I chose to do one black matte nail with a shiny design. I thought the plain matte didn’t tie well into the overall design, so I hand painted a similar detail in clear gel-polish. The left pinky was designed to look like a medieval design with caviar beads in the cross points.
You can’t properly pay homage to these ads without some jewels, so that is what I did for the remaining nails. First, I had to start my design with a base, so I used CND Romantique and covered it with an opalescent and gold foil to give it depth. I chose ab clear stones, silver ball chains, caviar beads and opalescent stones for my design. I found some pictures in my “regal fashion” Google search and came up with the movement for my design. I secured the stones with Brisa Gloss Clear Gel Top Coat, but I had to cure two rows at a time to avoid the stones sliding around the nail, it’s neater than using a resin.
This is a fairly simple design, but it feels rich. That’s the same way Entity Beauty’s ads were designed. Beauty isn’t complicated, it’s calculated. I’ve calculated a very sexy, decadent set of nails.
Week 4: INM
For this week’s challenge we had to represent the country or countries our families are from. I chose to do Senegal, the last place my sister traced us to and America — Mississippi, specifically. I made a traditional Senegal woman carrying salt from the pink lake, Lake Retba in Dakar, Senegal. I used sponges to make the African woman and white acrylic to finish her body. I sculpted her basket with white acrylic over a cork and foil to shape it, I then sculpted her scarf that they normally wear on their head before attaching the basket to the top of her head. I attached her to the nail using pink acrylic and created the waves in the lake. Then I used brown acrylic ink for the sand and green for the grass.
I struggled with this challenge, at first, because before this even came up, I had no idea where we came from. Historically, Africans were brought here from Africa and stripped of their heritage in order to make them dependent on their owners, therefore, successfully enslaving them. Because of this, when slavery was over, the future generations of their descendants would be ignorant to their heritage. Our heritage would then come from the fight for civil rights. I am only the fourth generation after blacks were freed, so my great grandfather would be the first generation to pave the way for us. I chose to pay homage to the state he was born and his mother was a freed house servant. I am proud of the life he and my great gran gave us, so I painted the pictures of them.
Next, I chose to represent my mother and her generational symbols. She shared with me the two things that were important to her at the time, and that’s “Black Power” and “Women’s Liberation.” When I think of that, I imagine the black woman with a huge afro, and because of the voice and identity that she and many others were fighting for, I chose to leave her face blank as a symbol of that. I used makeup sponges, white acrylic and painted her black with gel-polish. Then I drew a couple of symbols for black power, the fist and the African continent in red, yellow and green with the fist in the middle using acrylic paint and calligraphy ink. On the other nail I thought of the “We can do it!” lady with her flexed muscle and the symbol for women’s liberation using all acrylic paint and calligraphy ink. The black and white Kente cloth nail was completed using acrylic paint and finished with matte gel-polish top coat.
I learned a lot about my family and my race of people doing this challenge. So many of us don’t know where we come from, so we never know how great we can be. Sitting down with my grandfather and mother discussing their accounts of their lives and how we got where we are was eye-opening and I thank INM and Nails Magazine for this week’s challenge. It really changed my life.
Week 3: ORLY International
For this challenge I chose to do a colorful French manicure, of sorts. It took me four tries over seven days to come up with something I was proud of. Since we had to do something inspired by Los Angeles, I spent the majority of my time on the Internet looking for something that would catch my attention. French manicures are supposed to be simple and easy going, they have to appeal to the masses and be able to go anywhere with anyone. Knowing that and trying to complete this challenge, I was thoroughly confused and nothing jumped out at me. Finally, with less than 24 hours to go, I text my friend for a list of LA graffiti artists in hopes of something sparking my creativity. After a list of Instagram accounts, I came across Risk Rock, whose style is very similar to a painting I did a couple of months ago. Never in a million years would I have done dripping paint for a French manicure, that’s gasping/pearl clutching territory, but this is a nail art competition so I went for it.
I started out with an almond shape for my nails, and because I needed my neon colors to stand out, I painted the part of the nails for the colors white. I used acrylic paint with a standard small round brush to paint the colors on. I started with pink, red, and purple, then I blended it into the blues, yellows, and green with neon yellow. You always get colors to really pop with neon yellow on top or blended in. After my basic colors were blended through, I came back with standard polish and streaked more color in, blended and in chunks of cascading color and white to give it some depth. Using white and yellow, I drew half circles and paint splatters in random places on the nails. Then I drew my graffiti “half moon” with a 20/0 brush using calligraphy ink in black. Using the very tip of the brush, I created the dripping effect being careful not to drip too far into the colors so they wouldn’t look dark. I created my French tip with Young Nails Kaleidoscope gel paint and made sure to cover the edges and, in true LA style, I made sure it went up the side of the nail bed. Finally, I applied my stones with CND Shellac top coat and cured it under the light. Because I used acrylic paint on this design, I applied top coat twice to secure the design and cured each layer for 120 seconds.
Simple challenges are not so easy. There are so many things you can do that you can’t really narrow it down. You don’t want to do too much or too little. I had to stay true to myself and what I’ve built my reputation on.
Week 2: Bio Seaweed Gel
For my 2nd challenge, sponsored by Bio Seaweed Gel, I chose to honor the pretty blue waters of the ocean. First let me say how extremely out of my element I was this week. I’m a painter not a sculptor, so having to sculpt a scene with 3-D objects on nails was very hard for me. I wanted to paint a picture but that wasn’t my challenge, so I began dreaming. When I go to the beach I love to see pretty blue ocean water crashing against the shore line and seaweed washing up in the sand. I’ve seen pictures of beaches in Africa, Asia, and around the Mediterranean that I dream of going to with big huge rocks on the shore and mountains all around. I combined two nails for my shallow seaweed and coral, with pretty blue waving water.
The most breathtaking part of these particular parts of the world I’ve never been to is the majestic creatures that live in those waters. I decided to do the tale of a whale coming out of the water with splashing water all around. I combined two nails for my ocean and whale.
I did want to create something as a tribute to the new collection, and that is my shipwreck nail. I had so much fun seeing this come to life. It started out as a clay-filled mess because I had no clue of how to execute it properly, but it came together finally. I used my electric file to shape the body of it and drill holes in the side. I also used tiny drink straws as a mold for the “sail poles.” I cut them in half and filled them with the gel in the necessary lengths and assembled the pieces with gel. After which, I drilled a hole in the deck of the ship and fit the assembled poles in the hole. I used the same brown gel for my rocks on the boat, and I used acrylic paint for the worn wood effect. Also, I typically see stuff hanging from the wrecked ships like seaweed or hanging cables, so I had the idea to get one of my wipes and rub the ship until the fibers attached themselves and I covered it with gel.
I consider myself pretty talented being experienced in most things nail art, but this challenge was just that, a challenge. I’m usually not bothered by any nail art I’m asked to do, but this worried me. I’m not afraid to say, the challenge won this round, but I didn’t fold under pressure.
Week 1: Young Nails
I have to say, this is much more than an interpretation of my caption through my art. This is my thoughts manifested — it’s my daily life. Art is more than paint on a canvas. It is a thought, a feeling, an emotion. Art is a release of energy and love through any given medium. Fifty percent of art is imagination and that which you imagine is more than a picture — it’s a story. You make people live your story through your art and it’s up to you whether it is a short story or a novel.
This mural represents me; it’s my life and passion. I chose a picture of Erykah Badu because this particular picture is how I see things on a daily basis. We’re not a color. We’re all colors. We’re beautiful jumbled up rainbows. Her hair is a representation of my heritage. I’m a Black American and I’ve somehow been forced to not straighten my hair because it rejects the relaxer, so I’m going to eventually be big and natural, and this is my tribute to my transformation. There always has to be some sort of graffiti, so I thought it was cool that she had writing all through her hair.
“Organized Chaos” is the best way I can describe my very bipolar, multi-personality style. Nothing ever matches, it just fits together. It’s all over the place but it makes a complete statement. Therefore, I have different colors mixed, my fonts are different, and my little characters are celebrating my craziness while paint drips all over them. It’s a beautiful mess, wonderfully imperfect and wildly imaginative. Meanwhile, my favorite spray can image is in one corner and a reminder to myself is in the other. The top right corner has an African symbol for “perseverance,” which is completely unrelated to my idea, but was a very important part of my process.
The only thing I can ever do is be true to me. This mural is that, it is me and I would never be mad for going home after giving everything I had and writing my true story through a paint brush. Welcome to my world.