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
I’ve been doing a lot of very neutral art the past couple of weeks, so I decided to use some color this time. Everyone always asks me how I get my blended colors. I always start with the lightest color, usually all over the nail, then I randomly swipe colors until I’m satisfied and cure the first set. Once it’s cured, I dry brush my neons and dark colors on top of the base and cure. I saw a black and white image of some of the main characters while I was researching, so on top of my colorful background, I thought it would be a perfect contrast. Then I saw a poster from a local showing of the movie and it had pinstripes and triangles, so I created the index finger using that as inspiration. I love negative space images, so my glow-in-the-dark nail was one of the iconic images of Frank N. Furter. I used acrylic paint over a lacquer base, then I used my glow-in-the-dark top coat over just the white.
The other hand is fairly simple because I love dripping paint and the title of the movie is dripping paint! I started with a black lacquer and used white acrylic paint and painted the movie title over four fingers, then I painted red on top of the white, but I didn’t want to completely cover the white. Then I lined the red in black to give it a little contrast. I do typography often, so this was right up my alley. On the thumb I created a really fun character image of Frank N. Furter; it’s fun and challenging trying to fit so many little details into a small space. I used acrylic paint for this as well. After I looked at the whole thing, I knew I was missing something, so I mixed up some red 3-D gel and glitter gel and made some glittery blood drippings on two nails. I thought it was appropriate and a nice finishing touch to my Rocky Horror design.
Click here to see a video diary about Lauren’s nails.
Week 7: China Glaze
I chose to do art from Picasso’s African Period. He was inspired by early-20th-century works that were brought back from Africa. Many prominent artists were inspired by African culture and had much success from their inspired works. From 1906 to 1909, Picasso created pieces with beautiful shades of brown, a perfect representation of our many shades.
I used Picasso’s “Friendship” piece for my first two nails. I focused solely on the part of the painting that spoke to me. I used the man by himself because his structure, for me, represents the strength of a man who is the head of the household. For the next nail, I chose to focus on the woman. The tilt of her head on his shoulder reveals her vulnerability and submission. It speaks powerfully about friendship and friendship in marriage. For both of these nails, I used lacquer for my base and acrylic paint to start the structure of my people, then lacquer and acrylic paint for the detailing.
The second painting is his “Head of a Sleeping Woman.” I chose her because she’s so pretty and very feminine. The slanted lines in the painting make her look soft and the colors make her look bright and happy. At first I thought her hair looked straight, which would be a contradiction given the people who inspired this, but the other lines that go in different directions, especially the ones at the root of her hair, makes me feel like he tried to get our hair right. I used lacquer as my base and acrylic paint to start the silhouette of my lady. I layered paint and lacquer to simulate Picasso’s style. It’s very hard to paint perfectly imperfect. I used a lot of dry brush strokes to avoid getting perfectly blended colors. I wanted to see brush strokes but not so much that each color looks detached from one another.
I chose his “Three Musicians” piece for my fourth nail because Africans are a musical people. Jazz, Soul, Hip Hop, Gospel, etc. For centuries, we have influenced many genres of music; it’s who we are. So this was a perfect choice to round out my set. I used mostly lacquer to create the art for this nail. The components of this nail are very geometric, true to his cubism style. I focused on the clarinet player, mostly because I was a first chair woodwind in high school and the blue in it complemented the rest of the nails.
The thumb is an African mask I saw in my research. Since he was inspired by African sculptures, and his painting resembled the masks, especially the noses, I thought it was necessary. I used lacquer for most of the mask, sponging a metallic tan and gold color to make the mask look real. I used a tan acrylic paint for the detailing in the mask, as well as its eyes, nose, and forehead.
Click here to see a video diary about Lauren’s nails.
Week 6: Gel II
We have a very unique skyline here in Memphis because of our beautiful bridge, the Pyramid, and the mighty (muddy) Mississippi. I started with the water, which, truth be told, is not as pretty as I made it. It’s muddy and murky, but it’s ours and we Memphians love it! Then I chose a couple of our tallest downtown buildings and sculpted panels to assemble using acrylic, and also the tops of two of them afterward because they’re oddly shaped. The bridge and pyramid are the shining stars, so I made them with glitter. I had to, it was only right given that they shine at night. I thought it would be cool to have a moon, but then I had another thought: What would happen if I just cured the hard gel right on top of the transfer foil? Well, genius happened that’s what, and I got the shiniest moon ever! So then I needed to represent legendary Beale Street somehow, so I sculpted music notes and floated them in the night sky. I foiled the water to make the city reflect in it and made the water a little dirty and voila: I nailed everything down and my city has come alive!
Click here to see a step-by-step tutorial of Lauren’s nails.
Week 5: Bio Seaweed Gel
I try to highlight my history whenever I can, so I knew I had to do something related to African culture. Before the Muslim or Christian religion, Africans had Ifa. It’s still practiced today in Nigeria and other countries, as well as in South American countries by descendants of the original slave trade that started in the 15th century. This was important to me because unification is the catalyst for peace. Without spiritual completion, there is no peace. Ifa is solely for the purpose of balancing energy and giving thanks for being afforded basic forces of nature; for without them, we would not exist. The purpose of Ifa rituals is to find balance and prepare for your day, reunited with your original energy source (God). Without unity there is surely chaos. Without tradition and history there is surely chaos. It is my hope to find unity.
I started with something very important with my people, division by skin tone. I wanted to blend different tones of brown to symbolize the need to love all shades and togetherness. Then I painted two mud cloth mats for the ritual tools and the Yoruba offering bowl to sit on. I chose to create the tools needed for the balancing ritual. Bese Saka or “sack of kola nuts” was my inspiration; it’s a symbol of unity and togetherness. Only the kola nuts (or coconuts for modern practices) that are broken into fours are allowed to be used for diviner readings, so I created a string of four kola nut pieces. Yoruba divination trays are used to put the nuts on for the ritual—they are made of wood with beautifully carved symbols. So I started my tray by carving and staining a piece of wood and finishing it with a 3-D gel I custom mixed to match the stain on the wood. Diviners use a tapper to welcome the spirits to the ritual, so I painted the center nail to represent it, and I used gel, foil, and gel paint to decorate it. Diviners are important people and the beaded decorations are an indication of their status. All of these tools are kept in a bag that is decorated as well. I used 3-D gel to sculpt the form of the bag and used acrylic paint to finish it. When the reading is over and you’ve found out the energy you’re lacking, you have to give an offering to the Orisha, which provides that energy for restoration. I used 3-D gel to sculpt my Yoruba offering bowl starting with her face and body; then I used the end of a dropper as a mold for my bowl, cured both, and used gel-polish to finish and then finally decorated it with white gel paint. I attached all of the pieces with hard gel to secure.
Click here to see a video diary about Lauren’s nails.
Week 4: Orly
I researched and saw many places that make Hollywood great. I loved the Hollywood sign and the Walk of Fame, but neither one sparked any creativity. I went through many lists and noticed Madame Tussauds Hollywood was a favorite of many tourists and even the stars themselves. Looking at the pictures, the art on the walls, the colors and the reds and gold really made me want to paint. Madame Tussauds is the home of Hollywood’s legends. I loved the roses on the wall — they’re just as classic as the stars and the place itself — so I mimicked the wall art on two nails. Using different gel-polish, I painted roses, flower petals, and part of a butterfly. I used gold acrylic paint for the logo on a red background. For my celebrities, I used acrylic paint. I painted a silhouette of the faces in white so my colors wouldn’t disappear on top of the black. I needed a magnifying lamp for these! I prefer not to paint faces in regular colors; I’ve always liked the fun of using bright colors or gray scale instead. Tupac was created from as many colors as I had, Joan Rivers and Madonna were from sort of a pop art-inspired picture, and Maya Angelou was from a gray scale photo. The thumb was basically a mixture of what makes Hollywood great. Action, adventure, and the dreams of many to just make it. People travel from all over the world to make it big in Hollywood. I used mostly gel paint for my art. Will Smith was especially difficult with the gel paint. I usually paint faces with acrylic paint, so I was completely out of my element. Still, this was one of the most fun challenges in this competition for me. I love painting and I was really looking forward to something like this!
Click here to view a video diary about Lauren’s nails.
Week 3: Entity
I knew immediately that I wanted to attempt a classic competition pink and white, because I want to start competing at the shows next year. I had so much fun doing this, partially because I know how difficult it is doing competition pink and whites in comparison to the regular everyday pink and whites. For my haute couture look, I was inspired by Stephane Rolland for his layered looks in haute couture. I prefer antique looks when I think about crystals and I love mixing silver and gold, so I chose to use everything. I started with Young Nails Canvas as my base, then I drew some lace on a couple of the nails to add to the background of the embellishments. For my worn look, I used a sepia ink and patted it with just my finger until I had the effect I wanted. I made some of my embellishments from gel-polish for my layering and I used stones to add to my bows. I used gel to attach my gel-polish pieces and Fastbond to attach my stones.
Click here for a step-by-step tutorial of Lauren’s pink-and-white look.
Click here for a step-by-step tutorial of Lauren’s haute couture look.
Week 2: Akzentz
For NTNA week 2, sponsored by Akzentz, we were asked to recreate our favorite board game using gel or gel-polish. We had a 3-D element in this challenge, which terrified me last year, as I’d never done it before. This time around, I’ve developed some confidence with 3-D gel art.
Board games were something I played a lot as a child, so it made me nostalgic and reminisce a little about my brother and I with our cousins. Those were good times. One of my favorite games as a child was Life. I thought back on how I imagined adult life as a child, and how I’m playing my real life now at 35.
This was so much fun! Thank you, Akzentz and NAILS Magazine — I enjoyed this thoroughly.
Week 1: Dashing Diva
For our first challenge, we were asked to pick a diva and create a set of nails inspired by the diva’s personality. After much debate and searching, I chose Grace Jones. As a kid, I saw Grace Jones mostly in movies, so I thought she was weird and crazy. My 12-year-old immature mind looked at her and thought, why does she act like that? Why doesn’t she want long hair and why does she wear those clothes? Wanting to fit in made me want her to fit in. Now, at 35, I admire her for it. She walked the runways in designer couture, and never apologized for her art. She was a confident, beautiful, dark skinned supermodel, dancer and singer. She was known for her unique androgynous look and very structured clothing and hair. She was coveted by every fashion designer and artist in the 70s and 80s, especially Keith Haring. I’m inspired by her freedom and fearlessness through her artistry. I wanted to create nails that were as edgy and feminine as she is, so I chose a grey scale because that’s what I mostly saw when I was researching. She was either in black or was photographed in black and white. I saw so many shapes and structures, so I chose to do geometric hand painted art on nails that weren’t typical stiletto or oval nails, using a deep C-curve.
I wanted the nails to be just as strong and over-the-top as she is, so I created glitter nail beds and caged nails inspired by one of her outfits, using sheer black with white detail, glitter tips with abstract Keith Haring images, and finishing it off with multicolored stones. They are just as wild and crazy as I remember Grace Jones and I love them.