The work of Cortney Herron emulates positivity and inspiration, all while illuminating Black women.
Los Angeles, California
Through her portraiture, Cortney creates moody abstract faces, balancing pastels with nude colour tones to provide a contempt feeling.
How would you describe your style?
I lean towards figurative paintings and portraits in a more abstract way. Before getting into portraits, I was really big on using lines and shapes to create traditional abstract paintings. I find that the abstract style carries over into my portrait work.
What drew you towards painting as a form of artistic expression?
Painting is my therapy. And even when I was younger, I always found myself leaning to art in my spare time. It’s truly the only activity where I’m able to get lost in the zone and lose track of time. There’s so much healing that happens for me when I paint.
When did you first begin to paint?
I started painting when I was 3 years old and continued throughout high school. I took a hiatus from art during college where I received a degree in Graphic Design but later picked it back up after settling in as an adult living in Los Angeles.
You are both a painter and an illustrator. How does your creative process differ when making a painting as opposed to an illustration?
I’m in two totally different moods here. I consider my illustrations to be more like my sketchbook creations. For example, I can’t just sit on the couch and watch TV, so I like to have my iPad with me and work on sketches. It’s always that time where I can be experimental and really just see what happens in the process. For my paintings, I’m in a more methodical state. I already have a general idea of what I want to paint and the steps I need to take to at least set a foundation. This is when I really get lost in the zone – I have my music going, and I’m able to fully immerse myself in the process that can go for hours at a time.
What materials do you use to paint, and what do you use for your illustrations?
Acrylic paint is my go-to. [My] illustrations are all done using ProCreate on my iPad. I use an Apple Pencil (that I’m actually obsessed with) to create the illustrations.
Got Your Back
[Wine for You]
For your paintings, you incorporate nude tones and pastel colours, why are these your preferred palettes to use?
I think I gravitate toward this nude and muted palette because I’m shy. And I always have been but it wasn’t until more recently that I felt okay admitting that – not just openly, but proudly. I feel like the muted colors are an extension of me and how much I truly hate the spotlight. I’m a very quiet and observant person and have never enjoyed having the spotlight on me. But I know that, to a certain extent, I have to put myself out there and shine the spotlight on myself to be an artist. So I know I have to make a statement but it’s almost my subtle way of standing up for my quiet and reserved nature.
What do the large eyes depicted in your characters symbolize?
I feel like the eyes are the part of the body that best represents mood. There’s something about the gaze of the eyes that is so powerful and holds so much information that I find very fascinating.
Black women are a prominent muse in your work, what does actively carrying out representation of Black women mean to you?
Each black woman I paint is a part of me in a way. I feel like the best way I can and know how to show up in this world is leading by inspiration based on my craft. I understand that the internet and social media allow us to all have a platform, so showing up as the best version of myself, doing what I love, sharing my creativity with the world, and so on, allows me to be the representation of a Black woman that I can. My art and portrayal of Black women are me showing up.
I’d consider myself an overall creative person, so aside from creating art, I really enjoy photography. I’m always taking pictures!
What is it like to live in L.A.? Did you grow up there or did you move there for the art scene?
I’m Los Angeles born and raised. The sun is out a lot so that always makes me happy. I love being outside as much as possible - hiking, going to the beach – I love doing things like that.
Photos of plants are quite apparent on your Instagram profile and also in your artwork. Are you a plant lover? If so, what type of plants do you have?
I have a love-hate relationship with plants. I mean obviously, I love plants but keeping them alive has been a challenge for me over the years. I stick to cactus and succulents or the kinds of plants that don’t need too much attention all of the time :-)
You’re the founder of a platform called “Check Ya Gratitude”; what is it about and why did you start it?
Well, ‘Check Ya Gratitude’ is an inspirational quote, so to speak, that I painted a while back. I was really (and I still am) into creating these bold, relatable statements in my art, simply because it was how I felt. So the response I got from my ‘Check Ya Gratitude’ painting made me realize that this whole concept needed to be its own thing – an inspirational Instagram page where people can go to feel okay and give themselves the permission to be kind themselves. I wanted to really create a safe space on Instagram where I didn’t mind spending (or perhaps wasting) my time. So I ended up digitizing the font I painted and created my own font, and used that style to write relatable quotes of inspiration and authenticity.
What do you envision for the “Check Ya Gratitude” platform? How do you want it to grow?
I had a run with putting ‘Check Ya Gratitude’ on pullover sweatshirts, so at this time, I’m developing a more permanent plan for bringing ‘Check Ya Gratitude’ to the apparel and merchandise world.
As you grow as an artist, has your work changed over the years?
Getting more aligned with who I am as an individual and artist has allowed me more time to fine-tune my art, and in turn, become more aligned with the art I’m actually creating. I find that the more time I’m able to give to creating, the happier and more proud I feel about what I’m creating.
Do you have any values or core principles that you aim to share through your work?
To be you. Art for me at this time in my life has really been a blessing because it’s allowed me to embrace all that I used to be so insecure about when I was younger.
My goal has always been for people to feel a sense of relatability or be able to see themselves through my creations, so if I’m able to do that in some way, I’ve made an impact.
Have you collaborated with any individuals or companies? If so, what was that experience like?
I work with Society6 quite a bit – that’s where I sell all of my art prints, mainly my illustrations. It’s really awesome actually because it makes me feel proud of the unique art I’m creating in a way where others are too, able to see my vision. I’ve also been working with Dagne Dover, enhancing some of their editorials with my illustrations. That was really cool to see my style blend with a contemporary brand. I also love the fact that they are a female-owned/female-run company, so that’s kind of the cherry on top!
What is your support system like?
I am beyond grateful for my support system. Everything from my family to my friends to the connections I’ve made on social media. I’ve always felt like social media can be a toxic place if you engage in the kind of behavior that can lower your energetic frequency. There’s so much negativity shown online but virtually surrounding myself with the kind of artists and people that emit positivity and authenticity is refreshing and empowering as an artist.
What are some accomplishments that you’re appreciative of?
That defining moment for me was back in 2018 when I was asked to have my art on display at one of The Riveter’s newly opened co-working spaces. It was a moment when I knew that taking that leap of faith and putting my art out there paid off. I used to be so nervous to share my art but living in such a digital culture, I knew that sharing my art online and on social media had to be the next step. A curator/designer working for The Riveter said she found my art on Instagram, so that’s how that collaboration began. Having my art on display there along with a gallery show they threw for me was a defining moment in my art career that I’ll never forget.
Where do you envision yourself and your work in the future?
I really love creating portraits, so doing more large-scale portrait work is definitely in my future. And I’d love to do a mural somewhere in my hometown of Los Angeles!
In the process of creating work, what have you learned about yourself?
I’ve learned that I actually love myself. Totally embracing myself as an artist has allowed me to see myself for who I truly am. I’ve always been quiet and shy and felt like something was wrong with me. But creativity has allowed me to embrace that, and that feeling is incredibly special. It keeps me grounded.
[About Last Night]