[Q&A] @Llanakila + Her New Age Tribal Art
I saw an illustration that looked like a woman was shedding her face. The feeling that the piece conveyed was all too familiar. It reminded me of my last breakup and in that very moment I felt healing energy transferred into my body just from staring at the image. "I've been there" whispered the image to me. Victoria Brown, better known as Llanakila (lana-key-luh) is a painter and graphic artist. Her work is composed of acrylic painting and digital illustrations. Growing up as a military kid, she was not able to call one place a home for too long. From California to Hawaii to Texas (the list goes on) to Brooklyn, she's lived in all parts of our country. Her new age tribal art captures the human experience, our thoughts and our emotions in bold and colorful statements. She credits her journey of expression to "The Radiant Child", a documentary on the life of the renowned artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. See if you can define some of her creations below and read our Q&A with this soul.
As a military kid, how did traveling influence your art?
Traveling really made me outgoing and more open to seeing new things, and experiencing new experiences; it kind of made my emotions want to be expressed. I think through the ups and downs of being a teenager, moving from place to place, high school to school without knowing anybody, it really motivated me to start expressing myself and that’s how I started to paint more and more.
Where does your artist name Llanakila come from?
I lived in Hawaii as one of the moves that I did and I went to a Luau one time. At the Luau, this lady was making bracelets and she asked me what was my name and I said Victoria. She responded, Lanakila, and I was like "Oooh I like that name". It means victorious in their language. I just stuck with it ever since.
What stories do your paintings tell?
My paintings tell stories about love and relationships that happened or didn’t happen. About being a confident black woman. I tell stories about the universe and how things evolve. The sun and the moon. Sometimes they’re really random, like art that I’ll just start drawing with 5 different eyes and things like that, where I’ll just imagine things it will just translate on to the canvas. I always struggle with this questions because I feel like my art varies and it tells different stories that I don’t know how to put it all into one category. There’s love, there’s universe, there’s trippiness, design and lines.
Do you sketch your work before painting?
Sometimes I sketch, but for the most part I don’t sketch because I like for it to just exist on the canvas. I like to put my all into just putting it on the canvas. I like my work to be spontaneous rather than sketching it and planning it out. If I’m doing logo designs or something like that I’ll definitely sketch. But As far as my personal paintings or illustrations I don’t like to sketch; I just do it. How ever it comes out is the most truthful way in my eyes.
What’s your creative process?
I listen to music, which varies from Mozart to hip-hop, to trap music and chill instrumentals. Jazz music as well. Also, I like to read books a lot. Through reading, I attain the inspiration to paint what I feel. Certain quotes that I read stimulate my creative process more than others, just like the quote I told you about earlier “nothing in ice can grow” from "The Magic of Thinking Big" by David Schwartz. That’s usually how it goes.
If you could paint a permanent mural anywhere in the world where would it be?
It would definitely be in Jamaica; in the parish of St. Elizabeth, where the majority of my family is from. I have never been to Jamaica and I’m Jamaican. It really hits home.
What energies inspire you?
Positive and creative energy inspires me. I really enjoy vibing around people who have a very rich sense of urgency into doing things that they want to achieve.
Do you believe in any female Gods or Goddesses?
I do. I believe in Mami Wata--this African Goddess and Inanna from Sumeria. Also, the Egyptian goddesses Heru and Isis.
Do you ever pray to them?
Yes, when I pray, I definitely pray to guardian angels. I pray to supreme beings.
Who are these supreme beings?
Who knows (laughs) I don’t know who they are but they are beings that guide the universe.
If you could collaborate on art with anyone who would it be?
I would love to collaborate with KAWS. He’s another artist that I first experienced and heard of. Everything that he was doing I felt that I wanted to do. He was tagging billboards and bus shelters, and he was drawing his characters around images of super models. That really inspired me. His work is in Swizz Beatz's collection and he has a huge piece in Pharrell’s house. He’s done collaborations with Marc Jacobs and The Billionaires Boys Club. He’s just the shit.
Other than art, what else would you call your escape to let loose and reach another side of yourself?
Definitely writing. I write a lot. I carry my notebook everywhere I go. I think reading a lot too. As much as you learn things, it’s nice to unlearn things that you may think are true or are not true. Writing and reading are really my escapes.
What period of history influences you the most?
I was just in college at the end of last year and I took an art history class on ancient Egyptian art and Middle Eastern art of what is modern-day Iraq, and Iran. They call it the pre-literate times, before words were written down, and people expressed themselves through images. That part of history is really inspirational because they were really in tune with nature and higher beings.
What is your biggest goal with your art?
As of now, I want to be a part of the Dean Collection and multiple private art collections. I also want to create this art agency that is like a LinkedIn or Facebook for artists. People who need artists would come to my agency and find artists. My goal is to continue doing my art but also help other artists follow their dreams.
What role does social media play in spreading the word about your artwork?
I think social media is great for up and coming artists and creatives to try to get large companies to notice them. I used to intern at Atlantic Records and I’m still in contact with the creative director there. His advice to me was to use social media to get a major campaign because he’s seen artists do it. So far I’ve had my work re-posted twice by Revolt TV—an Erykah Badu piece I did and a BJ The Chicago Kid piece. Also, Motown records reposted my work and AfroPunk is very supportive. They’ve posted my work on their mailing list and on their network. It gave me a wider audience. People have reached out to me like “Hey I saw your work on AfroPunk, can you help me do this? I love your style. Your style fits with what I want to do". Social media is awesome.