The best part about life is that no matter what our reality is, we get to paint and visualize the life that we want to embody. I have always been fascinated by artists and painters, but what’s even more fascinating to me is the creative process of a painter. The other day I had the chance to chat with Rugiyatou Ylva Jallow also known as “Rocky” in order to understand how she got into art and what exactly drives her to create everything that she has accomplished. Ironically she mentioned that she initially went to school for something else and never really believed that she could make money from her art pieces. Then one day she painted a piece in 2014 and sold it for 500 dollars. After that, she had her first art show with actor Lance Gross. Finally being able to make a profit from her art, Rocky was surprised and decided that she would paint more pieces. After some time she realized that she was painting based on the perception of what she wanted to sell, rather than what she actually wanted to paint. This is where it all began for Rocky. Check out the full interview below and be inspired to do what you love and follow your dreams.
Where are you from Rocky?
I was born and raised in Sweden. My mother is Swedish but my father is Gambian. I came to the united states without my family to study computer animation but then I realized that even though I was a huge nerd, I wasn’t passionate about it. After I graduated I left computer animation to pursue art and fashion but with a focus on art.
When did you realize you had a passion for art.?
Both my mother and grandmother were painters so painting is in my blood. I pretty much started painting as soon as I could pick up a pen.
What would you say your style of art is?
After I stopped painting what I thought people expected from me, I found that my style was fantasy and surrealism. I focus on painting women because I think women are just beautiful. I love the structure of the body and I love depicting the empowerment that comes from being a strong woman. I also like to depict the idea of freedom and equality when I paint
Tell me about your first art show?
My first art show was in 2014. It was right after I started selling my art pieces and I was really inspired to show more of my art. I collaborated with actor Lance Gross and I used his photos to do an illustration.The art show went well, there was Pr, directors, and even revolve Tv showed up in addition to multiple sponsors
After that I started something called the blue woman series– they were metaphorical self-portraits which depicted that no matter what you go through you should still expose yourself and put yourself out there again. One with a heart attached to a rope hanging out of the chest, while one was a heart on the brain which signified the ability to think with your heart even if you have been through hell. I used the color blue because it doesn’t show an actual skin color which depicted equality and freedom. I put together the art show for the series myself and although it turned out great I considered it to be a failed art show
Why would you say the art show failed?
It was terribly disorganized because it was my first time, but I took a lot of lessons from that moment and received a lot of recognition as a painter which was great.
What’s one thing you have learned so far as a painter.?
I learned that it’s important to understand why I am painting. When I was painting for money I was all over the place and it almost made me lose who I was as an artist. I would definitely encourage every artist out there to find their niche.
What shouldn’t you do when throwing an art show?
Don’t plan until the last minute.
Don’t pick a big venue that’s lit up.
Bring the paintings before the day of so you know exactly how it will look like.
Get someone that focuses on event planning so you can focus on being an artist.
Who are some of your fav artist inspirations?
When I was younger I loved Claude Monet. I also love Takashi Murakami, Gustav Klimt and Pablo Picasso. Overall when it comes to art im simply fascinated by the renaissance period.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
I see my artwork placed in several galleries as well as owning galleries all over the world.
What’s one thing about yourself that others might be surprised about you?
People who don’t know me, don’t know that I’m a huge nerd. Growing up my parents had to force me to go out and play because I would rather stay inside and read. !
What advice would you give to someone who is trying to emerge in the art space?
Find your niche
Don’t be concerned about what would sell.
Be patient with yourself,
I would suggest you find out if you want your art to be viewed as commercial art or fine art, then maneuver from there.
What’s one advice you would give to people to inspire them to chase their dreams.
Your belief in yourself is what matters. When you believe in yourself no challenge can crush you. It won’t matter because you know where you are going and this state of mind will encourage you to stay focused.
What are you currently working on?
Right now I’m working on a black and white series. Its my second series relating to freedom. This one focuses specifically on the history of racism for black people. From slavery to black power movements such as the black panther Party. I have always been active when it comes to black history because my father made sure I was proud of my African heritage. Its such a coincidece that I started this series months before the tragic murder of George floyd, So its made my art even more relevant.
I’m also focused on getting more paintings done as well as submitting them to galleries and upcoming art shows. I might host my personal art show for this series. Although we are living in such heavy times, it feels good to make an impact with my art even in the midst of chaos.