Being an artist in 2016 gives way to exposure well beyond local art shows with various forms of social media right at one’s finger tips as a platform for sharing work. So it’s no surprise that Aja of Kindred the Family Soul first discovered Atlanta-based artist Lynita Solomon and her work on Instagram. Impressed by Lynita’s art, Aja sent her a DM (Instagram’s private messaging service, direct message) inquiring about her sketches.
Lynita was so surprised to hear that Aja and Fatin were interested in commissioning her to create artwork for their latest CD, “Legacy of Love,” and she admitted to me during our quick phone interview that she was a little concerned at first thinking, “Does she (Aja) realize those are just sketches?” Yes, sketches. Pieces of work that Lynita had just recently started sharing publicly on Instagram.
“It’s a first for me to even do it on Instagram because for many years I would never share sketches. I would never show my work until it was actually finished and it was matted and gallery-ready to show people,” she explained. “I would never let people into my studio to show the sketches. Then one day I just started doing this and people started to be receptive. For amazing artists to send me a message on Instagram and say, ‘I love your work,’ it’s like whoa, okay. Who’s going to turn that request down, right?”
And the rest is, well, history. Lynita told me she threw on her headphones, played Kindred’s catalog and got busy working on what would become the cover art for their project, and also art for new merchandising they recently began to sell to promote the album. But she admitted a monkey wrench was thrown when Aja and Fatin requested to not only have a frontal illustration of the two of them for the cover, but a back view for the back of the cover as well. She said, “If you look at my body of work on Instagram you see everybody’s from like a frontal view. That’s just me drawing people from a photographic standpoint because I actually studied photography in college and my goal was to be a documentarian of African-American portraits.”
Photography is at the heart of Lynita’s style and she originally planned to be the female Richard Avedon, a well-known fashion and portrait photographer. In fact, she graduated from the Atlanta College of Art with exactly those plans, but instead has gone back to the art form she fell in love with as a child, illustrating. Not totally giving up on the idea of snapping images, Lynita views her illustrations as photos in drawn form. She draws inspiration from other artists such as painter Jacob Lawrence for his simplicity of colors and artist/activist Keith Haring for his use of heavy lines.
But it’s not just fellow artists who inspire Lynita’s work, she totally digs the 60s and 70s. She said in just looking at her work you can tell that she’s stuck in a time warp by rendering her characters’ style from decades ago and mixing it subtly with current events. For instance, one illustration shows characters from 1966 Hunters Point Riot in San Francisco with a guy in a t-shirt with a 7, a nod to Colin Kaepernick’s jersey number and his quiet protest against police brutality.
What you won’t see in any of Lynita’s work is an actual face. When I asked her about her style of faceless characters she said, “I started doing that back I like 93, early on. I just made a decision that I did not want to have to identify who I was really drawing because everybody that I indicated was not going to be someone famous. I wanted people to look at the imagery and see themselves in it.”
With a piece of CD artwork under her belt, Lynita is pressing forward with a boost of motivation in getting her art out to the masses. She has plans to open an online poster shop soon, create pop-up shop events complete with a DJ, use her artwork for apparel and travel the world. Mostly, she hopes to use her artwork as a platform to raise money for various causes that are close to her. And she has so much more art to share with us like her “Portraits of a Panther” series that she’s kept under wraps and has never shown. This project was created to commemorate the 50 years of the Black Panther Party. She explained, “There’s a lot to do and there’s lots to share so it’s time to do it.”