Q&A: Cienna Smith Integrates Realistic and Surreal Elements in Her Bold Illustrations

CREATOR SPOTLIGHTBy 2022-04-11T14:35:38-04:00September 30th, 2021|

Name: Cienna Smith

Age: 22

Home base: New York City, NY

Tu país: Colombia & Curacao

What’s been your journey to becoming an illustrator?

I’ve been painting and drawing ever since I was very young. I’m inspired by the beauty of the Caribbean island of Curacao, where my parents immigrated to the US from. I started seriously pursuing illustration in high school, and decided to come to New York City to pursue a major in animation at the School of Visual Arts. Unfortunately,  I was never able to complete this degree due to financial instability and a sudden decline in health. After getting to a more stable place in my life, I decided to focus more on pursuing illustration. I’ve been lucky enough to work as a freelance illustrator for the past two years and at an animation studio for the past year.

Muse? Muses?

I always say my main muse is painting women who look like they could be family. I tend to focus on themes such as femininity, spirituality, mental health, and folklore.

What makes an illustration pop?

For me, color is one of the biggest elements that can either make or break a painting. I try to make sure that the colors in my illustrations don’t simply compliment the composition, but also bring a heightened level of energy and a surreal quality to the illustration. I feel that the by blending of realistic elements, surreal elements, punchy colors, and bold shapes, the illustrations really stand out.

Favorite spot for inspiration:

Honestly, the streets and people of New York City are a huge inspiration to me. I also like to spend time in nature, observing different types of flora and landscapes. My own dreams also tend to inspire me quite often.

What music do you listen to while illustrating?

I listen to all types of music, mainly anything that makes me feel calm and focused. A few of my go-to artists I listen to are SZA, Solange, Mitski, Willow, and Kali Uchis.

Go-to creative spot:

In my apartment, in my room for sure! My room is a bit of an oasis from everything. I’ll light a stick of incense and brew a good cup of tea and it feels like the perfect place to be creative.

What does Latine culture mean to you on your home turf?

Living in Washington Heights in NYC, Latine culture is all around! Even when I’m not with my family, I still hear Latine music everyday from my block, and eat mainly Latine food.

Go-to visual references:

Plants, Fashion, Nature, and the City.

What’s next for you?

Ideally I’d love to continue experimenting and expanding. I think this is the perfect point in my life to branch out into a million different art forms such as mural work, package design, graphic design — all of it!