201905_Illustrator Loveis Wise and the Joy of Creating-marqueeMOBILE

Creative Voices

Illustrator Loveis Wise and the Joy of Creating

By Kristi Highum

Illustrator and artist Loveis Wise creates lush and intimate work that’s rich with visual detail. She’s just 24 years old, and in April 2019 her work was featured for the second time on the cover of the New Yorker—it is a piece she describes as exploring one of the many ways black women can practice self-love and love for one other—styling hair. “There’s a lot of joy in that,” she says. Wise is passionate about her work, about design, and about the future of illustration—get to know her in our video profile (at the bottom of this page).

About her second New Yorker cover, Wise has said, “I had it in mind to explore the many ways black femmes and women would practice self-love and care amongst each other.” Read more (and see more of Wise’s beautiful work) on her Instagram page.

Wise grew up in Washington D.C.’s Anacostia neighborhood and in Prince George’s County, Maryland. She has been drawing since she was three years old, and by around the age of five, she was already trying to “create forms and get into just making things.” Her mom was a hair stylist; her dad, a photographer—when she was young, she would spend time sketching and drawing with her dad, who also bought her a disposable camera. She remembers falling “so in love with that camera and with just being able to make images.”

Initially encouraged to choose something “more realistic” than art as a career, Wise knew by the time she was 18 that it was the right path for her. “This is the only thing that I really love doing,” she says. She took community college classes in photography, drawing, and painting; built up a portfolio; and then realized it was time to go to art school. On a visit to Philadelphia with a friend, she fell in love with the city. She thought, “This is so cool; there’s art everywhere.” She discovered Philadelphia’s University of the Arts and decided to enroll.

While still in art school, Wise began accepting commissions, and now she’s a freelance illustrator with a number of clients and projects—including two picture books and a recently completed mural at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

Wise offers this advice to artists who are starting out: “Make yourself available for the things that you love to do, and really draw them. Just draw and put it out there.”

Wise often taps into femininity and nature in her work. Her illustrations play with line and color, layering textures and patterns in a way that she describes as “vibrant, joyful, loving, body positive—shapey, if you will.” She continues, “But it’s also very earth tone, very fun, funky, very plant filled, and very lush.”

About her work, Wise says, “Representation is very important to me...simply because I was kind of always searching for it.”

“Normally when I’m working, it starts with an idea of what I want to do,” she says. “I’ll see a piece and what that will look like. And then I sketch it out on paper…. Then I’ll take a photo of it and paint on top of it in Photoshop. I’ll start doing a value sketch in black and white, map out where the color will go on a few layers. Then I’ll start building up to color and figuring out what that image will be looking like by the end. I’ll try to create different color palettes, to convey the mood of that image…. Sometimes I’ll bring in texture; sometimes I use the Kyle T. Webster brushes because they have very nice textures, too. Then I kind of build up that image to what you see in the final piece.”

As an illustrator, Wise sees herself as a storyteller and says she found her creative voice by experimenting. “I make images that spark joy. And I communicate things that people probably can’t do out loud, through images.”

Click to watch our video profile of illustrator Loveis Wise.