Portrait Of The Artist: Leilani

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(Leilani ….inspiration comes from everywhere).

Where She’s From: Super-talented artist, Leilani E. Hickerson, was born on May 15, 1983 in Atlantic County, New Jersey. She attended little South Egg Harbor school until 5th grade then went to Arthur Rann Middle school only up to 6th grade when her parents moved to Sicklerville, New Jersey, where she began grades 7th through 8th at C.W. Lewis Middle School.

She started High school education at Highland High school in Blackwood, New Jersey, but transferred in 10th grade to finish her education at Overbrook Senior high school in Pine Hill. From there she went to The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, where she graduated in May of 2006 with a B.F.A. (Bachelors in Fine Arts) in Illustration.

“In college I had this idea that maybe I would work for a large illustration company,� Hickerson tells The Black Star News. “Then as time passed, I realized that I didn’t want to work a 9-to-5, where it would be harder to distinguish my self as an independent artist.� Before graduating college, she was awarded First prize in the Ely, which is the university’s most distinguished illustration award. “Many people commented that I should go into business for my self and they were anxious to see what works I would produce—basically that gave me the incentive to be an entrepreneur.�

Where She’s At: Hickerson describes her style of art as “very unique and characteristic� of her personality. “My illustration work is fun, energetic, colorful and full of life. I generally use a mixed media approach, using watercolor, acrylics, pen and ink,� she says.

Her inspiration comes from many unique and sometimes unconventional sources. “I may just see something at a store like designs on snack bags, photography, browsing through random book illustrations, posters and boom I get inspired,� she explains. “Really, inspiration for art is really everywhere I look. Being an artist allows me to see art differently than others do. The world is full beautiful things, you just have to take your time and appreciate it.�

While producing a work of art can be contemplative at times, Leilani also savors the thrill involved. “The exhilaration I get from my art is during the conception phase and finishing phase of a piece,� she explains. “When I’m brainstorming I always assert to myself ‘no one has thought of this before’ which drives me to visually bring the elements together into one cohesive piece. When I begin adding the finishing touches to a piece the more I get excited. Satisfaction comes when all is completed and I can step back and proudly gaze upon what I accomplished.�

Though her artwork is geared more towards children, adults find them reminiscent of characters or places in their childhood. “It’s very nostalgic in a way for them because they always smile and say ‘wow, you did that?’� Indeed, The Black Star News' editors rate her work five stars out of five, as a visit to her website (www.MsLeilani.com) will attest.

Where She’s Headed: She promotes her artwork by networking at art expos, museums, business events, through the (National Conference of Artists (NCA), and via her website. “Most importantly, I hit the streets to physically walk into small and large businesses,� she adds. “Everything nowadays is very impersonal. I have a better chance of getting my work seen if I have my materials on hand to give to the major industry leaders. I have business cards, promotional cards, and I also rely on word of mouth.�

She also has another asset that has helped her expand her client base. “My best attribute is my personality,� she says. “I’m very easy to talk to and have a great sense of humor. I am not an artist that cannot be approached. I’m a big kid at heart and it shows through everything I do.�

Leilani’s Words Of Wisdom: “To younger aspiring artists—Listen to your professors and the adults that are in the artistic world. Knowledge is power. The more you educate yourself in and out of school will help you greatly. Yes, there are many things you can learn without being formally educated but no matter your situation never be afraid to ask for help. If you do find someone that is willingly to help you, listen to him or her. Having someone offer even the most minuet advice can potentially be something extremely useful.�

Leilani’s Secrets To Success: “The art world is very critical but don’t let the critics get you down. Forget about them and make it all about you. That’s what counts.�

To get a glimpse of Leilani’s, or to commission her work, please visit www.MsLeilani.com. Her first children’s book will be finished by the early summer of 2007 and hopefully will be at a bookstore near you.

For entrepreneurial profile considerations, send a note describing your business to business@blackstarnews.com

To subscribe to or advertise in New York’s leading Pan African weekly investigative newspaper, please call (212) 481-7745 or send a note to Milton@blackstarnews.com  Our motto is: “Speaking Truth To Empower.�

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