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Meet Brianna McKay

Today we’d like to introduce you to Brianna McKay.

Alright, thank you for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us how you got started?
People who’ve seen my art know me by Artless on the internet. Let me introduce myself and tell you about this creative roller coaster I’ve been on.

As a child, I’ve always loved graphic novels and manga, so I guess you can say that’s where my interest in illustration started. I loved the colors, bold lining, and expressions that went into comics. That developed into a passion for creating characters, Not just creating them for an aesthetic, but creating a story, an entire life behind the character. I love putting small details and anecdotes into every original character I create. I started drawing my own stories in middle school, probably 11 or 12, and I didn’t have much in common with other kids. I was always reading or drawing. I guess you can say that I wasn’t necessarily interested in “normal” middle school activities. This passion continued into high school, where I shifted my style from comic/manga illustration to more realism and even some impressionistic work. I remember one summer, I was 15, and I started drawing all of the flowers and plants around the house. I was obsessed with them and tried my hardest to sketch them perfectly. That same summer, I developed a carpal tunnel from drawing so much. I complained but never took a break.

I had a very long “block.” I was concerned with how I would make money, plan out my future, and, quite frankly, do what everyone else was doing instead of what made me happy. It wasn’t until I turned 25 that I shifted my focus back to my art. Nothing special, but I’d design logos, tattoos, and minor little characters for my friends. Still, nothing was an original concept. It was like shut off my creative instinct for so long, and I couldn’t figure out how to tap back into it.

In 2020, the entire world paused. I lost my job, my income, and almost my mind. No one knew what was going to happen or how long we were going to remain trapped inside. I had no choice but to do something to ease my anxiety. I began to draw again. It was almost like I had been on autopilot for so long that when I finally started to feel so anxious about the pandemic, that sparked my creativity again. I channeled my pain back into my passion. Long after lifted restrictions, I remained focused on my art. It became the primary income source that would sustain me well into today. The crazy thing is, I never intended it to become a job. Still, I think that capitalizing on my talent motivated me and gave me the confidence I desperately needed to continue on this journey.

Since the pandemic, I’ve had so many original ideas, concepts, and characters! I have many unfinished projects because the ideas flow faster than my mind can make them come to life. I recently began my journey into digital art via Procreate, which has completely changed the game for me. There are so many features that it can become overwhelming. However, as challenging as it may be, it is also fascinating to try something new. My portfolio consists of everything from sketches of flowers, manga-inspired characters, and even NSFW content for my subscribers. I don’t have a style; there’s just me. I’ve heard several times that people can see a bit of “me” in all of my pieces. I hope I can continue to keep that theme throughout each collection of my career. It’s the essence of Artless; by its very definition, I want each piece to be raw and effortless.

We all face challenges, but looking back, would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
I would say that several factors can make a creator’s journey difficult, but it’s all about how you channel the obstacles back into your work. As a black woman, I have always been told that I have to be “twice as good, to have half of what ‘they’ have.” With my art, I can somewhat hide and feel free to create, no matter “who” I am. I don’t necessarily have to worry about what people may assume about me.

The hardest part about creating is when you hit a block. You never know when it will happen or how long you’ll be stuck. It can be crippling, and sometimes the very thought of having to pull yourself out can send you deeper into it. I just try to remember how I got here and how it took refocusing the negative thoughts into creative ones, even if what I created wasn’t “pretty.” I think I put the most pressure on myself, so when you look at it, it’s me vs. me. I’m my biggest obstacle but also my strongest ally.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I can’t narrow my work into one category because I’ve been creating for so long. I have pieces from high school that I’m just as proud of today that may be even more challenging to complete than some of the things I’m working on. I started with sketches and ink illustrations mainly because of the manga-inspired style. That moved into using oil pastels, watercolor, and acrylic painting as I grew into my teenage years. I shifted to realism so I could practice my color and light theory. I’m self-taught, so I don’t specialize in any particular style. I like to experiment and challenge myself with every commission. I have the mindset that I can create it if I can imagine it. I don’t put limitations on what I can and cannot make. I’m most proud of my ability to adapt, rather than any project. I think having a unique style is wonderful, and I admire artists with a distinct “mark.” I just haven’t found that yet, and I might never find it, but the ability to constantly adapt sets me apart from others. I think it creates more timeless work.

Networking and finding a mentor can have such a positive impact on one’s life and career. Any advice?
My best advice for finding a good community is to stay true to what you’re passionate about. For instance, if you are into character design, follow artists who do the same thing. Same with people who are sculptors or painters; find your community. Within those different creative mediums, you will find someone who inspires you. You may even stumble upon someone less skilled, and teaching them may spark more creativity in you.

Never stop learning. Never stop putting yourself in creative spaces, even if you aren’t the most skilled. Don’t be afraid to hop on some famous artists’ live feeds and introduce yourself or use Twitter as a way to engage with hashtags and find new artists. We are so fortunate to have several platforms to create, promote and connect; take advantage of them. Visual art is so subjective, and there are no rules. Constantly be willing to adapt; that will assure that you always have a supportive community and inspiration from those around you. These methods have worked for me. Just remember, there are no rules, do not be afraid.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Sean Deckermann for the person photo. On Instagram as @seandackermann

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1 Comment

  1. Pamela Johnson

    July 2, 2022 at 12:10 am

    Awesome talent Bri! Continue creating and much success! Pamela Johnson

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