Lynchburg Living: Nakila, tell us a little about yourself.
Are you from the area?
Nakila White: I was born and raised right here in Lynchburg. Growing up I tried my hand at several different hobbies and the one that seemed to stick the most—and that I really had a passion for—is art!
LL: When did that passion for art begin?
NW: Art has always played a pretty big part in my life since I was little. I used to take any piece of paper I could find and make illustrations either from my imagination or a cartoon I was obsessing over. It wasn’t until after high school that I started getting serious with what I wanted to do with it. My art teacher at the time, Mrs. McDonald, gifted me with a bigger sketchbook and different mediums to try out, which slingshot my interest in creating on a larger scale. Once I realized portraits were what I wanted to do, I focused more on trying to perfect methods and narrow down which medium I preferred.
LL: That leads us to the next question. Is charcoal your primary medium?
NW: I’ve dabbled in colored pencils, normal graphite and, very briefly, paint—however after not really meshing well with any of them I turned to charcoal and instantly fell in love. I purchase charcoal blocks in bulk, place them in a small container and crush them up myself into a fine powder. Using normal paint brushes and small eyeshadow brushes, I dip the brushes into the powder and apply it directly to the paper over and over until I achieve the tone I want. After applying details with either a charcoal pencil, kneaded eraser or mono zero eraser (which is just a very small mechanical eraser) I smooth everything out with Puffs Plus Tissues with Lotion! Puffs Plus is the only tissue that allows a light layer of charcoal to be lifted while also creating a smooth skin type texture.
LL: What are some of your favorite pieces you have created so far?
NW: Each piece I’ve created has its own special place in my heart due to the challenges each one presented that helped me to become a better artist. However my “In Moonlight, Black Boys Look Blue” series, which I finished in 2020, is always the one I find myself looking at over and over again. In a close second is my more recent “No One’s Laughing Now” based off Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker. This was the first portrait I’ve done with a not-so-normal skin texture due to his face being covered in paint.
LL: What types of challenges have you faced as an artist?
NW: At the end of the day, I am my biggest critic. The process of drawing is long, mentally and physically exhausting and very time-consuming—from picking out a photo reference that has the right amount of expression and detail to the very end when I hang the portrait on a wall and stare at it for hours at a time finding the smallest of inconsistencies. There have been plenty of times I get halfway through a drawing and, because I didn’t make sure I was in the right headspace when I started, I ended up scrapping the entire thing and starting over.
LL: What are you currently working on?
NW: By the time this article comes out I should be elbow deep in commissions! The recent amount of love and support I’ve gotten since my art show at the Academy Center of the Arts in February is very overwhelming in the best way possible! Knowing that so many people appreciate my art to the point they trust me to draw their loved ones or favorite celebrities means the world.
LL: What advice do you have for future artists?
NW: There are no rules or regulations that need to be followed. And that’s what I love so much about it. No matter what your medium or style is, at the end of the day, if you love it, it is art. And if you’re proud of what you created, then that’s the best success anyone could ask for.