Pop Art Painter Ieesha Naeema talks Musical Influences, Entrepreneurship, and Her Creative Process

"I work very hard to create what I feel is dope art. I want my art to show others that your dreams are feasible." -Ieesha Naeema

Mistah Wilson: Hey, Ieesha Naeema! We are honored to have you here with us for this exclusive interview with ThaWilsonBlock Magazine. How ya' been?
Ieesha Naeema: In all honesty, I’ve just been trying to keep my sanity these days lol…It’s been a little over a month now since I quit my job at J.P. Morgan. So I’ve been resting, preparing for my first solo art show and trying to figure out my next move in life.

Mistah Wilson: For our audience reading this, could you give us a quick background on yourself?
Ieesha Naeema: Sure. Well, of course, I am Ieesha Naeema. I’m from Chicago and I moved to Dallas, TX last July. I graduated from the one and only HBCU, Florida A&M University four years ago. I majored in Business Administration/Finance. I’ve always been “creative” since I was little. I used to have notebooks full of drawings, mostly of female characters that I created. I took two art classes in high school and never entertained taking art serious. It was just something I liked to do when I was bored. It wasn’t until the end of 2015 where I decided to paint and actually make money creating art.

Mistah Wilson: What led you to start painting?
Ieesha Naeema: Really, I was not in a good place, mentally. I hated my job. I resented going to
college just to end up in these horrible work positions. I was still living in Chicago and wasn’t happy living there. My self-esteem wasn’t the greatest and I was dealing with a lot of anger issues. I just decided one day to take a trip to Michael’s to buy some supplies. Like I said earlier, I had never really painted before. So my first painting was a Poppy Flower. I started off painting mostly flowers and landscapes until I realized I was more interested in painting humans.

Mistah Wilson: Where do you draw inspiration from when painting new pieces?
Ieesha Naeema: Most of the time it’s from music. I absolutely listen to music every day. I feel music has shaped my life and has helped me get through the many stages of my life. I have a playlist that I paint to and that normally helps me put together ideas for new pieces. Since I paint musicians, I usually only paint musicians that I personally listen to. Outside of that, my inspiration just comes from life. You know like love, passion, pain, etc.

Mistah Wilson: What are some of your personal favorite paintings that you've done?
Ieesha Naeema: That’s hard because 99.99% of the time, I get emotionally attached to all of my paintings. I will say that my “Outkast 4 Eva” piece is very special to me because I grew up on Outkast. I created that piece and went on Instagram to get Big Boi to see it. Every time he would post something, I would tag him like crazy and have my friends tag him as well. After a few days, I started to give up. And then one night, I get a notification that Big Boi liked it and commented on it. That moment, for me, was confirmation that I was doing something right. Another favorite of mine would have to be my SZA piece. She is my favorite singer and someone who inspires me constantly to keep perfecting my craft. When I discovered her music a few years ago, I was amazed at how a stranger could basically read my mind. So while I painted her, I listened to her whole discography, and I think that is why it’s so special to me.

Mistah Wilson: What have been some challenges you've faced on your journey as a painter?
Ieesha Naeema: I have so many! Man….See here’s the thing…I think most people think that just because you paint or create art in general, creativity is always a given. It’s not like that. I’ve had months where I didn’t know what to paint. Or I started 10 pieces and all of them were trash to me. Or I finished a painting and thought to myself, “Girl, who are you fooling? This is basic as hell”. It
annoys me a little when someone asks for me to do custom art for them and they just say, “You’re the artist, I trust you.” Like huh?! Lol….When I create art for myself, I know what I like and what I don’t like. I know me….so it’s easier to wing ideas. But if I don’t know you, how am I supposed to know your soul? My emotions show through my work. If you want art from me, I know that you want something that represents you or what you like. I don’t want to have to guess these things, ya know?
As an artist, you have the challenge of creating what you want but also creating art that others will want to buy. A major pet peeve, as an artist, is having someone constantly tell you what you should paint. We’re sensitive as hell and it’s almost offensive. Like, no I’ll paint what I want to paint lol…if I don’t listen to Aretha Franklin’s music, I don’t want to paint her. Now, I’ve painted musicians who most people wouldn’t listen to and I’d be surprised to actually sell those paintings. But I’m ok with potentially not selling them because when I created them, I was helping myself cope with whatever I had going on at that time. And that’s what people have to realize. More than likely, an artist is creating because we need an outlet. Whether we’re sad, happy, mad, whatever….we need to get it out on that canvas….and if it becomes forced….it either turns out horrible or we won’t do it at all. I tell people all the time…I paint because it’s therapeutic. The money from it is just a bonus. So I don’t need people dictating how I should paint, what I should paint and how I go about selling my work. Everything about art is a process and you have to respect the artist and their own process….because each artist is unique.

Mistah Wilson: What are some more of the rewarding things that you've experienced?
Ieesha Naeema: It’s weird to know that people and other artists have reached out to me for advice. Like, I do not consider myself an expert. I don’t know all of the correct terminology for paint brushes, colors, etc. I’m still to this day trying to figure out how to properly price paintings and shipping costs. But it’s definitely rewarding to have others say that you’re an inspiration. I’ve had people come to my shows and tell me that they’ve been following my work for a long time. Like, that’s crazy! I started doing this to make myself feel better and to know that my art brings out emotions in others is mindboggling. I never expected to have an impact on anyone with my art. And the fact that I have other dope artists who reach out to me and show me love….that speaks volumes…

Mistah Wilson: What do you plan on accomplishing through your art?
Ieesha Naeema: I want to be able to live off of my art just like I would with any other job out there. I’ve gained enough confidence to know that it is possible. But most of all, I just want my art to speak for itself. I want you to know that every piece I’ve created has a part of me in it. I work very hard to create what I feel is dope art. I want my art to show others that your dreams are feasible. Even if art does not become a forever thing for me, I at least know that at some point in my life, I chose to live out my purpose. And that’s really all there is to it.

Mistah Wilson: Where can people view and support your art online?
Ieesha Naeema: So I’m on Instagram under the handle @i.am.naeema. My Facebook page is @creationsbyina. My website is www.ieeshanaeema.squarespace.com. I created a Twitter account a few weeks ago but I haven’t really posted. So if you want to add me on there lol… it’s @ieeshanaeema.

Mistah Wilson: Hey, Ieesha Naeema thank you so much for coming thru for this exclusive interview with ThaWilsonBlock Magazine. It's been awesome! If you wanna send any shout outs, lets hear em'...
Ieesha Naeema: Thank you guys for having me! I just want to thank my family and friends for believing in me and constantly encouraging me to keep pushing forward to keep creating art. Also, if anyone is in the DFW area, I still have tickets for my solo art show. They can be purchased on my website!

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