Artist Interview with Brittany Crutcher

by Nox Blair

Where are you from?


I am from the southside of Chicago, I grew up in Bronzeville. 


What other activities or hobbies do you enjoy participating in during your free time?


Aside from painting and drawing. I read a lot of manga, watch a lot of anime, and I am a big horror movie fanatic. I will sit alone in my room in the dark and watch scary movies all of the time. I’m also really into video games. 


What is your art centered around or where does your inspiration usually stem from?


My Art is centered around mostly what appeals to me in that moment. I don’t like making repetitive work, I always want to try something new. So my inspiration really comes from whatever I am into in that moment. Last semester I was researching art history and I made an entire series of work about putting myself into that era and making work that I feel like will be reflective of myself if I was alive during that time. And this semester in a different class, I got back into reading manga so I’ve made a bunch of different characters, with backstories that I would like to see it brought to life. 


Being a Black woman, have you faced any obstacles (in school, contests, etc)–whether that be a reason of your race, gender, or both?


There are a couple of obstacles that I faced during school and in my art in general. The first is that for some reason every time I create work people always expect it to be routed in black trauma. And it really pisses me off, I just want to make art with a Black main character. I would often get questions in critique about why my character is black and then most people are expecting my character to have a tragic backstory. However, I just put a Black person in my art because that’s what I’m familiar with. There is no backstory, no one ever asks a white artist why the figure they decided to paint or draw is white. 

Another obstacle I went through is learning. My first year here I had never painted figures before. In high school I was an urban landscape painter, we would just paint urban landscapes. Most of the images were from cities. I always chose images from Chicago or from Tokyo to paint because those are the two places that have a very big effect on my life. All I knew was bright neon colors or static black and grays. And the rare time when we would paint figures the instructor will teach us how to paint lighter skin tones. I didn’t think much of the situation because I was a strong believer that I was never going to paint portraits ever in my life.

So when I had my first beginning painting class in college, I asked my professor how I would mix brown skin tones for our self-portrait project. And they said they’d didn’t know, and never had to do that before, and that I would have to look at other artists and how they make skin tones. I was really shook, you think the person who was teaching you how to paint would know the fucking formula to brown skin tones. Obviously, I was wrong. 


What is your inspiration for the rest of your series “Whorer”?


My inspiration for creating the rest of my pieces in this theme is coming from really raunchy and campy horror movies. The two shown in the series are just a taste of what I have in my back pocket. I just recently finished watching this movie, 12-hour shift. It really set off a lightbulb in my head, I can’t wait to paint my rendition of the antagonist in the film. I have a really big fascination with why women were even thought of as being perceived in these kinds of weird and suspect ways in movies and really needed to share it with other people. I have a notebook exclusively for my film class that was based around horror movies, and I still to this day record my review of scary movies. 


When did you start drawing?


Further back than I can remember. Drawing was trying to replicate the outlines in my Bratz coloring book. I didn’t want to color inside of them because I want to fuck them up. So I would try my best to draw ‘Jade’ the best I could without tracing over it. I was about five years old approximately. 

My first time getting an easel and paint brushes was in fourth grade. My mom came to my school for a report card pick up and she talked to my reading teacher and my reading teacher told her that I was a super artist. I had drawn this crime scene for her for one of our books we were assigned and my mom told her “If she is such a good artist, then I have something for her back at home” and it was a shit ton of art supplies.


What would you consider your art style to be/which art style do you gravitate towards?


Oh Lord have mercy. One thing I really do struggle with is finding my style. I have no idea what it is, and I think this is because in middle school I remember this kid telling me that all I drew were cartoons and I couldn’t draw real people and that pissed me off. So I started drawing real people and I lost my skills in illustration. Now I’m starting to gravitate back towards illustration again, and I stopped painting and doing traditional work. Currently, I’m into drawing comic/manga style on Procreate

However, honestly, I might just combine the two, oil painting and digital painting, because at this rate my eyes are sizzling and they are getting ready to roll out of my fucking head from how much time I spend looking at my iPad. 


What made you want to go with the artist path?


I always wanted to be an artist, I was really into tattoo artistry growing up and I wanted to be a world-famous tattoo artist. But what really made me want to go down the artist path is not wanting to work for anybody else., That’s one of the main reasons why I did not go into graphic design and I went into a painting major instead. It’s because I did not want to be taught how to create work for other people. This is pretty contradictory considering that I really want to be a videogame designer, but I want my own company so they kind of cancel each other out. 


Do you have a strong (if any) support system with your choice?


I do have a really strong support system. I didn’t really go through what most art students go through with parents’ questions about their career choices. They worry about if I’ll be able to make money once I graduate, and stuff like that. My family was extremely supportive in what I chose to go to school for (as long as I was going to school), they’re strong believers in using one’s skills. They want me to be successful in something, as long as I know how to manage myself when I do it. I also have support from my high school art teacher Ms. Park, she is amazing. Just the other day I contacted her because none of my professors were answering my emails. When I texted her in distress, she called me two seconds later and had her husband explain art contracts and how to make a quote. They are really amazing and helpful people and I have no idea where I would be without them. 


What’s a piece that you’re particularly proud of?


My favorite piece that I have ever made currently is Ophelia, it’s a set of acrylic nails depicting my version of Sir John Everett Millais’ painting. I really like it because it gave me a chance to do something outside of the box. During quarantine I bought a bunch of nail supplies because I wasn’t able to go to the salon myself. I really wanted to get back to using all the materials that I bought, as well as making something that fits the theme of my assignment in my intermediate studio class. 


Have you received any rewards or have entered any contests?

I haven’t won any awards currently, I did apply to be in the Black Creativity Juried Art Competition but I, unfortunately, did not get accepted. They’re missing out for sure, but in high school, there were a lot of contests that I applied for. Because my high school didn’t have an art class until my senior year and I had to do an independent study in AP art for college credit. Ms. Park was really into encouraging me to put my art out there and make money off of it. So she signed me up for every competition within a mile radius.

    There was a competition with an architecture foundation in Chicago that I won first place in, I still haven’t received my work back to this day. Another competition I was in was within my school’s network. It was the Noble Network Art show, I received first place in that as well and I had two paintings on display. One was an 8 x 11 acrylic painting on Rihanna, and the other one was a 16 x 20 acrylic painting of Cardi B. One contest that I won that I really was amazed by is the Congressional Art Competition. I was one of the few artists in the state of Illinois to win this and have their art displayed in DC. They also paid for my airfare and my hotel for me and my brother to go and see them display the work in Washington. It was a fun experience, it made me realize a lot about myself. The painting that Ms. Park forced me to put into the competition was my least favorite painting out of all of the things that I’ve ever created and I was certain that I was not going to win. It was in earth tone 16 x 20 urban landscape painting of a guy sitting in the middle of the street on a skateboard. 

I do miss winning though. I know it may sound conceited, but the thrill that you get from it is just another type of feeling. For me, it’s an out-of-body experience. To know that other people like your art, just as much as you do is a euphoric feeling. 

See Brittany on!

View Brittany’s “Whorer” series on here.

Brittany Crutcher’s portfolio.

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