Geneva B brings Black girl magicBy Naari Honor, Peacemaker Contributor / July 8, 2016
Share this article:Children are often told that they can grow up to be and do anything they want with their lives. However, for Black little girls and boys, some may feel hard-pressed to find characters throughout their development that come in the same brown hues that match their own skin-tones doing those unimaginable tasks that they are taught to go after.
Geneva Benton is a self-taught artist and illustrator currently residing in Asheville, N.C. This Winston-Salem native uses her talent to artistically create unique Afro-centric characters that are displayed in whimsical, fantasy inspired, out-of-this-world themes not usually seen within the African American community.
“Growing up I didn’t really see that much [Black images in fairytale-like settings],” said Benton. “I thought it would be cool to draw a Black mermaid some day and that is how this all started.”
It is not uncommon to find brown-skinned girls with rainbow freckles, fawn ears, hair made of clouds, over-easy egg-hats, or multi-colored afros dripping paint within her work. There are even works that contain male characters with peacock feathers and a Japanese inspired-anime flair. Because Benton draws inspiration from various places there is no telling what combination she may come up with in her next piece.
“Let’s say I’m sketching a ballerina and then a commercial about birds comes on, “said Benton. “I think, ‘what would happen if these two things were combined’.”
Why is it so important for African American youth to see themselves displayed within a society that they are tasked with navigating?
For Malani Vertley, a 22-year-old aspiring artist residing in Greensboro, Benton’s artistic flair inspires her to step outside of societal norms and come to a place of acceptance that transcends art.
“Geneva’s work is liberating because I don’t often get to see work [done] of Black girls with multi-colored hair or stars in their eyes or rainbows drawn on their skin,” said Vertley. “Everything [art] feels “White.” The dog is white. The car is white. To see someone who is Black and likes these animated themes makes me feel like there is hope and that it is okay [for me] to be different.”
Digital prints are designed using digital media programs like Photoshop. However, Benton enjoys working with acrylics and is currently having a love affair with varied shades of pink.
So what is on the horizon for the artist that the media outlet BuzzFeed is referring to as the new “Lisa Frank” who started drawing over nine years ago in a competitive effort to draw better ponies than her sister?
Currently Benton has taken a leap of faith and decided to become a full-time freelance artist and illustrator. She advises emerging artists coming up the ranks to simply “do good work,” words that inspired her as she embarked on her path as an artist.
For Benton, doing good work means, “Study as hard as you can. Learn as much as you can. Do the best work, the best art, the best writing, and eventually the people will come. I think about that every day and it works.”
In addition, Benton shared some tips for artists who are considering starting a freelance career. “Take advantage of social media networking and marketing, connect with other artists or groups specializing in common mediums, and showcase work in local galleries and venues.”
On the horizon, Benton jokingly mentioned turning her fictitious magazine cover drawings of “MagiGirl Monthly” into a real one-issue magazine edition with the help of a Kickstarter campaign and guest contributors. There are also whispers of a children’s book in the future with a publisher.
No matter what is in store, one thing is for sure, her next project will be out of this world.
Benton will be showcasing her artwork at Hoshicon, a three day Japanese Culture, Animation, and Video Game event held in Charlotte, N.C. from July 15-17. For those anime enthusiast who love to travel, she will be attending Anime Weekend Atlanta [AWA-Con], the largest con in the southeast, from September 29 – October 2. At both events attendees will have the opportunity to meet the artist, purchase her artwork and discuss the possibility of commissioning the artist for future projects.
For further information, Geneva Benton can be reached through her Web site www.genavab.com or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Naari Honor is a junior majoring in psychology and English with a minor in African American Studies at Guilford College.