Variety Brown‘s current focus is portraiture. She is in the process of her building her Black Icons Series, which consists of portraits predominantly of individuals who contributed to the Civil Rights Movement. Her pieces are painted in black and white — the choice is inspired by the black and white photography of the Civil Rights era, and to add a classic feel to her work. The contrast between black and white, shadows and light, create a strong and bold image as the end result.
Variety is based in London, England. Her works have been exhibited at The Other Art Fair in London and Los Angeles, and at the 2019 GirlBoss Rally in California.
Q&A with the Artist
What are the major themes your pursue in your work?
My work currently consists of portraits of iconic figures. Many are of icons who contributed to the Civil Rights Movement. Every icon I paint has a strong background and story that has touched many. I also enjoy educating myself on the figures I paint and introducing them to people who may not know about them.
Tell us about who you are and what you do. What is your background?
I was born and grew up in London. I always liked creative activities and really enjoyed art in school. I developed my passion for art in university although I did not study it specifically.
How did you first get interested in your medium, and what draws you to it specifically?
I used acrylic paint throughout school and university as it was what I was used to. If I had studied art I may have converted to oil however I am happy I have been able to experiment with acrylic. I quite like how, unlike oil, acrylic dries quickly.
How has your style and practice changed over the years?
I am very much a perfectionist and have always have been. As my work has progressed, however, I have naturally started to exaggerate elements of what I paint and not so much stick to my usual script. Some of my works are softer with the lighting and blending where as some pieces have sharper shapes and more contrast.
Can you walk us through your process? Do you being with a sketch, or do you just jump in? How long do you spend on one work? How do you know when it’s finished?
My starting point varies. If the composition is very specific and there are a lot of details I tend to sketch a base. However, my preference tends to be painting straight away. This is usually as I am excited to get started and want to bring to life the vision I have in my mind. I take several months to complete one piece and usually rotate between works.
What series or project are you working on next?
Within my Black Icons series I am starting to venture into entertainment industry personalities like musicians and actors. I am also playing around with solo portraits and group portraits.
What is the best advice given to you as an artist?
My favorite piece of advice to date is from an art teacher in school. During a life drawing lesson, she said, “How can you expect to draw an accurate picture if you do not look at what you’re drawing.” Drawing and painting faces can be tricky so I have found that analyzing every little detail is very helpful.