Artist Profile: Shyama Golden - Brooklyn
Hi Shyama! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Shyama Golden and I draw and paint for a living :)
What is your background (i.e. education, previous jobs, experiences that led you to create)?
I’m a visual artist and my favorite medium is oil paints but I often use an iPad to create work in the same style as my oils. I got my BFA in graphic design at Texas Tech and practiced in that field for 10 years before becoming a self employed artist and illustrator. In my decade as a graphic designer I did everything from packaging design to app design, iconography, logo and identity work, and even learned how to create fonts. I’ve logged thousands of hours into Adobe apps at various jobs: Photoshop, Illustrator, inDesign, and AfterEffects. All of these skills became assets which contribute to my artwork today in different ways.
Were you an artistic child? When did you know that you wanted to pursue art as a career?
Yes I was an artistic child, but all children are! It’s only when people "grow up" that they learn to be insecure and stop creating and sharing. I always knew I wanted to pursue art as a career but I had a real lack of self confidence that I wasn’t even aware of, which stopped me from trying such a risky career choice. Now, at 35, I’ve had it pointed out to me many times, and I’m making an effort to get over it.
You mention living in Austin, San Francisco, Sri Lanka, and New Zealand. Did you move around a lot for family, work, or new adventures? What made you settle in Brooklyn?
Most of the moving around was while I was growing up, so it was because of family. Then as an adult, I moved to San Francisco on a whim, and it became a stepping stone to moving to Brooklyn. I’ve been here for more than 5 years now, but it’s only been in this past year that I’ve actually benefitted in a real way from it. It was only a year ago that I made a commitment to stick to creating art and not spreading myself thinly over too many pursuits. That shift worked because it connected me with some brilliant artist friends and collaborations with local companies who are leading in their fields, such as Brooklyn-based Flavorpaper. The second half of the year I want to focus on making my own paintings and then looking to either have a show with a friend, or find gallery representation. Being in New York will be an important part of making those steps.
Was there a specific moment that you knew you had to leave other jobs and start creating for yourself?
There were many moments but I dragged my feet. I needed to have more faith in myself and my ability to put good things out into the world. I had a great job, so it was hard to leave it. When they laid me off that made it easy though, haha!
You capture people so beautifully in your artwork. What draws you to illustrating humans?
We are all coded to be drawn to faces, or even just the symbol of a face. I like drawing a face as if it’s a map or a blueprint, something for your brain to latch on to and explore.
We first saw your work due to your incredible Women's March illustration. Where did this idea stem from and what was the process like of creating such an important, intricate piece?
Thank you! It was actually initially supposed to be for a client, for a poster about the surge of women running for office in 2018. With their permission, I used the concept for the Washington Post’s piece on the Women’s March. It is meant to be a symbolic image, depicting incredible women who have pushed women’s rights forward, and also includes women I know in real life who are just doing work they are passionate about. The process involved a lot of research, It was like a crash course in women’s studies. There are many people who are sometimes left to wonder if they have a place in the women’s movement: women of color, and trans women for example. I wanted to make it very clear that this is an inclusive view of the movement. Without civil rights, women’s rights wouldn’t be of much use after all.
What is your relationship with social media/the internet and your artwork?
It’s huge. I think just about every opportunity for me has come from social media. I have a love/hate relationship with it but I love connecting with real people on those platforms. It does motivate me when self doubt starts to take over.
In terms of clients and collaborations, do you have boundaries in place to say yes or no to certain projects?
Yes, It’s important to me that there isn’t a visible divide between my personal work and client work. It should all appear pretty seamless.
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
The freedom to create and the outlet it gives me. I also love how despite being a lonely pursuit, it connects me with good people.
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you face with your work?
Space! It’s hard to have enough space in NYC and hard for me to justify the cost of a studio space when I would just rather work from home in my underwear anyway.
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
I think it’s much better than being competitive with other women. Helping each other is the easiest way to mitigate any systemic disadvantages we have.
What creative women do you find inspiring?
Amy Sherald, Alice Neel, Arundhati Roy, Sandy Skoglund, Fatimah Asghar, Robin Francesca Williams… I could really go on, but I think this is a good place to start.
How do you deal with moments of self-doubt?
Self doubt is a fear of judgment, which stops you from doing something, so I counter that with a fear of regretting not doing anything just to even it all out :)
What are you trying to learn right now or what is something that you are wanting to learn?
3d modeling and how to create a zoetrope!
What are some of your favorite places in Brooklyn?
The Public Library (I finally don’t owe them money), B'klyn Burro (mission-style Mexican), Okonomi (for better luck go by yourself or with one person), BAM, Shalom Japan (for their sense of humor and their take on comfort food), Brooklyn Kolache (reminds me of Texas), and Desert Island (the owner Gabe does a lot for the illustration community).