Magic by Kiki is an independent digital artist. Her clients include regular people, sole traders and large brands like Icy Cosmetics. She also works on artistic projects of her own and collaborations with other artists.

Francesca Miller | Ed. Peter Traynor | 18 February 2022

Digital artist Kiki is a character designer, illustrator and animator. She was born in the 1990s and is based in the USA. Her earliest digital artworks, illustrations and character designs were done in a mix of 90s retro Japanese (Naoko Takeuchi and Rumiko Takahashi) and American (Don Bluth) animation and video games style.  “Only recently have I started creating for me again, and allowing my voice to be what it wants to be. I am a mix of Afro; Eastern and Western influences and I believe my style is starting to reflect that”.

Kiki has just finished contributing to a joint digital art project with other young black female digital artists, for which they created a digital and paper colour book called the Melanin Magic Colouring book. Like many of her peers and contributors to that book, she champions black female representation in the digital art world, comics and animation, whether in the character she creates or the digital artists in the studio. “In a studio setting, I was usually the only one who looks like me. Even in college, there weren’t too many Black women in the animation curriculum. I can say I’ve been treated differently from my male peers […] As an independent artist, I’ve not felt the same opposition”.

This one contribution is very representative of her art subjects, namely the early ones that she spontaneously designed. “Magical girls first idea that popped to mind for me was the iconic “magical girl”. One of my earliest art influences was Sailor Moon”.

Artist, Title work (yyyy) © Courtesy of the artist.

Learn the rules first to better break them later. 

Kiki’s passion for art came very early and she was lucky enough to grow up in a home environment that nurtured and encouraged her talent. Two women had a particularly strong impact on her decision to become an artist: her aunty who is an artist herself and her mother who was simply very supportive. 

Her aunt was also the one who encouraged her to get formal training especially since she was mostly drawing in a mostly Japanese anime style. “She explained to me learning the foundation from an already stylized form of art will limit me and I should focus on learning skills from life and other art pioneers”.

So, Kiki enrolled at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) and majored in Animation and minored in storyboarding. Although she still gravitated towards a very specific genre, anime, and it wasn’t always to the taste of the institution as “Many of them were Disney animators and claimed that eastern animation is gimmicky and lacks life”.

After graduating and after a few initial years working in male-dominated studios as a storyboard artist and character designer, creating digital illustrations within a pre-existing world, Kiki took a leap of faith and branched out on various digital art platforms to showcase and later sell her digital artworks. Reflecting on how she has managed to make it happen, she says: “when I was growing up there was nothing like Instagram or Twitter.  At most we had Deviantart and if you really want to stretch Gaia online lol. I couldn’t have imagined having a platform to share my art with so like minded people”.

She was buoyed by her peers growing up who over time have managed to make a lucrative artistic career on their own and more recently, started using social media as a. This helped widen her network, particularly given that when she was growing up, she had access to fewer black digital artists and illustrators, who created decent looking and non-stereotyped black characters. “Social media has changed the game for all artists. The art career once held a stigma of being a struggle path. But I believe now, It can be as lucrative as any career”. 

Her projects include a few with other black female digital artists, she also worked as a designer for BBC show Moon and Me and has produced digital illustrations of real-life African American celebrities such as Beyonce and Michelle Obama. Three other celebrities she portrayed, Megan Thee Stallion Cardi B and Normani have actually ended up sharing and giving a nod to her digital artworks on their own social media.

Reflecting on the subjects of her digital artworks and especially the characters she designs, she “wants to provide a safe space for people who feel underrepresented and unappreciated.”  As she believes that together, “Let’s change the world one art piece at a time 🤎”. 

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