Written by: Danielle Catlett April 28, 2020

Credit: Danielle Catlett
''Comfortably Lost' by Kyla Offord

The University of Illinois is filled with talented students. But how many of those college students can call themselves professionals? From musicians and dancers to painters and filmmakers, there are no bounds to the creative ability seen on campus. However, some students, like professional artist Kyla Offord, have been able to offer something unique to the world by taking their craft to the next level.

At age 19 Kyla framed the first art piece she made that she was genuinely proud of. It was her first drawing, done all in pencil. Though she had been doing art prior to 19, she voices that she has always been frustrated with art because she always practiced it but 'I could never get the image in my head to show on a piece of paper,' she said.

Now a fifth-year senior, Offord is majoring in painting. 'Coming to college has just been the most life changing experience for me because I've been challenged in the way that I want to be challenged'. She recalls the first painting she ever sold as 'The Rose Haired Girl,' a painting of a girl with flowers in her afro made from foundation. Though it was a small painting for her, it managed to make a difference for the person who bought it. 'She now frequently receives commissions to do paintings of relatives that have passed on and she has even sold one of her paintings to one of the New Orleans Saints. 'People get paintings all the time, yeah, for sure, especially because I want them to be cheap and I want them to be accessible and I want everybody to have a piece of my work in their room, whether it was $20, $40 or $1,000,' she said. '

Though she is a professional artist, Offord describes her relationship with the term, saying that before she received the training to be an artist from the university, she had an 'artistic itch' that she couldn't scratch. 'I will be a master painter, technically, after twelve years of painting'and hopefully 12 years from now I'll know exactly what I'm doing and what I'm saying,' 'she mentioned.

'It took me a long time to see the talent that I had. It just felt natural, like reading a book. And Now that people are telling me, 'no, I'll give you $1,000 for this thing behind you,' I'm like 'oh,'' she said as she gestured to her most recent piece, a 'large painting situated behind her. The canvas stretched over more than half of the white wall it was hung against. In it a woman covered in vines sat on a bed situated in the middle of an expanse of water. The woman had only a third-eye, a mouth and flowers covering the rest of her facial features. Slightly lifted from the canvas was her hair made of yarn, flowing in ripples down her back. 'Behind her, fairies flutter between bunched of clouds in the sky above her head.

Already, Offord's pieces are created for a sophisticated audience. Most of her work is associated with fantasy, but she sees her pieces as autobiographies of herself and what she is going through. Under the assumption of the adage that 'the eyes are the window to the soul', by taking away to pupils and eyeballs in her paintings, she removes the audience's window to her soul, while she gets to look into the viewer's through the painting's third-eye. 'It's just kind of like a constant theme of self. I can't talk about anything that I haven't gone through or I'm not feeling. So I'm always present in my paintings, even if I'm in a different scene or the vibe is different or even if the time period is different, it's still a manifestation of me. Of either what I was or what I want to be.' '

In the future, Offord sees herself being the face of art. She plans to continue showing her work and doing commissions while developing a better sense of knowing what she wants artistically. In addition, she hopes to travel the world promoting black art and sharing the story of black women as a spokesperson to influence the world's perception of African-Americans. More of Kyla Offord's work is available through her website https://kylatheartist.wixsite.com/kylatheartist .

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