Drawing While Black header

Young, Gifted, and #Drawingwhileblack: 14 Stunning Artists to Follow

November 16, 2023

Six years ago, Abelle Hayford started a movement with a single tweet:

Abelle Hayford Tweet

While interning at Warner Brothers, the then-teenage illustrator and animator noticed they were the only Black person on their crew. The situation was similar in their classes at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

“I was like, ‘I wish I could find a way to connect with other Black artists beyond [the] local,’” Hayford explained during a Wacom panel at Lightbox Expo 2020. For inspiration, they looked to the hashtag #VisibleWomen, which had become a viral sensation just the previous month. “There was a woman who was able to connect all these women artists,” they explained. “Maybe I could start something that connects and promotes Black artists.”

They sent out the above tweet, and #DrawingWhileBlack was born.

Since then, the hashtag event has recurred annually on X (formerly Twitter). The dates change, but this year’s was from September 1 to 3. A few accounts have carried the responsibility for reposting the artists’ work over the years, but the current one is @DWBlk_Official.

As a Black artist myself, I couldn’t pass up the chance to highlight some of the ample talent on display during this year’s showcase. Although the official account only shares posts from those three days, artists can and should use the hashtag year-round – so I’ve included some who used it later in the month as well.


#DrawingWhileBlack on Twitter

Mikhail Sebastian

Mikhail Sebastian

Known as Mythallica online, Sebastian specializes in superheroic characters and dramatic scenes, masterfully shaded and brought to life with a flair for capturing motion in both still images and animations. Sitting at the intersection of Marvel comics and shonen battle manga, his art is all about action.

Check out Mikhail Sebastian’s portfolio, or follow him on Twitter or Instagram.

Deegoo

Deanne Go

Deanne “Deegoo” Go has won over thousands of fans with a cute, memorable body of work marked by vivid colors and streamlined shapes reminiscent of Pernille Ørum’s. If you’ve always wanted to see more Black and brown princesses, mermaids, and other fantastic figures, her art will be right up your alley.

Follow Deanne Go on Twitter, Instagram, or Tumblr.

KouSIN

KouSIN

Kouya” is an African law student who somehow manages to squeeze making elaborately detailed art into their presumably minimal free time. A specialist in character design, their portfolio and social profiles are a museum of gorgeous, ornate outfits – and buff men – expressed with meticulous lineart.

Check out KouSIN’s portfolio, or follow them on Twitter or Instagram.

Seth Redd

Seth Redd

With wild linework, bold and even surprising colors, dynamic perspectives, and innovative use of photo textures, this Brooklyn-based comic and concept artist’s style borders on the psychedelic. But there’s also a sense of familiarity to it; if you dig the aesthetic of the Dreamcast classic Jet Set Radio or Monogatari’s backgrounds, give him a follow. He also has a webtoon called Love Sickubus.

Follow Seth Redd on Twitter or Instagram.

Nessa

Vanessa Tweneboah

Vanessa Tweneboah is a Ghanaian-American visual development artist and background painter who’s worked for Disney, Nickelodeon, and Netflix among other big names. A Rhode Island School of Design alum, she describes herself as “very passionate about capturing the world through her eye with color, mood, and atmosphere.” I think her immersive environments speak for themselves more than anything else I could add.

Check out Vanessa Tweneboah’s portfolio, or follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

Art By Atlas

Art by Atlas

Elijah Johnson is another one with impressive credentials. He’s been in media all his life, starting out as a child actor, then discovering a passion for art as a tween that he turned into a career in comics by his early twenties.  He illustrated bestselling titles by other authors before getting two original series crowdfunded, then published his passion project, a collaboration with his dad and brother called The Formula. Today, he also runs an animation company called AnimeHipHop.

Check out Elijah Johnson’s portfolio or follow him on Twitter.

Michelle Olens

Michelle Oléns

If I had to sum up Michelle Oléns’ aesthetic in one word, it’d probably be “calm.” Although characters are where she shines – they’re drawn with light, airy lines and colored in masterful pastels – she also has an understated but impressive talent for composition and even backgrounds on occasion. Plus, she deserves all the props just for this image, intended to help artists avoid unintentionally racist character designs:

Michelle Olens 3

Check out Michelle Oléns’ Carrd page or her ArtStation, or follow her on Twitter.

Buttercup

Buttercup

Buttercup, creator of the webcomic Um, has one of the most unique art styles I’ve come across in a long time. While its flat colors and minimal shading are common in indie comics, their way of simplifying faces and exaggerating proportions is all their own, accentuated by a frequent use of extreme perspectives. And their animations are stunning.

Follow Buttercup on Twitter, Instagram, or Twitch.

Onsta

Onsta

Onsta, an artist and vTuber living in Japan, describes herself as a lover of “vibrant colors and magical moments,” and her work has both in spades. Her portfolio is an explosion of rainbows and shimmering stars, often cast in a hazy light that adds a touch of the ethereal. She’s active in the Sega fanart communities, especially for the Yakuza and Mega Man games, but is just as capable when it comes to original art. She streams both drawing and games on Twitch.

Check out Onsta’s portfolio here, or follow her on Twitter or Twitch.

Pina La Flame

B.J. Golez

B.J. Golez – or “Pina” online, short for “Blackapina,” itself short for “Black and Filipina” – is a Toronto-based illustrator who’s done freelance work for Legoland, NASA, Turkey Hill, and more. But her passion is depicting Black glamor, which she does in a style equal parts urban art and anime. Her work has won her recognition from big names like Doja Cat and Megan Thee Stallion, among a litany of other hip-hop and R&B artists. She does a mixture of fanart and original pieces; my personal favorite is her modernized tribute to the classic Ernie Barnes painting Sugar Shack.

Follow B.J. Golez on Twitter or Instagram.


#DrawingWhileBlack on Instagram

The #DrawingWhileBlack hashtag can also be found year-round on Instagram. It’s used on DeviantArt and Artstation, too, although not as often. Here are a few more incredible artists I found on Instagram outside of the dates of the Twitter event.

Nia Coppedge

Nia Coppedge

Illustrator and visual development artist Nia Coppedge hails from Washington, D.C., and both its cityscape and history of Black excellence seem to inspire her paintings. Her gallery is truly eclectic, ranging from cartooning to anime to near-realism, all pulled off with equal aptitude but tied together by her distinct, “posterized” style. Particularly impressive are her skills at drawing environments and creating atmosphere.

Check out Nia Coppedge’s portfolio, and follow them on Instagram and Twitter.

Thea

Thea

Thea, also known as Peixel, has an eclectic gallery of traditional and digital art at all stages of refinement, but it’s her painting that stands out. In addition to her formidable rendering skill, her work is distinguished by her evocative use of color, often depicting elegant Black women in moody blues and enchanting twilight purples.

Check out Thea’s Artstation or follow her on Instagram.

Kamrin Webby

Kamrin Webby

Cameron Webb’s art is incredibly developed for a 20 year old. Their work strikes an adept balance between control and chaos: they’re already proficient at the concept art technique of laying down fast strokes that look rough and messy from close up but form a perfectly clear whole when viewed at the intended size. They also have a hell of a knack for dramatic lighting. An Instagram post mentions they’re in art school; I hope they end up making it a career, because they have a bright future ahead.

Follow Kamrin Webby on Instagram or Twitter.

Louidela Nutakor

Louidela Nutakor

This Afro-French manga artist is so talented, he broke through my desire to not feature too many artists in the shōnen manga style. In addition to nailing the aesthetic, his work is set apart by a focus on tribal characters and motifs, as well as a body and age diversity rarely seen in anime and manga art. His current series, from where the majority of his Instagram posts come, is a reimagining of African myth called Redflower. None of his graphic novels have been translated to English, but who knows what the future will bring?

Check out Louidela Nutakor on Facebook or follow him on Instagram.


DWB

Beyond a hashtag

During Hayford’s Lightbox 2020 panel, they expressed hope for the future of the event and the movement: “One day, Drawing While Black might be beyond just a hashtag,” they said. “I’m very optimistic with how it’s growing each year.”

Whether or not the event ever breaks free from social media to become a website, a physical event, or even a gallery show, as Hayford imagined, there’s no doubt the Black art scene is continuing to grow, and both the hashtag and the concept have become a fixture of the community.

Finally, many of the artists listed here are open for jobs or commissions, and many sell prints, classes, and/or digital assets. Check out their bios and websites, and if you can, buy from or hire one of them! Direct, monetary support will do more for Black artists than an article, retweet, or social media follow ever could.


CS Jones avatar

About the Author

Cameron “C.S.” Jones is a West-Philly-based writer and illustrator who’s been contributing to Wacom for four years now. You can see more of his work, including most of his contributions to this blog, at thecsjones.com, or follow him on Instagram or Twitter.

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