Today we’d like to introduce you to Chiffon Lark. A Native Artist and Illustrator from San Diego, CA.
Hi Chiffon, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
My name is Chiffon Lark. I was born and raised in California and my family is from the Southwestern United States (Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas). I am Mescalero/White Mountain Apache and Coahuiltecan.
I am an Alcohol Ink Artist and Illustrator. The reason for the term “Illustrator” is simply to identify that this medium is not “paint.” Ink is a concentrated dye or pigment that is soluble- most with water, but with Alcohol Ink, it is an ethanol-based solution (I use mostly rubbing alcohol). A paint needs to contain a non-soluble pigment to be a paint. I specialize in abstract realism, and my technique is unique. I use my breath (open-air blowing) and watercolor paint brushes to render images. All the layers begin in an extremely transparent state (very diluted pigment). I create movement by blowing directly onto the substrate (Yupo) throughout the composition and add detailed value by going over areas with fine brushes.
I have been doing art since childhood. Like most children, I started to draw things that I found beautiful and brought me joy. Most of my subject matter, even as a child, was wildlife. The brightness of colors and physical design represented their remarkable attributes as beings. I always immersed myself in the literature that brought these creatures to life through the written word and illustrations for inspiration.
I’m sure it wasn’t obstacle-free, but would you say the journey has been fairly smooth so far?
It has not been a smooth road, but it has been a beautiful one. I feel that one of the most challenging aspects of pursuing a career is finding a sustained source of self-confidence. Self-confidence has to be derived from a sustained source of self-worth, and I struggled with this. The proverbial bumps in the road were created by my seeking extrinsic validation from people and environments that were destructive.
I struggled with substance addiction from a young age and realized that committing to my sobriety meant healing painful beliefs I had been carrying from childhood. As I grew in this area, finding a sustainable sense of self-worth meant that I had to accept who I am.
I believe that to fully appreciate/accept something, it means you have to understand it at the deepest level of capability you have. As an indigenous woman, that meant I needed to deepen my understanding of where I came from. Many people don’t realize the significance that your lineage plays in who you are. Indigenous and Native cultures do. Through traumatic systems that are still in place, our ways of life have been damaged through physical and spiritual violence. The purpose (I believe) of these exclusive laws and institutions is to remove Native people from their source of internal power – our history, our ceremonies, our languages, our connection to ourselves and our families.
Being able to re-connect to traditional ways is empowering to Native communities and healing for our society of all demographics. That is my intention with my art. To preserve teachings and stories and inspire people to connect to the natural environment that we are inherently connected to.
Any advice for finding a mentor or networking in general?
Find people who see you. When you commit to truly knowing yourself and who you are, you can truly recognize people who acknowledge aspects of your identity.
There are depths to a person, and when you see what aspects others see and appreciate in you. You are then able to understand who they are as well and can build a relationship based on the intimate sense of self and recognition.