“I love pink,” Visual Artist Kabrea James said, “It’s grown to be my favorite color as I’ve gotten older and learned more about love. I feel like it adds a certain level of warmth and softness to any piece I’m working on.”
James, who describes her art as “playful, bright, entrancing and euphoric”, said although she’s partial to the color pink, she is genuinely infatuated with all color.
“No matter what medium I’m working with, I’m always looking to provoke thought,” She explained, “I’m wanting to stimulate the mind. I think that’s why I’m so drawn to vibrant colors and unusual concepts. I want to take your mind on a trip.”
A mountain girl at heart, James was born and raised in Beckley, West Virginia, a cozy town in the heart of the New River Gorge.
“As an outdoors enthusiast, I love being able to get out and explore nature,” James said, “Adventure is so easily accessible here. You just have to know where to find it. I’ve always had a strong appreciation for nature and I’ve come to appreciate its healing effects on both the mind and body.”
During her college years, James found herself broadening her horizons in cities like Greensboro, North Carolina and Baltimore, Maryland. She started painting in 2017 during her mother’s battle with breast cancer.
“This was one of the many moments in life where my art was really all I had to hold onto,” James said, “I didn’t have a lot of hope.”
James came home on college break, like she did every summer, totally unaware of just how much her mother’s illness had progressed.
“The North Carolina sun brought so much warmth but I often found myself either in dimly lit hospital rooms or sitting in silence at her bedside at home,” James said, “I found myself with a lot of free time and a lot going through my mind.”
One day, on the way back from one of her mother’s chemotherapy appointments, James stopped to grab groceries and ended up randomly buying some art supplies, as well.
“From there, that was all I did,” James said, “I finally had something else to focus on.”
Unfortunately, her world was shaken on July 3rd, 2017.
“She ended up passing away a few months later and still, I painted,” James said, “My heart was broken. My art was all I had.”
Leaning more into her art for healing, James started off painting black women with huge afros that took up most of the canvas.
“They usually didn’t have faces because, to be honest, I couldn’t paint facial features at the time,” James explained, “I also painted a lot of flowers and other landscapes. I’m very passionate about nature, always have been, always will be.”
James is also very encouraged by her two art mentors, Shayar Jarrett and Miss AB Wilkins.
“I met Miss Wilkins in 2016 on a train ride from Washington, D.C. to West Virginia, ” She explained, ” Then I ended up meeting Shayar through my dad in 2020. I love that both of them are significantly older than me, as they are more experienced in art and life.”
James feels that her two mentors provide her with a nice balance in terms of helping her become the best artist she can possibly be.
“Shayar is my sun (masculine) guidance and Miss Wilkins is my moon (feminine),” James said, ” Shayar is more direct in his approach and Miss Wilkins is more sweet and nurturing. Both have positively guided me and my art from the moment I came in contact with them.”
And these weren’t the only artists James was blessed enough to connect with during her artistic journey. She created a series titled ‘Art Is Magic’ on LEUPHORIQUE.COM, which is a publication that James started from the ground up. James said she wanted to get inside the heads of her fellow artists.
“I had already came across so many talented artists on Twitter and Instagram,” James said, “The pieces just fell together so naturally and I was so ecstatic to highlight some of my peers in this way, while also understanding my own creative process.”
James was also in the process of solidifying the identity of LEUPHORIQUE.COM, which at the time, was more centered around her written works.
“I wanted to incorporate more visual art, more specifically, more black visual art,” She explained, “I am incredibly inspired by seeing people who look like me translate their own visions, whether it be through art, music, dance, performance or writing. Black people are wildly creative and when given the opportunity to shine, we’re going to bring new life to whatever medium we’re working with.”
James, who describes herself as a “lover” and a “creative by nature”, feels that art is very much connected to her life purpose, which is to embrace and spread light.
“I’ve always been very in-tune with my artistic abilities and also very eager to share them with others,” James explained, “I hope to represent peace, love, truth and freedom through my work.”
James only recently started sketching out her concepts before jumping straight in with color after her art mentor Shayar urged her to do so.
“I told him, ‘I can’t draw’ and he said ‘Yes, you can. Just practice!'” James said. “So I did. I bought a sketchbook and soon found myself sketching in my free time.”
From there, James sketches the original concept onto the canvas are starts working in some color.
“I then add color and watch my idea come to life right before my eyes,” James said, “I often look back at my original sketch like ‘WOW, how did THAT become THAT?'”
She also loves a good a free style paint session. Her most recent art showcase even features finger-painted pieces.
“I love to put my airpods in and listen to my 70s playlist on full blast while I work,” James said,”‘Beijo’ by Earth, Wind and Fire and ‘Watching You’ by Slave are some of my favorite songs to vibe out to.”
Aside from music, Kabrea also enjoys other forms of entertainment while creating.
“Sometimes, I’ll watch a movie or a friend will call me up,” James said, “I just like to have some type of background stimulation. When I’m painting, I’m just flowing. I’m present in that moment and letting the shapes and colors I see in my mind guide me. Art pretty much fueled a sense of escapism that lived in me all along. It’s therapeutic to me and has brought me great relief in this lifetime.”