ELLO X PRIDE: GET TO KNOW BRIANA LADWIG
Introducing Briana Ladwig; the Queer illustrator liberating Black joy and pleasure through her work.
To celebrate Pride this June, we’ve been focusing all our content on work that represents unity, love, and the LGBTQI+ community. As part of this, we’ve been highlighting some of our favorite LGBTQI+ creators making waves across the industry. Next up is the wonderful illustrator, Briana Ladwig who focuses her work on “a world where Black bodies freely experience joy and pleasure as a way of being”.
We got to know a bit more about the talented artist below:
Tell us about yourself
I’m Bri (aka Billustrator), age 28, Black, Queer, single Mama, illustrator working primarily with watercolors.
How would you describe your art in three words?
Spellwork, Alive, Ancestral
Where are you from - and what’s the best and worst thing about the place?
I grew up in Wichita, Kansas and I moved to Lawrence, KS almost a year ago. The worst thing about it is… it’s Kansas. The best thing about it is that I feel like I’m in the very center of things- the whole world is accessible and reachable to me.
If you had to attribute one thing that’s responsible for getting you into art, what would it be?
My dad is a master artist and children’s book illustrator and has taught me almost everything I know. I grew up watching him closely and I still call him for guidance or to simply geek out. He taught me to be kind and how to craft a great visual story.
What is most of your work focused on?
A lot of my work is centered around generational healing through pleasure/joy practices, and visual messages of Afrofuturism.
What are the biggest inspirations for your work?
I’m greatly inspired by what I read: Adrienne Maree Brown gives me purpose and vision, and Octavia Butler lights my entire brain on fire. Other times, I take cues from what’s happening in my emotional world and try to illustrate that, because I know there’s always someone out there who would resonate with and find healing in it. Frida Kahlo taught me a lot about that, and I thank her every day.
What does Pride mean to you?
I see Pride as a moment of gorgeous visibility for the hidden work Queer people are doing all the time to Liberate us all. A time of remembrance and celebration for those in the Fight, which is dangerous and hard but also glorious, pleasurable, and full of joy.
Do you believe that art can be a tool for creating change within society?
Art is a vital and mighty tool for New World Building. The role of artists in the Revolution is irreplaceable. Art begins movements, educates, heals. We’d be absolutely lost without it.
Other than art - what are you really passionate about?
I’m a massive music lover. I’m not a musician by any means, but my partner is an extremely talented one, and he’s completely expanded my understanding of music history which has enriched my listening so much. And music truly partners with my creative practice these days.
What would you have been if you weren't an artist/illustrator/photographer?
Probably a midwife. But honestly I can’t imagine a world where I’m not making art!
What’s the first piece of your work that people should check out and why?
“May Our Ceilings be Your Floor” is a painting I made to illustrate how I feel my ancestors are lifting me and holding me, and the cycles they’ve broken so I can be who I am today. It also reminds me of the cycle-breaking work I continue to do for my own children.
What do you like to listen to whilst you work?
Anything and everything! It depends on what I need- something nostalgic for drawing on those sweet achy emotions, something I’ve never heard before to encourage exploration, a podcast for more gruelling and boring tasks.
What is the best and worst thing about your job?
The best thing is that it’s like giving birth over and over- hard hard work followed by a giant release and great celebration. The worst thing is that it’s like giving birth over and over, haha! It’s also frustrating that inspiration cannot be controlled. I have to prepare the ground for creating as best I can and then wait for the good ideas to strike. They can be coaxed and gently called but never forced.
Favourite new/upcoming artist we should check out / have as our next featured artist (ideally on ello)?
Austin Storie (@storieboard) is brilliant and I’m wild over everything he makes.