One-On-One

The Artist Making Her Name Painting Rihanna and Gucci Mane

Mariella Angela talks how Tyler The Creator started her career.

By: Jodi Taylor
Photography: Emily Knecht

A lot of the really cool, amazing, and inspiring (we could go on) people that we feature on the site we find by way of Instagram (thank you, 2016). Oil painter Mariella Angela was no exception to this. God only knows how we ended up on her page—it was one of those nights where you end up in an endless black hole while creeping—but once we did, we were hooked as we found ourselves scrolling through posts of oil paintings of pretty much every rapper and musician, well, ever.

Fast-forward a month and we had wrapped a shoot in Angela’s L.A. studio—turns out she is dog-obsessed, deletes her social media apps whenever she needs a reboot, and is a super fangirl when meeting celebrities. In other words? She’s just like us. Keep reading to learn more about how this 21-year-old artist got started, why she’ll never quit, and that time she painted 21 paintings in 30 days.

 

How she got started:

“I only started painting in 2013 because I wanted a present for Tyler, The Creator for his birthday. I had never painted before [and my friend and I were thinking], what can you give someone that can buy anything for himself? [My friend] said to try oil painting or acrylic painting. I just kind of fell in love with it.”

On when she gifted Tyler, The Creator her painting:

“I kind of already knew him, so I gave him the painting, and I made him a cake. It was so funny, he was just like, ‘Dude, you’re dope!’ At this point I was like, ‘Okay, I didn’t think I would ever be in a creative field.’ I thought I was going to go to law school, I wanted to study political science and if that didn’t work out, maybe medical. The creative route wasn’t something I ever had in mind, so it was super [180].”

How she decided to paint celebrity portraits:

“I grew up with that music and it’s what I like. It wasn’t like I was painting for money or for someone else, so I think just naturally I was painting things that I was genuinely interested in, so that I could continue to have fun with it. I stuck with it and now I can only do portraits. I genuinely like painting portraits, it has become my thing. I can paint someone’s grandma—if they were poppin’ [laughs].”

 

On creating 21 paintings in 30 days for an art show:

“I was wondering what I wanted to do for my 21st birthday, and at the time I was going through this artist block and I didn’t want to paint. I said ‘Okay, I’m going to have a show, I’m going to figure it out.’ [It was] super ambitious, because at this time, I was painting maybe one or two paintings a month—that was pretty fast for me—and I wanted to do 21 paintings [in 30 days]. At the time I was going to school full-time, I’d be there from like 8 AM to 2 PM, I’d get home at 3 PM, and then I’d be painting till 1 AM. It’s crazy to think about how close it came to not happening. The paintings were still wet at the show.”

On how her favorite painting reminded her to not give up:

“I have a lot. At this point, my Gucci [Mane] painting is one that I’m holding super dear to me just because after I was planning Scheme, [my most recent show], I went through something personal and kind of fell off. I was thinking about if I was going to continue painting in 2017—it was a lot of questioning and self-doubt. This Gucci painting was the first one I did [after that and] it reassured me. So many people were excited about that painting, I think that’s what I enjoy. I enjoy painting for myself, but I also enjoy the fact that it’s making other people happy, and inspiring people to paint. If I decide to stop painting, that’s the worst thing I could ever do. I don’t think I’d be happy and I’d be mad at myself. Every time I see Guwop (Gucci Mane), that’s what he is telling me.”

 

The process of letting a painting go:

“I always do some background check on the buyer—I’m like a parent, making sure it goes to a good home. On a couple of occasions I’ve actually given the money back to someone and said I don’t think I’m selling it anymore, just because I didn’t think it was going to a good home, I didn’t think they were appreciating it—these are my babies!”

On how she can’t help but gift her paintings to rappers:

“I get so starstruck when it’s an idol and then I end up giving [the painting] to them. I met Cam’ron and he was like, ‘Word, who did that? How much is it? I need to buy it!’ I stood there and was like, ‘No, I want to give it to you, do you want to pick it up?’ I just got starstruck—I love Cam’ron. I think a lot of rappers get a lot of fan art and they’re used to it, but you can kind of tell when they really appreciate it. It’s an amazing feeling because you never think that you’re going to see these people in person and realize that they like something you made. When I get that feeling I’m just like, I can’t accept your money.”

 

How she takes care of her mental health and stays sane:

“I take a break from social media—I delete Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr off my phone. As an artist on social media, you feel obligated to read the comments and see what people want you to paint. When, though, you are doing this for yourself, [you think], did I paint this because I actually wanted to paint it, or because people said that they’d like it. When I have these blocks and I need to recoup, I block off social media and figure out what I want to paint, have fun with it, and don’t post it anywhere. I have a handful of things that no one has ever seen and I don’t think I’d post on social media, just because those were just for me. That’s what I do.”

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