Artist Ciara Sanders captures Black beauty through bright, vivid paintings

Art and beauty are practically synonymous with Black culture. Traditional African hairstyles like braids, cornrows and Bantu knots, as well as hair adornments like cowry shells, beads and wraps, provide a playground for creativity. From the shades of Black skin and striking Black features to Black clothing styles and forms of expression, Blackness has inspired every art form.

It’s no wonder Black people are visual artist Ciara Sanders’ muse. The Hammond native captures their essence through intentional paintings with bold colors, depth and attention to detail.

She deploys acrylic paints, spray paint, paint pens and varnish to create realistic, animated images. Her work includes imaginative paintings of celebrities like LeBron James, Erykah Badu, Rihanna, Janelle Monáe and Ari Lennox. She also paints otherworldly fictional characters and meaningful commissions of customers and their families.

“If you really want to paint Black skin and translate that into art, use more color. It’s not just brown and white or black and white. I use yellows, reds, purples and blues as undertones to emphasize the color of Black skin tones and the depth of Black features. I like to make things colorful and bright because I want to see more of that in my community. Being a Black person, there are many more facets to what social media tries to portray. I try to bring positivity and keep it vibrant.”

[Ciara Sanders]

The 30-year-old is a graphic designer at Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center in Baton Rouge. It’s a position that holds a special place in her heart, since her mother passed away from breast cancer in 2019. She has compassion for the patients and their families, and it’s part of why she cherishes depicting people with their loved ones, living and deceased.

She started painting during her senior year of high school. She was accepted into a gifted arts program and fell in love. During the summers, she would save her money from working at the beloved neighborhood Blockbuster (if you know, you know) to pay for art supplies. What started as one of her favorite high school classes, quickly became her calling.

“Internal Conscious Amplified,” an acrylic painting on canvas, is a powerful depiction of the side profile of a Black woman with defined curls holding her head high. Multicolored silhouettes of the same woman pointing in different directions are layered on top. The piece takes the viewer’s eye on an adventure to reveal the various figures on the canvas.

“Internal Conscious Amplified”

Another of Sanders’ creations, “Just Let the Intrusion Walk on By,” is a reminder to paint outside the lines (literally). For this 3D work, she removed the glass from a picture frame and painted directly inside and on the sides of the frame. What other artists may have considered a frame, she interpreted as the canvas.

The solemn woman in this work has her hair slicked back into an afro puff. Her chiseled face is framed with gelled, wavy baby hairs. Highlighter bounces off her nose, the inner corners of her eyes, cheekbones, full lips and square chin. She wears large hoop earrings and a chunky black turtleneck. A bold red-and-blue hued silhouette covers half of her face, piecing together with the purple silhouette that provides the backdrop for the woman.

It’s a work that embodies Black womanhood: multi-layered, resilient and beautiful.

See her work

After taking a hiatus from painting, Sanders plans to start creating new works and have her first solo exhibit at the The Healthcare Gallery & Wellness Spa with art collective Ellemnop.Art in September. Visit ellemnop.art for info, or visit ciarabadumonaeartistry.com.

This article was originally published in the July 2024 issue of 225 Magazine.