Following is an interview with Christina DeNee’, a local singer (BREAKERBOX), and caricature artist. Christina also recently released a couple of “How To Draw” coloring books, to help the rest of us get into the artistic groove. Today’s interview focuses on her prowess as an artist, rather than as a singer (which is her main gig).
I was very blessed to be born to two very talented and of course eccentric people. My parents met while attending the art program at McKinley Vocational High School in Buffalo. My mother was an incredibly talented cartoonist and portrait artist who I was blessed to have working from home when I was very young. She worked diligently with me to teach me the basics – and I was obsessed with being as good, if not better than she was. So, I practiced non stop. My father, also a caricature artist, is a full-blooded entertainer. A musician first, he used caricature entertainment at the nite clubs he was musically performing at as a way to continue to entertain the crowd during his breaks. Separated when I was 5, I spent my days drawing with my mom, working on projects, and my weekends singing back up with my dad and helping him draw at events. I was a blessed little kid. They taught me a way to survive and truly make a living as an artist. But, yes – it was in me naturally. Thank God.
How do you describe your style of caricature?
I never really took any lessons or training. My mother helped me discover my own style, and over the years I just continued to evolve. Art and music were both a necessity for my mental health growing up. Losing my mother suddenly at age 10, the arts were and still are extremely therapeutic for me. When I decided to start drawing “caricatures”, I knew mine would be unique because of my background and lack of “training”- so, I decided to call them “BigHeadCartoons” – I don’t do crazy features and make anyone feel bad. I just give you a really big head and a little tiny body. Growing up with freckles and a big gap in my teeth, I find if you make everyone happy and feel good, they are more likely to love what you have created. If they tell their friends, you will work more and have a better experience. I focus on the hair and the eyes – the rest always seems to fall into place.
What prolific person or place do you want to draw in Buffalo next?
I like to let the universe lead me – I just stay open to the opportunities. I draw whomever is feeling brave. I have been blessed to be hired by so many local businesses and entrepreneurs for either holiday parties or staff functions – but also weddings and family parties at some of the most beautiful places in our city, including some of the new hotels recently built. Of course the Saturn Club is one of my favorites. I haven’t made it to Hotel Henry yet, but I’m sure that’s coming soon.
Do you ever get any unusual requests?
Doing this professionally for over 9 years, I have. But, really when it comes to art – nothing is really TOO weird. I love creativity and it also gives me a chance to flex my creative muscles as well. Drawing at local restaurants throughout the week, the kids keep me on my toes. “Riding a Lion”, “Jumping out of an Airplane”, are some that come to mind. Also, drawing from photos via my online store, I provide digital caricatures and special commissions. A couple that was getting married asked me to draw them on a Buffalo inside a map of all the locations that they had partied at in the city. That one was a challenge, but they ended up very happy with it and used it at the head table at their wedding.
Have you ever been retained to travel to draw something/someone?
I provide caricatures via my online store drawing from photos, so I service clients all over the country without having to physically be there. San Fransisco, Texas, Florida, Nashville, Maine, and even Australia. But, also being in the music business – caricatures have been a fun way to thank someone or a gesture to show appreciation for some higher ups like producers, A&R reps in the business who kind of have everything, ya know? So, my “BigHeadCartoons” are hanging on some interesting walls, so to speak.
After years of entertaining kids, the thing I would hear the most is “I could never do that”… which sucks. I find part of my job is encouraging kids, like my parents encouraged me. Not lying to them, but telling them the truth. If you practice and work hard, you can get good at anything you want to do. But, you have to believe in yourself and know that you don’t know everything. You have to learn. After the 80th “How do you do that?”, I decided to make the book to teach them the basics, like my mom taught me. The rest is up to them. My partner has a full-time Drum Lesson & Production studio, and helped me develop the Coloring Book. The key to learning anything of this nature is practice, and getting through discouragement fast. Find your own style. Don’t try to be like someone else. So, I give them the basics, and let them have fun. I encourage them to keep going into their own creative space.
If someone tells you,”I can only draw a stick figure,” do you believe them?
Well, sometimes that’s true, lol. Not everyone can draw. But everyone is an artist. Everyone is a creator. Every human being is. You have to find your joy, find your gift and live it. I believe we are all put here to make this world a more beautiful place. If its drawing, you will be beyond a stick figure quite young. And if that is all you can draw, good! Draw it, have fun with it. Believe me, no one ever wanted to play Pictionary with me. It’s no fun. But, my mother always told me, you’re having fun… and YOU like it. That’s Art.
What are your aspirations for 2018?
I have been so very blessed to be an entertainer. Living life as a working artist and musician. I will be performing quite a bit more throughout the country with BREAKERBOX, and am always in the studio either working on my own music or writing and producing for other artists. My online store has become more fruitful which I love, because I can create pieces while I’m traveling for clients. But, creating more original pieces like “Buffalo My Home” and “Noah’s Ark” and getting them into retail is one my biggest goals. I’ve started painting, which I’m loving… and I have some cool ideas when it comes to that side as well. I am just staying grateful for the life I have been blessed with, and going toward abundance… in all areas!
To purchase poster prints or books, visit www.BigHeadCartoon.com.
And if you’re wondering what Christina’s music side looks like, here’s a special treat…