Monique Steele is a Jamaican-born illustrator currently residing in the small pocket of reality in-between time and space (also known as Miami Fl). When she’s not drawing famous Queens in history or women in elaborate gowns you can find her deeply mired in the comings and goings of pop culture, exploring mystical new worlds in literature, and lamenting no longer living the “island girl” lifestyle while (still) attempting to refine her spicy foods palette.
In this poster, I was trying to think about all the symbols of femininity and beauty, specifically in art. One of the key symbols of both those things throughout art history is the swan. Starting from there, I wanted to depict the swan and later lilies as being entwined with blackness in some way which is how I ended up having the swan encircling the woman in the piece and also being embraced by the woman. The two are tied together and linked. Both are black, and both are beautiful.
I have always been drawn to making things. I think the fact that you can tell a story through images has always been enticing to me. Art is a way of communicating with people beyond the limits of the written word and I really enjoy being able to share a story or an experience with people through art. I love that I get to communicate in a way that is so specific to the way I see the world, and I love even more that I can share all those things without the need for words.
In recent years I have been very lucky to be called upon to illustrate the types of books and projects that as a young aspiring artist would have been amazing to see, knowing that a Black artist worked on it. So many of the books that littered my shelves growing up were not written with POC in mind and certainly not illustrated that way. Being asked to illustrate books that teach young girls about black queens in history or books that depict the joys of the black experience have been really special to me and I am so happy that I have been able to be a part of those illustrated stories.
I think actively seeking out Black creatives for projects specifically ones that involve Black stories would be a good start. In that same vein, I’m a children’s book illustrator so looking at it from that perspective that would also mean green lighting more black stories, getting more black art directors on jobs etc etc. It’s all a chain and it’s all connected in order for representation to be true it needs to start and be evident from the very base level of the system you are trying to work in.
I’m not entirely sure that I can give a perfect or a good answer for this. Frankly I don’t know. I think the thing that I do know is that for those of us that have made it to a certain point in our careers that if we can vouch for and advocate for younger and newer Black creatives coming up, and put them in better positions to also get opportunities that’s probably a great starting point.