Photographed by Briana Heart

Photographed by Briana Heart

Colorful :: An Interview with Tyler

By Patricia Rogers

Amonnie Nicholas, 20, is quiet, timid and hard to read at first.  The more I have gotten to know her in the last three years, there is a lot more than meets the eye.  She is super photogenic and a self-queen whose handle is @tylerart_.  I like to think Tyler is the outspoken, aggressive alter ego of Amonnie.  Tyler is a photographer, illustrator, painter and all around visual artist.  The West Orange native is currently studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City but has a journey and thriving art career brewing here in the Valley Arts District. 

P.R.: Where are you from?  Talk about your childhood;  give us an idea of young Amonnie.

I've lived in West Orange my entire life with my Haitian mother and grandmother.  I'm the eldest of my younger sister, brother, and two adopted cousins.  My job was to watch over them, clean and get good grades.  Although I wasn't a big fan of school, I always loved my art classes.  I was very shy and didn't have too many friends.  I spent most of my time drawing and making up stories.

I notice you love to change your appearance.  why is that?  How does that express your creativity and artistry? 

I change my appearance a lot because I get bored of the same look.  I can't imagine not being able switch up my style because it reflects on how I'm feeling.  If I'm wearing the fro, no make up, jeans and New Balances, that means I'm going to school.  If I'm wearing all black, red lipstick, heels, make up, that means I felt badass.

What have been some of your past creative endeavors? 

All of my creative endeavors are happening right now, besides getting into FIT [Fashion Institute of Technology] which, I didn't know at the time, was hard to get into.  I've won a few awards when I was younger.  Right now I want to make character designs for animation or video games as well as storyboarding.

Talk about your journey as an artist.

I started drawing at 5 or 4.  My older cousin left her anime sketchbook at my grandma's house one day, and that was the first time I became inspired.  In elementary school, I won poster awards, Best Artist Award, drew the spring and winter concert covers.  I considered myself the best at something.  After going to middle school, teachers didn't care for my art.  I didn't feel like I was good enough, so I stopped.  It wasn't until junior year of high school when I realized that I actually have talent.  If it wasn't for some harsh criticism from a former friend, I would have been too lazy to start back up again.

If you were not a visual artist, what would you do?

I really wanted to be a veterinarian.  I know I won't be able to handle putting animals to sleep though.

 Photograph by Briana Heart

Photograph by Briana Heart

How has ORNG Ink been instrumental in your artist career?

It helped keep me inspired.  ORNG Ink gave me a family of people who love any form of art as much as I do.  I came during my senior year of high school, and I related to them more than anyone I met all my years being in West orange.  It was hard to express myself there without being an outcast.

Talk about your experiences studying at FIT.

I'm learning so much at FIT right now.  They're teaching us every aspect of the illustration world.  We go from conceptual thinking to dynamic figure drawing, drawing from a model everyday, learning how to do invoices, and photo realistic rendering.  My teachers are wonderful artists and just over all cool teachers.

What attracts you about the Valley Arts District?

I love the diversity and the overall love of the arts vibe.

Who are your biggest artist inspirations?

Hayao Miyazaki, a Japanese animator.  Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Stephanie Law, David Kassan.  I have so many.  Random artist that do different things lol

What is a typical Amonnie outfit?

Baggy Harlem pants, Dr. Martens, and a regular sweater.  I like the boyish look.

 Photograph by Briana Heart

Photograph by Briana Heart

What is your favorite look (how do you wear your hair/make up/outfit, etc.)?

My favorite look is the Aaliyah inspired look.  I like the baggy pants like a guy and a crop top to add a feminine vibe.  Or the bad ass all black, biker chick look, that will continue to look good beating your ass.  A dark red lip and fierce dark eyes. 

Why is your social media handle @tylerart_?

Tyler is a unisex name.  I don't want my art to have a gender, or for people to automatically assume that I'm a girl.  I know that the animation and video game industry is very sexist.  They'll be in for a surprise when they meet with me.

How is it adjusting to being a student of art?

It's more work than imagined.  Balancing eight classes and meeting deadlines is exhausting.  And especially with painting, it takes forever and if you mess up, you're basically done.  It's difficult to keep from having a mental breakdown.

How would you describe your style?

Versatile, or edgy.

How is your art making an imprint on the world?

I want to inspire women in every form of art that I can.  Especially black women.  Whether in paintings or video games, I want women to know that they are powerful.  Right now, I have my ideas on how I can have an imprint on the world.

 Photograph by Briana Heart

Photograph by Briana Heart

Top 5 songs on your playlist?

Hiatus Kaiyote - "The Lung"
Nao - "It's You"
Hiatus Kaiyote - "Jekyll"
Kendrick Lamar - "Alright"
Kelela - "Bank Head"

Talk about working on photo shoots with Briana and myself.  What are some things you want to do in the future?

It was really fun styling the model and working together getting the perfect shot.  I like how everyone was involved and that I was able to capture that with my back stage photos.  I want to do more photo shoots and start doing more photography with the girls from the valley.

Where do you see your art career going?

Definitely want to be involved in animation and video gaming.  I also want to get involved in clothing, exhibit work, photography.  I want to do everything.

Where do you hope to be in 10 years?

In ten years, I hope to be working in animation.  Whether it's Cartoon Network, DreamWorks, Pixar, or Disney.  Then working my way up the ladder, getting into video gaming, then potentially art directing.

 Photograph by Briana Heart

Photograph by Briana Heart

What is ERA?  What is your role and why are you a part of it?

ERA is basically a group of young artists working together to achieve our goals, finishing what we started at ORNG Ink.  We are motivating each other and providing for each other, meanwhile doing our own creations. I'm part of ERA because I see the talent and vibe that we give out that is priceless.  Our minds put together is a fortune.

Where do you see ERA going in the future?

I see us inspiring many young adults who don't know how they will ever make it out of a bad environment, how to express themselves and make money from doing what you love.  I see each of us making it further in what we want to achieve and potentially influencing the next generation to join the business and rep the ERA name.

What are some of your biggest aspirations?

I just want to make sure my family is well.  Also, I want to fight for equality and love with my art as much as I can.  Nothing matters to me more than someone feeling a type of way towards my art.  I always want positivity.

What is the most important aspect of being an artist?  Why?

The most important aspect of being an artist is being free and honest with yourself.  It keeps you from going completely insane.

What else do you want to add to this interview?  

Vlad (another member of ERA) and I are going to have drawing classes at the ERA head quarters every Monday night.  ERA Artist Collective is located on 355 S Jefferson Street, Orange, New Jersey, 07050.

Keep up with Tyler on her Instagram @tylerart_

See all photos here:

About the Writer

Patricia Rogers, #ValleyGirlNJ, lives in New Jersey's Valley Arts District.  The native New Yorker works as a writer, blogger and community activist. Starting Masconsumption Media in 2012, she has been passionate about capturing the stories of the vibrant up and coming Valley Arts District neighborhood through her blog, zine, events and more.  She blogs for Jersey Indie, Luna Stage, and Hat City Kitchen and offers many creative media services.  Visit her blog and keep up with your favorite Valley Girl on social media at @valleygirl_nj (Twitter / Instagram).