If you’ve been on Instagram long enough, you’ve probably come across one of artist Debra Cartwright’s watercolor illustrations often depicting black women with enviable Afros and if you’re anything like me, relished the fact that you could see yourself in them.
This New York-based painter and graphic designer has been featured in magazines like Ebony and Essence, and was commissioned by McDonald’s to paint murals for the Essence festival. Cartwright has also exhibited at the Sol Studio in Harlem— a studio that celebrates the work of emerging artists of African descent. Her pieces tell the narratives of the different black experiences in America, portraying the beauty and depth that is often not shown in the mainstream media.
Cartwright has been painting since she was a child— she took her first watercolor class when she was 9 and hasn’t stopped since! The artist caught the attention of the world through her “protest art”, images with inscriptions such as “Don’t shoot” that reflected widespread demonstration against police brutality.
The Maryland native has been outspoken about the need for art that tells the stories about the culture of black people. She believes the onus is on black artists to create the images that they want to see— images that represent the nuanced beauty of black women and widens the narrow standards of beauty depicted in the media.