Arts·Sketchbook

Whether she's sketching with paper or an iPad, Chelsea Charles celebrates Black women and Black hair

After she began to feel "too scared to ruin the first page," sketching digitally opened up new possibilities for the Brampton artist.

After she began to feel 'too scared to ruin the first page,' sketching digitally opened up new possibilities

Whether she's sketching with paper or an iPad, Chelsea Charles celebrates Black women and Black hair

4 months ago
2:57
After she began to feel "too scared to ruin the first page," sketching digitally opened up new possibilities for the Brampton artist. 2:57

What can you learn about an artist from paging through their sketchbooks? See the rough drafts, tossed-off ideas and intimate musings of some of Canada's most interesting artists in our self-shot series Sketchbook.

Hometown: Brampton, ON

Current location: Brampton, ON

Primary art medium: Digital

Tool of choice for sketchbook: Mechanical pencil

Three words to describe your art: Vibrant, emotional, personal

Fun factoid about you or your art: I hope to animate a recurring apocalyptic dream I've had for the past five years

Strangest place you have made artwork: I can't think of anywhere so I clearly need to get out more haha

Digital artwork by Chelsea Charles drawn on her iPad. (Chelsea Charles)

When illustrator Chelsea Charles read this BuzzFeed article, it really struck a chord. The article profiled High School Musical actress Monique Coleman's unfortunate on-set experiences during the production. She explained that because the hair department had a lack of experience with Black hair, she was forced to improvise on her own. This was the real reason she came up with the idea for her character Taylor's iconic headband look — when in reality, the headband was a Band-Aid solution to a much larger problem. 

The article resonated with Charles. "It pushed me in doing a project about Black women and Black hair because I often find that it is under-represented in media," she explains.

Digital artwork by Chelsea Charles, drawn on her iPad. (Chelsea Charles)

In this video, see the evolution of Charles's artwork as she shows us her past sketchbooks from college and eventually her digital work which has landed in publications like ESPN, The Walrus and LA Times. Like many artists today, Charles jumped ship to work on a digital tablet as she explains why it's what's clicking for her right now. "Sketchbooks just became a bit more intimidating to me in a sense ... Whenever I'd buy a new sketchbook it would always just sit on my desk collecting dust cuz I was always too scared to ruin the first page."

Continuing in the digital realm, Charles plans on dipping her toes into the animation pool soon as she has begun to teach herself by watching tutorials online. 

Follow Charles's artwork here.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

A drawing from Chelsea Charles's sketchbook (Chelsea Charles)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

As a young child, March Mercanti would play with his action figures for countless hours because he was obsessed with telling stories...to himself. Currently, March is a filmmaker living in Toronto, ON. He works at CBC Arts creating documentaries for artists across Canada.

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