Hodaya Louis is a professional artist, fashion illustrator and designer. In 2010 she was officially recognized as a “Distinguished Artist of Israel.” She's been featured by Valentino, Glamour, Rachel Zoe, Vogue, Roberto Cavalli and plenty of others. Currently, she's working on a "collection of large-scale mixed-media paintings embracing the different faces of women around the world." You can (and should!) support that project here. Her Kickstarter is finalized in 13 days, at which time she will commence work on the sort of project that Hodaya has always been so good at: creating inspired artwork that manages to illuminate the beauty and diversity of women.
Hodays's artwork was also featured on Bravo’s Real Housewives Of Orange County, she is the winner of Next Generation Design Award from the Luxottica group, and she was a guest judge and speaker at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), where she also studied. She developed her art skills with her father, David Louis, the fine artist Leonid Blaklav, as well as fashion illustration with Steven Stipelman. She went on to intern at Marc Jacobs, then was hired as a shoe designer for Payless, collaborating with designers such as Isabel Toledo, Christian Siriano and Lela Rose. From 2010 to 2013, as the head designer of an international manufacturing company, her illustrated designs and artworks were presented to the Metropolitan Museum of art, Kenneth Cole Reaction, Nine West, Bloomingdale’s, Lord & Taylor, Dillards, and OPI, among others. Her work blends art, fashion and beauty seamlessly.
I wanted Hodaya to tell her own story, and so here it is.
BY HODAYA LOUIS
It is Monday morning, I am sitting at my art studio, surrounded by paint tubes, sticks of pastels, buckets of brushes and oil paints. Some artworks are still drying on the floor, next to rolls of canvas and paper. It’s a mess, but I’m comfortable here, at my little island of art. It is a great morning, because last night I already found what I’m going to paint. Each artwork I paint is born through inspiration found after hours-long browsing of photographs.
Today, my inspiration is a photograph of actress Taraji P. Henson. The photo captures my attention immediately; black and white, close-up on her face, eyes closed, dramatic lighting. And now I’m sitting in front of a blank large paper. and I take a deep breath. It is an exciting moment, that second before I touch the paper with my brush.
It is terrifying too. I know that with years of art lessons and practice I’ve developed the skills required to paint what I envision, but I don’t know if others will like, understand or connect to that vision. I know that in the next few hours of painting session my energy will be intense, my concentration and senses at their pick, my phone off, I will be standing up over the developing piece with tension in my muscles, working with controlled hand movements. And I love it, that exhilarating sense of something being born, of colors and strokes and lights and shadows, and with that excitement I will feel how dark clouds of doubt are forming in my mind (will they like it? will they get it? am I a good artist? will someone buy it? can I make a living as an artist?) and I keep painting and painting fighting those clouds, my brain buzzing with non-stop alarms (is this purple deep enough, should I have started with the background, what color should go next, is there harmony, oil pastel or acrylic, is the composition good, is are the proportions correct, is the yellow too red, should I add a hint of blue to cool it a bit) If I use a wet medium that requires waiting time to dry, like watercolor, I walk back and forth like in a sort of cage, counting the seconds, or impatiently grabbing a blow-drier to speed up the process, because I cannot wait any longer, I need to continue because I’m afraid that I will lose that momentum, that the vision will disappear from my brain and I will not be able to make sense of all those smudges. And when it’s done, and the piece is completed and my mind and heart stop racing, and I say loudly – done! I sit down in a slump, exhausted, smiling, in love with the world.
Being an artist, in my mind, means to create, to leave a part of you in this world. That part needs to be correct, to be a true reflection of you, otherwise it should not exist. When you do such personal act, it feels like allowing someone to sit next to you in a private theater and seeing the exclusive movie made for you only. Whatever comes out is somehow very personal, a piece of me that I share with others.
However, I if something happens during that process, a moment of distraction, a shift of mood, a second of blockage in the course of those hours of intense energy pouring out on the paper, and the artwork is not precise, it is not part of me, it failed. I might not be able to recognize the problem, to identify what makes me flinch, but something will be off and I will maybe try to redeem it but it is lost, gone. And all that amazing energy I have pumping in my veins will disappear in an almost physical pain, and like a deflated balloon I will go to my bedroom, get under the blanket, and close my eyes. That taste of failure is as strong as as a bad memory that keeps coming back, something that I am learning to accept as inevitable part of creation, like painful PMS.
I push myself to be resilient, get out of that bed of self-pity quickly. I became a full time artist two years ago, and I learned that being an artist means that every day I do not attempt to draw or paint is a wasted day. Still, picking up a pencil requires a lot of energy, positive energy. I cannot paint angry or sad. For me, a complete piece, either pretty or dark, means I produced, created, in a good state of mind, and it’s a great sense of accomplishment.
There is a harmony and balance in the face of a woman that fascinates me. Sometimes after drawing a face, I can’t bring myself to go on with hair or body because I feel that the piece is completed. As I constantly look for faces to draw, I am intrigued by studying different racial bone structures and skin tones. I love doing portraits and capturing some of the essence of my subjects.
At a show I had this summer a woman came and looked at my sketch of a woman’s head, with emphasis on the bone structure. she inspected it for a while, and then asked me if it’s a portrait of an actual person, which it was not. “So what is the purpose of this?” she asked. I realized at that moment how personal my art is. It is even act of selfishness – I like this vision, I will put it on paper. Others might not get it or not appreciate it, but it does not matter to me.
Artists that create controversial art are the same way – when an artist has a vision she/he must create it as it is, whether the viewers like it or not. Just like most artists, having my work featured publicly makes me proud. Hearing compliments and comments is amazing and gives me great sense of accomplishment. I especially love when someone finds one of my pieces “moving,” even if a stranger says that I just feel like we are connected on a personal level.
My technical skills did not come easily; I studied all forms of art for 15 years, with the Russian artist Leonid Balaklav and with the legendary fashion Illustrator Steven Stipelman among many other great teachers, and I practice almost every day. So to me, a finished piece of art is rewarding as money earned after hard work, and being able to show and share it is priceless.