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10 Questions with Alana Dee Haynes

The Young Illustrator Inks Tattoos onto Photographs and Sculptures

Posted by Gestalten—11/2015

Though trained in photography, artist Alana Dee Haynes rarely exhibits pictures she took herself. Rather, the Brooklyn-born illustrator sketches intricate patterns and embellishments onto the surface of photographs from other artists around the world. The result is a striking body of work in which beautiful portraits are adorned by hands, eyes, and other symbolic motifs drawn in solid, black ink. 

Alana Dee Haynes is one of many young visual storytellers using pen, paper, and other forms of illustration who are featured in our recent release Illusive. Read our interview with her below to find out more about how she developed her unique style. 

You have been on a winding journey to become an illustrator with pit-stops in both fashion and photography. Before becoming an illustrator, how did you start working in these industries?

I actually started with illustration. I've always doodled on any paper in front of me. In high school I started working in other mediums like photography. While taking photography classes, I started to blend my illustrations with scraps of photographs. After finishing the Fashion Institute of Technology’s photography program, I decided I didn't want to take photographs any more. I did cultivate my love for photography, though, and my desire to draw on images was still going strong. So I got back into illustration, and have tried to explore its relationship to many mediums. 

When illustrating, do you have a favorite type of embellishment to add to photographs? 

I always let the photograph guide my illustrations. There are a few patterns that I often see within an image, and those have grown to be dear to me. But an image can surprise me with what’s within it. 

Are there any photographs that you find particularly inspirational? What makes a photograph “good” for your illustrations?

It’s hard to say. I always love drawing on people like a tattoo. And it’s great when there are white areas because I use black pens and I love contrast. 

Where do you look for inspiration with regards to the patterns and symbols with which you embellish photographs?

Nature is a big inspiration for me. I love looking at the ways nature connects with itself. And I love religious and cultural art for their use of symbols: hearts, eyes, hands. A photograph tells a story, and I love adding my impression by adding to the visual story that people perceive. 

Do you have a favorite photographer or favorite series of photographs to work with?

Each photographer I work with brings new things that challenge the way I work. It’s hard to pick which is my favorite. Some come more naturally. I love the photographs of Blaise Cepis and Eric T. White. 

Do you still take photographs of your own?

Not really. I always took photos of the people I loved and the people who were around me. I still do it sometimes, but I'd rather just look at them and really take in all the details that I love about them. It’s easier for me to add illustrations to photographs that are not my own. My imagination can run wild without being held back by previous connections. 

Your work has existed on the pages of magazines, painted onto clothing, and on murals as well. Do you have a favorite medium on which to present your illustrations?

I think its easiest for me to create 2D things. Its a little faster expressing my visions. But I do love the presentation of my 3d objects, and the interaction of people with the clothing. 

What is your workspace like?

I work from home. Working small; I haven't felt the need for a studio. I like to wake up and be at work incase need to work out a dream I just had on paper. The room is pretty covered in my art. I've started working on painted furniture and sculptures so theres a bunch of that stuff around. I like to work in different way, so sometimes I'll sit in bed and draw, or sometimes I'll sit in one of my large cozy painted chairs. 

 What do you think the relationship between fashion and art is?

They are so connected. They borrow from each other all the time, and are often the same thing. But I think their main connection is that they both start with an idea and vision.

 If you didn’t work in art and fashion, what would you do?

One of my childhood dream jobs would be to create new ice cream flavors. 

 

Photos © Alana Dee Haynes