Journal / Block By Block Illustration Artist Zakiya Noel

Introducing the Stadium Goods Block by Block Initiative: Illustration By Artist Zakiya Noel

Block by Block NYC Zakiya Noel

Stadium Goods is proud to present Block by Block, our initiative that represents our ongoing efforts in the fight for racial and social justice. This is Stadium Goods's commitment to using our platforms to amplify voices that are involved with the movement for positive change. In the coming weeks and months we’ll talk to activists, community organizers, artists, businesspeople and more, while also highlighting efforts from grassroots organizations and collectives.

Block by Block begins this week in our home town of New York City, and will then expand to other cities across the nation. In each city featured, we will commission an artist to design a logo that illustrates their own interpretation of the Block by Block initiative. We begin with Brooklyn-born artist Zakiya Noel, who created the art you see above. Learn more about the artist and the inspiration behind her design in our interview below.

Zakiya Noel

Can you start by introducing yourself? What should we all know about Zakiya Noel?

Sure! Hi all! I’m Zakiya. I am a 25-year-old New York native and I’m a Freelance Illustrator. While I was born and raised in Brooklyn, my family stems from the West Indies: St. Vincent and Carriacou, Grenada.

How did you get your start in art?

I’ve always been interested in art, to be honest. When I was three, I was dead set on having my own art school one day where I’d be the principal (laughs). My mom even helped me make my own business cards for it at the time. I’ve slightly changed paths since then, however. Currently I’m focusing on editorial illustration and surface design. Thankfully, I had support at home which allowed me to major in art in high school at LaGuardia and Illustration at SVA.

We’re happy to have you as the designer for our Block by Block logo for New York City. Tell us about your illustration.

Thanks so much for having me! I wanted to try to focus on a sense of community with my rendition of the logo. Block by block, you’re bound to find someone from a different culture or background who contributes to the uniqueness of your neighborhood. Whether they ended up in the states from immigrant parents, grandparents or simply by themselves, they were motivated to obtain some form of a better life. Even though everyone is walking their own path, in the long run we’re all trying to fulfill our own dream through equal opportunities, and that makes us unified.

Has the nation’s huge response to police brutality and racial and social injustice over the last few weeks inspired you and your art? Any new projects in the works?

It’s definitely made me do some internal reflections on what I want my art to say and how it can assist in being a voice for those who may have similar views. I’m not sure if I’ve found a distinct visual narrative on these topics yet, but hopefully this piece is a solid start for future projects.

The art world likes to think of itself as “woke,” but there are certainly and unfortunately instances of injustice and bias in the artistic community, as well. Have you experienced any prejudices in your own career as an artist?

Just like in every other community, there’s definitely ample room to unlearn and mend the pre-existing, deep rooted biases and divides within the art community—in regards to both being a student studying art and pursuing a career in the field. While I still have more years to go, being a Black artist, I’ve already faced a fair share of prejudices of being pigeonholed with very select job offers where it’s evident I was offered a job solely for the fact of being Black and not for my designated skill set or body of work. While the sense of tokenism is frustrating at times, you just have to remember that there will be more opportunities meant to cross your path with more genuine intentions.

What artists and mediums inspire you?

I love how the process of silk screening/printmaking makes you have to think of the weight and balance between each layer of work to make a full, cohesive image. The problem solving of having to decide what is really necessary or what can be discarded while still having a strong final is as rewarding as making the actual prints.

I’m heavily inspired by Edward Hopper’s ability to make an environment its own character by the negative/open space of an empty room or quiet landscape. This also is directed at various cinematic still shots in film that is drawn out for dramatic effect or to set up a key location.

Another artist that will always be a form of inspiration for me is Kehinde Wiley and his ability to combine the execution and structure of Classical paintings of aristocrats while substituting the subject matter with a modern, everyday Black man or woman. The ability to invoke a quiet yet heavy atmosphere through an intricately minimal concept is a main driving factor for my sources of inspiration as well as towards my own work.

On a general day to day, I’m always drawn to angles, geometric structures, repeating patterns, and sneakers! The Nike Air More Uptempo will always be a lifelong favorite.

The fight for positive change in this country is unfortunately going to be a marathon, not a sprint. How do you see art, your own and the work of others, playing an ongoing role in the cause?

Similar to what I mentioned previously, whether it be through paintings, illustrations, film, music, etcetera, art will always be able to document and visualize the voice of the movement. It will help explain to those who may not understand in the same way as others. It will also explain to those in the future what occurred, where we stood at the time and how they got to be where they are. Music-wise, it can be in the form of storytelling or an anthem, while visually, art can be one of the many faces of this on going marathon. The creative liberty, possibility and reach is endless.


To see more of Zakiya's work, you can follow her on Instagram HERE and view her website HERE.

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