You probably won’t recognize Nneka Myers when you see the pretty, brown-skinned 25-year old’s image circulating on the web. But, if you’ve ever used the sticker “Cece” to “drop the mic” or “LOL,” then you’re very familiar with her work! This quiet but creative Character Artist/Designer from Toronto, Canada is making major moves in the art industry. With confidence and abounding skill, Nneka is sure to soon become a household name. The young artist was gracious enough to take some time out of her busy schedule to discuss her art and career with Black Chicago Woman Magazine.
Black Chicago Woman: How long have you been drawing and illustrating?
Nneka Myers: I would say ever since I was in kindergarten, but I didn’t start taking it seriously until the 8th grade. Back then I was really into Anime and it was my biggest influence, so I drew a lot of that. Then I started venturing into Disney.
BCW: Had you always known you wanted to be an artist?
NM: I always knew I wanted to be some kind of creator and I knew that I wanted to draw long-term as a living. It took me a number of years to find my place in terms of that.
BCW: How did you get your start in the business?
NM: I think my start was mostly based on timing. I graduated from Sheridan College in 2014 and by then, the industry was booming in Canada, so it was only about a month after I finished classes that I got an offer with Nelvana (one of the world’s leading international producers and distributors of children’s animated content), which is where I work now. It’s been over a year and a half I’ve been working there.
BCW: What inspires you to draw/what’s your process?
NM: It varies. Sometimes it can be a specific thing that happens during the day, a phrase from a song – the melody can inspire me; I can find inspiration everywhere. But whenever I’m in a rut, I fall back on drawing girls and cool things, because those are my favorite things to draw [laughing].
BCW: Do you have a preferred art form?
NM: I like doing the sequential art for comics, but I think I like developing animation more. I don’t like animating specifically, because that was my weak point in school, so I just like to design the concepts and have someone doing the animating for me!
BCW: Do you have a favorite piece?
NM: There’s one piece on my blog, called “Water Bearer” that I drew back in 2014 as gift for my mom. I spent a month that summer painting that picture, and it was a challenge because I didn’t know how to use photo shop back then. But it paid off because she loved it and it helped push me to add more diversity in my work.
BCW: Who is your favorite artist or illustrator?
NM: I don’t have a specific one, but in general I love artists that have worked for Disney, especially Mary Blair, who created visual development concepts for Cinderella. In general, I think it’s mostly the people I hang out with everyday – I really get inspired by people rather than just artists.
BCW: Have you ever aspired to work for Disney?
NM: Yeah, ever since I was a kid – that was the one thing I wanted to do. I would tell my mom, “I want to work for Walt Disney one day.” I didn’t know what I wanted to do there, but I knew I wanted to work there. Hopefully one day, even if I work in other studios. My big passion is to work in feature film one day, so I’ll be happy wherever I go.
BCW: How did you connect with Facebook to create Cece?
NM: They actually found me. They found my Tumblr and a member of the art department reached out to me. Cece was their idea, but I helped them bring her to life. They knew what they wanted, but they needed someone to bring the idea out and they felt I was the best fit. It was really cool that they trusted me with that contract. Originally they wanted Cece to look like me, but we later decided to go with a different look after going back and forth with a couple designs. It was a moment that I never expected to happen, but I’m grateful for it. It was a lot of fun.
BCW: Was Cece based on you or someone you knew?
NM: I’m not outspoken; I’m the complete opposite of Cece! I included a mole, which is something I have. From their direction, I based it on the flair on Janelle Monae with a cool vibe – modern, but not to where she would be a stereotype.
BCW: Outside of Facebook, who else have you worked with?
NM: Outside of my day job and Facebook, I’ve done comic work for BOOM! Studios, Dark Horse, and IDW Publishing. I also work on The Amazing World of Gumball, Garfield, The PowerPuff Girls, Plants vs. Zombies. I’m also doing work for Toronto’s International Art Festival and some more animation-related projects. There’s still a lot to come, but I just can’t say it all yet.
BCW: If you weren’t drawing, what would you be doing?
NM: I think I probably would have done something in woodwork or building. I love to build and do hands-on things. My family always comes to me when they need something fixed!
BCW: What are your goals for 2016?
NM: Based on my art, I just want to get better, develop my design sense,develop characters, and do more production-related art work. I’d also like to break out of my comfort zone and create a new portfolio. But I’m a believer of going with the flow as long as I try my hardest. Personally, I want to travel a bit more; it helps an artist grow. Your sense of design and colors can be limited if you are just at home all the time.
BCW: What advice would you give to other aspiring artists?
NM: I’d say just take the risk. The number one thing I hear from young artists is that they’re afraid of their art not being good enough – don’t be afraid of that! Just post what you love doing online so people can see it – clients will see your passion and you will get jobs. Take constructive criticism, but don’t take it to heart. Also, don’t conform to what people may want or think. There aren’t many black artists in the industry, so it can get hard to be yourself and not conform, but don’t let what’s present in society dictate where you go.