Her artwork has been popping up all over the city, from super cute icons designed for Operation Face Mask Pittsburgh, featuring a Black girl glowing from behind a mask, to a radiant Black woman painted in front of a sea of sunflowers on a skateboard for an art auction with BOOM Concepts and Redfishbowl.
She says it’s intentional that the theme of her work is joyful. “It’s important to me to create contemporary art that shows Black people in warm, calming, or joyful places because I didn’t see enough of it growing up,” says Finney. “I love adding softness to my art, and it makes me happy when someone can see themselves in my art.”
CP talked to Finney about her piece for the Yinzerrific Coloring Book, a beautiful illustration of an overflowing Pittsburgh cookie table and what it was like to work on a coloring book that came out during both a pandemic and a time of ongoing mass protests across the country.
I think for me, I didn’t have that moment. I already was an artist, but it was hard to figure out what to do with my gift. Lots of people enjoyed telling me what they would do if they were me. But I really needed to discover that process for myself.
Can you tell me about the process that went into illustrating your Coloring Book artwork of a Pittsburgh Cookie Table?
I was sooooo excited to be part of this coloring book and to have the cookie table theme! Cookies are my favorite dessert, everyone close to me knows that pretty well. When I make art, I like to think of the story that I want to tell and communicate. And the story for this one, it was to capture a moment with this Black couple having fun and experiencing joy on their wedding day. My family has a lot of fun photos like this from their wedding day, and I thought that anyone could relate to those memories. I sketched out the initial design loosely and then made a final sketch with all of the details. After that was fleshed out, I scanned the artwork and used my digital painting program to make the line art for the page. Altogether the process took about three hours.
I have to ask: What's your favorite cookie?
My favorite cookie is a classic: chocolate chip cookie. With the close second being peanut butter cookies!
This coloring book is coming out during one of the most important civil rights movements in modern times, following reports that came out last year that sadly proved that PIttsburgh is one of the unsafest in the country for Black women to live. Do you think that artwork has the power to heal some of the pain people are feeling during troubling times?
Oftentimes, I think about how I can help the world. Or the people around me, my friends. My family. And I believe that everyone has that one thing that no one else can do. My one thing is creating art. All I can do is create art of people I know, or wish I knew, and put as much care, vibrancy, and love into it as possible.
One example of this is a painting I made after Election Day titled “girlfriends.” It’s four Black women in a variety of skin tones taking a picture together. I made it because the people around me were so sad that day. Creating artwork about friendship was my solution and it worked! A few years later, I was vending at an art show and four Black women came to my booth, and they looked just like the women I painted. Down to the hairstyles! Even better, a few of them really liked anime, which a lot of my work has influences from. “They look like us!!” That’s all I needed to hear, that someone could find themselves represented in my art. If I can make other Black women and femmes feel acknowledged, supported, and celebrated in my art, then I’m doing my job right.
Where can we see your artwork next in PIttsburgh?
I’m a resident at Redfishbowl Studios so my original paintings and prints are available there for purchase! I also have an Etsy shop with pillows, tote bags, and more prints!
If money and traveling and reality were no object, what's your dream project?
I would want to create an art school or apprenticeship program for people and help them lauch their careers. I’d travel the world and do art shows in different countries and try to give access to as many people as to get opportunities. And I’m not sure which coast I’d live on, but somewhere near water and beaches!