Tyler Cala Williams’ “soft melancholic aesthetic” allows him to embrace the darker side of self expression
The New York-based artist sees his projects as a form of therapy, using art to communicate his emotions.
- Ruby Boddington
- 21 September 2020
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
With widely-known blockbuster shows like Dragon Ball-Z, Pokémon and Death Note, among more indie titles, anime is, for a lot of people, their first introduction to illustration and animation in an everyday setting. For New York-based artist Tyler Cala Williams, the genre felt far flung from the “goofy cartoon shows” native to his America, and “something more serious and important.” While he didn’t understand the cultural importance of anime as a young child, it was what got him into drawing, starting him on his path to becoming a practicing fine artist.
Tyler’s works are surreal, almost ghoulish at times, often depicting himself and others as alien-like creatures with disproportionate limbs and facial features. In a piece titled Senior Portrait, for example, a purple face obscures the majority of the frame, its features blurred and hard to distinguish. It’s a style he developed instinctively, when he was struggling with his mental health and looking for a way to express himself. “I would consider the projects I create as therapy,” he tells It’s Nice That, “I know I use [them] to just communicate my emotions.”
In turn, creating art for Tyler is less of a choice and more of a need, describing how the works he produces simply help him get through the day. This hyper-personal aspect is clear when flicking through Tyler’s portfolio, which is incredibly distinctive and unlike much else we’ve seen. Through his chosen medium, Tyler eloquently expresses is thoughts and feelings, producing work which only he could.
It’s something he alludes to when explaining how he views his work and what keeps him so excited about making art: “I think what excites me the most about what I do is transforming a photograph into its truest form, the tweaking into how I actually see it.” Through his digital paintings, therefore, Tyler allows us to step inside his mind and gain an insight into his perspective of the world.
A theme that runs throughout Tyler’s painting is one he’s coined “shameless sadness”, further explaining “it’s a soft melancholic aesthetic that I’ve grown to enjoy because I used to want to just create happy work. I wanted my work to look joyful but it was hella exhausting.” So today, he embraces the darker side of his self-expression, communicating this through a colour palette of blues, greens, greys and purples, as well through digital airbrush style. This specific choice of digital brush extends the despondent nature of his work, imbuing everything with a subtle, dreamlike glow.
When asked about a series or body of work that’s his favourite, Tyler says it’s actually one that most people haven’t seen. “It’s about Blackness and how it’s expansive,” he explains. It’s a project he’s still working, he tells us, and one which has required a lot of reading and research to inform the artworks. “It’s been through many phases, so far it stopped at an augmented reality app for Black people that includes rooms from Black sitcoms,” he says. “It’s still in the works but the idea is solid af.”
GalleryTyler Cala Williams
Tyler Cala Williams: B-Boy (Copyright © Tyler Cala Williams, 2020)
About the Author
Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.