Laylah Ali | Designer Nicole Parente


EXCLUSIVE: Artist Laylah Ali and graphic designer Nicole Parente work together in the designer’s home office in Cambridge, MA. The artist’s hand-drawn notes are transformed into precise digital illustrations otherwise impossible without a computer.

Laylah Ali creates gouache-on-paper paintings that take her many months to complete. Ali meticulously plots out in advance every aspect of her work, from subject matter to choice of color, achieving a high level of emotional tension in her paintings as a result of juxtaposing brightly colored scenes with dark, often violent subject matter. In style, her paintings resemble comic-book serials, but they also contain stylistic references to hieroglyphics and American folk-art traditions.

Laylah Ali is featured in the Season 3 (2005) episode Power of the Art:21—Art in the Twenty-First Century television series on PBS.

VIDEO | Producer: Wesley Miller & Nick Ravich. Interview: Susan Dowling. Camera & Sound: Ken Willinger and Bob Freeman. Editor: Jenny Chiurco. Artwork Courtesy: Laylah Ali. Special Thanks: Nicole Parente.

Jonathan Munar is the Director of Digital Media and Strategy at ART21, overseeing the organization's overall digital, Web, and social media presences. He edits and contributes to the Magazine's "Art 2.1" column.
  1. Joe Burnich says:

    Tedious work, but very interesting. Was she using Photoshop?


  2. Adobe Illustrator, to make EPS files.


  3. Andrea says:

    sounds like a great collaboration but as a graphic designer myself i don’t know that i could not work with someone over my shoulder telling me every move. but i guess it depends on the circumstances.


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