India McCall talks about her motivation to create art

McCall (left) poses with a buyer at her first San Francisco pop-up shop.

By Tamia Lane, Staff Writer/Social Media Editor

The smell of paint drifts through the room as the sounds of music follow. Local artist India McCall prepares herself for her next masterpiece: she pulls out a fresh set of brushes along with a box of paint, water and a glitter towel. McCall enjoys listening to music while painting — so she puts her favorite playlist on, which includes one of her favorite musicians: KAIIT.

McCall has been painting since 2015 — and as she was  growing up in Oakland and San Francisco, she was exposed to art every day on everything surrounding her, from murals to cars.

“I spent most of my years traveling around the Bay Area; that’s how I came across different forms of art, like murals and graffiti,” McCall said. 

As she turned her inspiration to practice, she would often watch simple drawing tutorials on YouTube that taught viewers how to draw cartoons. As the years passed, McCall’s love of art strengthened and drove her to ultimately enroll in classes at Los Medanos College in Pittsburg, where she double majored in art and biology. Unfortunately, she didn’t finish her journey at Los Medanos, but she has plans to enroll at Laney College to finish her degree. 

Utilizing many different mediums that include material, acrylics, and pastels, McCall uses multiple color shades from dark colors to light colors. She enjoys using different shades of blue and purple specifically.

“I don’t mix colors often, but I love to use the color wheel because I can see which colors work better next to each other. Before I fully begin a painting, I rinse my brushes and use flat panels — a must when I mix colors,” McCall says as she shows off her setup.

It normally takes McCall two or three days to complete larger  paintings, but one painting took McCall the longest: her universe space painting. 

McCall’s universe space painting.

“It took me so long to finish this piece because it has so many different textures — the white texture wasn’t as smooth as the others,” McCall said, explaining how she used small rocks to enhance the painting’s Saturn rings. 

Taking risks and getting creative with mixed materials helped McCall create her own signature style of art.

“I believe that working in a single medium is restrictive to my artistic process–each idea manifests in its own individual style,” McCall said. 

McCall’s biggest inspiration, however, is graffiti culture, as she is fascinated by the boldness of colors in street art and how they blend together. Her second greatest inspiration is her grandfather, who was also an artist.

 “Seeing his art gallery was heaven. After his passing, [his] supplies were passed down to me.” 

The spirit of McCall’s grandfather, she says, lives through every piece she makes as well as future pieces she conceptualizes. The excitement of finishing a new piece gives her motivation to create more. India has over twenty paintings, and she tries to create consistently.

McCall takes a selfie, cradling one of her favorite pieces among many of her other works. Photo by India McCall.

In McCall’s senior year of high school she was homeless, and along with her family it was challenging to adjust to the lifestyle of not having a home. 

“Being homeless made me very grateful for what I do have,” McCall said, adding that carrying her art supplies with her made her feel like the richest person in the world while she and her family had to sleep in a different location every night. 

Painting is a spiritual journey for McCall, as she uses the brush and canvas to vent her feelings. Painting has become her words, and the canvas has become her diary. Her favorite artist is Van Gogh because he was an abstract artist like herself. 

“Art is my medicine. To break generational trauma and toxic trauma in life, you need color added to the black and white,” McCall explains.

As she continues to use art for healing — invoking all of her inspiration —  McCall can’t help but remember her best friend, who passed away in a car accident when she was about 16 years old. Her best friend was a fan of her cartoon art and paintings, so McCall made sure to push herself to create art. 

McCall’s first tribute painting for slain rap artist XXXTentacion.

“My best friend supported me a hundred percent: thinking of her reminds me not to give up and to continue pushing myself no matter what. Her life ended early, and I have to live for her,” McCall said.

“I would tell young artists to not give up on wanting to become a part of  the art industry,” McCall said, and explained how many young artists are discouraged from the craft because there is often thought to be no future in creating art. 

The power to make things happen, personified in a West African word McCall uses, is her battle cry to other artists like her, once seeking inspiration and support. For now, building community and support through art is just as much of a priority as creating it.

“Asè to my sistahs, my wife, and my family for helping me push harder.”