Beyond the Art with Blane Asrat | Sojourners

Beyond the Art with Blane Asrat

"I just want to be an artist sometimes."

For the July issue of Sojourners, freelance artist Blane Asrat illustrated portrait painter Kehinde Wiley. She spoke with editorial assistant Liz Bierly about why she’s a portrait painter, the physical connection to her work, and what she hopes viewers will take away from her art. You can find her illustration of Wiley in the July issue and see more of her work at

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Liz Bierly, Sojourners: On your website, you say that you “seek to explore the sensitivity of everyday human experiences while making the world a more empathetic place.” What does that look like?

Blane Asrat: I am primarily a portrait painter because I am interested in human emotions. Growing up, I was always told that I was too sensitive and too reactionary. All teenagers kind of go through that phase of being extra emotional, but I feel like for me, it started way too early and never really ended. I’ve always just been a sensitive person, and I’ve been in these situations where I am in conversations or social settings where no one really knows how to deal with that. It’s uncomfortable and it’s awkward because we don’t know how to be emotional with each other.

And so, my artwork is all pretty internally motivated. It’s usually about what I’m feeling, or how my friends are feeling, or what I’m feeling other people are feeling. My goal with my artwork is really just to answer the question: What would this feeling look like if I could see it? And I have this hope that if more people could have time to pause and really ask themselves those questions, it will just lead to a world where people are more comfortable with their emotions.

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