Art21 Extended Play

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.


  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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