Hidden Gems of CLT: Artist Whitney Austin

Watch a new episode of Hidden Gems of Charlotte with Alexandra Elich each Thursday on WCCB News Rising.

CHARLOTTE, NC. — WCCB Charlotte’s Alexandra Elich visits Charlotte-based artist Whitney Austin.

Don’t let your passion stay in a coma! Wake it up and live your authentic life. A phrase Whitney Austin lives by.

“There’s no words to describe it. I’m still shocked that this is my life, really. The fact that not only I can create whatever I want, I don’t have people telling me what to paint,” Austin says.

Austin had always been good at drawing when she was a kid but never thought she’d do it full-time and put it on the back burner after high school. Moving to Charlotte from Columbus, Ohio, to become a flight attendant, Then hopping around to different jobs in her 20’s. Until her grandfather passed away unexpectedly.

“When he passed away, there was something inside of me that said you should do a portrait of him. So I did a pastel painting of him; that’s my first time doing any art in 10 years.”

Austin started doing custom paintings on the side until it replaced her income.

“It wasn’t really until I started to really tap in and say, look, this is plan a, there’s no plan b. I’m going to make this work. Quit my job around April 2016 and six months later open my first art gallery.”

Now a nationally renowned artist who has toured all over the United States, showcasing her work representing Black culture and history. Known for her sold-out art showcases.

“The majority of my art as you see is African-American, Black women primarily I create. But my art of the majority of my paintings is abstract portraits. It’s a face with a little twist.”

Her work, vibrant colors, patterns, textures, and 3-d elements. In 5 years, she’s created 175 paintings.

“I don’t even use a sketchbook. My painting, I write them out. So I describe my painting with my words before I create it.”

Austin says her most meaningful piece, a portrait of George Floyd called “Bloodline of Injustice.”

“It was a roller coaster ride for me, my emotions. In the beginning, I was full of energy; I want to do this painting. Then I started to get very sad and depressed and then feeling like I couldn’t do it because you want to capture so much into one painting.”