Interview with artist Tamara Natalie Madden


This week, I'm honoured to share with you the work and story of US-based, Jamaica-born artist, Tamara Natalie Madden. While struggling with a life-threatening illness, Tamara turned to painting and she's never turned back. Here she talks about the value of struggle and celebrating African beauty through her work.



What's your passion? 
The arts, and anything relating to art. I'm a painter, photographer and writer. 

What inspired you to be an artist/ what inspires you to create? 
I've been an artist all of my life, but my first inspirations came from my Uncle Carl in Jamaica. He drew pictures out of magazines, and at other times he would carve wood. It was all very fascinating to me. I was also inspired by the drawings in picture books. I was always artistically inclined, but once I began to recognized the art around me; I was even more inspired. 

My current work is inspired by the intrinsic beauty of everyday people who are often overlooked. I chose to represent their inner beauty by turning them into representations of kings, queens and warriors. We don't often see the greatness in people because we spend too much time judging them. 


What has been your greatest challenge in being an artist? 
The greatest challenge is the struggle. Making the decision to become a full time artist, is not for the faint of heart. It comes with ups and downs, and lots of failures. I struggled to be taken seriously, to be respected, and to push through, despite the situation. 

How have you dealt with/overcome it? 
I wholeheartedly believe that struggle builds character. I think that it really helps to make you a stronger person. The struggle taught me about passion, and diligence, and faith. Without those things, I wouldn't be the woman I am today, and definitely not the artist I am today. 

What has been your greatest achievement? 
My greatest achievement is my survival from illness, and my willingness to listen to God and pursue my art. Art helped me through my illness, and when I got better I knew that it was what I was supposed to do with my life. That was ten years ago, and now I'm here, alive, healthy and living my passion.   

Where will you be in 10 years? 
Ten years ago I received a kidney transplant, from my wonderful brother, that saved my life, and that same year I participated in my first art exhibition. I have had many accomplishments in the last 10 years, and I can only hope that ten years from now my art will be making more of a difference in the lives of my people.  

Of Royal Lineage

How does Africa inspire you? 
Africa inspires most of my art. I am from Jamaica, but I see Africa every where. The beautiful people, their amazing skin tones, their full lips and thick hair – all of that inspires me. I am inspired by the strength of the people, and I am inspired by their pride and inherent power, and I see royalty in all of them. That is why I paint the images that I paint. African people all over the world have been looked down upon, pushed aside, and their beauty hasn't been appreciated. I want my work to show that we are decendants of royalty, and that inherently we are all kings and queens. 

Anything else you'd like to share? 
Pursue your passion with zest and ferverence. Don't let anyone ever tell you what you cannot accomplish. Find something that will not only uplift you, but uplift your people as well, and go for it. Be strong and deal with the struggles that may come your way because struggle builds character, and one needs character to succeed at anything worthwhile in this world. Never, ever give up. 

Anything we should look out for in the coming weeks/months/year? 
Look for a new exciting series of work coming in 2011. Also, I'm working on several new projects so look for those in the beginning of the year. I'll also be revamping my website, and the changes for that will come early in the new year, as well. In the meantime you can see my work on my website at

Dignified Tamara Natalie Madden painting

Photograph of Tamara by Kelechi Anusiem. Paintings courtesy of the artist. View more of her beautiful work here.

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