Black Pop w/ Artist Xavier Payne Pt.1


Shorty By Nature | Xavier Payne


Artist: Xavier Payne

Residence: Nashville Tennessee

Influences: Kara Walker, Aaron Douglas, Frank Frazetta, Al Hirschfeld, Keith Haring etc..etc…etc…

We’re super excited to have our first celeb interview be with an Artist that truly helped to inspire us to create this site. Last year, when we first laid our eyes on one of Xavier’s pieces we knew we couldn’t just talk about the hbg anymore, we had to be about it. If not for ourselves then for those who weren’t privy to some of the dope stuff we happen upon. We had to create a space to share the love. Now we’re here, and as such it’s only fitting that we speak to the person whose art made us wanna holla and throw up both our hands, Xavier Payne!

1. Welcome to the Happy Black Girl! You have a very MF Doom (the man & his mask) quality about you. How about before we get started you share as much (or as little) as you feel cool with, about who you are and where you’re from. Thank you! Do I? I suppose I am hidden a bit.
Well, My name is Xavier, I’m 26, and I draw stuff and design things. I’m from Nashville, Tennessee.
I don’t know, I’m kinda boring I think, lol. I just sit and draw stuff, then I go to class. 

 2. We know you have an artist bio. Can you share what it says about the type of art you create? Well, the kind of art I create changes over time. I think my personal growth is linked with my growth as an artist, so my work becomes influenced by my experiences. 

Its hard for me to put a label to the entire catalogue of work I make, but the vast majority is super stylized story-telling. Everyone has a story; I’m just telling mine. After that, I would say it breaks down into categories or groups that intertwine sometimes. 

I try to chase these movie-like images in my head. It’s hard to do. I think of everything, not just visuals. I think of smells, sounds, feelings, whatever I need to add to the power of the visual.

katrina katana
Samurai Sister | Katrina Katana | Xavier Payne

3. Your work, at the least the pieces I’m familiar with, has such a vibrancy and warmth about them. Do you feel it’s important to convey some joy in your work, regardless of subject matter? 
No, not always. Some of my stuff is pretty grim…but it’s all in order to shake something in the viewer to remind them of the life they do have. 

I think right now I just want to touch on different aspects of my childhood, which was a pretty happy one. I watched a lot of Disney movies too, so I think they influenced the joy levels in my work a bit.

I try to be optimistic though. Life is good.

4. Although I find it hard to find anything I don’t love about your work, I still obviously have a favorite piece. Do you have a favorite Xavier Payne joint too? If so why this one in particular? Thank you.  No, I don’t have a favorite. At least I don’t have an all-time favorite. My temp-favorite changes.

I like to work on stuff and leave it for a while, then come back to it to try to find something I didn’t see before. When you do that, after a while, you build a short story between yourself and the work, and you like the piece for a whole new reason. That happens so much, that it’s hard to say what is my favorite because I have built these relationships with my own work.

I can say that I really like “Sasha’s New Move” right now. I am so that little boy in the corner. I keep going back to it on my phone (I don’t have a print yet) and it takes me away, literally.

5. Are you one of those artists that speak about themselves in third person when discussing your art? No judgment, just wondering. Ha ha I can! No, not yet anyway. My work doesn’t come with a lengthy thesis or anything. I prefer things that way. There will come a time, when I have to be more formal, of course. I guess I’m like most artists, I just want to do art, and sometimes I have to explain it.

6. In another life I was a poet. I had a little ritual thing happening before I took the stage. What are some things you maybe need to do before you sit down and get creative? MUSIC. Need music. That’s about it. I’ll drink water if I’m thirsty, lol. Sometimes I’ll have a movie rolling. I feel that my creation process is stupid boring to watch. I think I’m the only one who could get joy out of it.
Poetry. That’s pretty hot*. Editor* Why thank you Xavier~

7. What was the first thing you created that gave you an indication that folks really resonated with the imagery and characters that you recreate?
House Party, and Shorty by Nature. It’s because those were “scenes” instead of portraits. And the colors, of course. People are pulled into my work because of how things interact with each other, and those two had a lot going on.

House Party | Xavier Payne

8. You’ve done work based on Films, TV Shows and Music from a vast majority of Black oriented Pop Culture. Was that intentional and if so please expand on the reason(s) why? Yeah, Some of that stuff fits in a category of my work I call “Black Pop,” which is basically what it sounds like. You will find stuff that is a part of Black Popular Culture, typically from the last 20 years. I just started out doing stuff that appealed to me though.

I watched Married with Children and Doug too! Im actually doing an Al Bundy now. But I just draw a lot of Black people because I’m Black, lol.

I do have work that is at least a little racially inspired. I did a Trayvon Martin joint for example.

9. From the outside looking in you seem to produce work fairly quickly. How do you maintain your level of productivity and stay happy at the same time? I do produce work pretty quick. But I also come back to stuff. I heard a quote that said, “Art is never finished, it is simply abandoned.” I agree with that so I work on stuff I “finished” all the time.

I stay happy by doing what I love, but I do have a life, lol. I hang out with friends and stuff. I love live shows. I can’t wait for this Janelle Monae show. And Toro Y Moi.









Join us tomorrow for part 2 of our interview with artist Xavier Payne and find out who his favorite member of the Wu-Tang Clan is, which hip hop artist defined his work as “dopeness” and which lovely lady he’d like to do a portrait of next!

one day


Devoya Mayo is Co-Creator of The Happy Black Girl

Get To Know An HBG is her favorite column to write.

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2 thoughts on “Black Pop w/ Artist Xavier Payne Pt.1

  1. valerie scott says:

    This was a really cool interview. He seems like a really cool person. I am in love with his work! I don’t think I can even pick a favorite. The detail in the “Shorty by Nature” is really dope though. I’d love to purchase a print of his!

  2. Brittany Freemon says:

    I love xpain’s work I’m amazed every time I see a new piece of his. I’m a inspiring designer my slef and I would have to say that he is one of the many artist who infulence me to take part in a craft such as this.

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