If you’ve ever been in awe over the designs displayed on Graffiti Library’s merchandise (we can’t blame you—they’re pretty eye-catching), you have a very special someone to thank. Sahara Novotna, a Hollywood-based contemporary visual artist, is the go-to for our cutting-edge, visually striking designs.
While she seems to conceptualize her work so effortlessly, art is actually her secondary professional field. She initially attended law school, pursuing human rights. Selfishly, we’re happy she took the latter path.
While we’ve gotten to know Novotna especially well amid the pandemic, her fans (from Graffiti Library and otherwise) may not have the same familiarity. Therefore, we want to shed some light on the artist’s background, her inspirations and what’s on the horizon for her!
What made you decide to pursue art as a career? What would you be doing professionally if it weren’t art?
I don’t think I ever actually decided to pursue art—creativity was always part of my life. I come from an artistic family. I used to love making something out of nothing with whatever materials I could find as a young person, and then I got my first “big break” illustrating a kids book when I was about 13-years-old. But before I became a professional artist, I went to law school, so I’d probably be pursuing human rights law or still working in criminal law—crazy, huh?
How did you develop your artistic style, and what’s influenced your design choice (ie. pills, kisses, etc…)? How would you describe your artistic style?
It’s hard to describe my style. When people ask, I always say contemporary art or urban pop art. My pieces are colorful and energetic, they can be profound or just playful. I have always drawn inspiration from my travels, life experiences, pop culture, politics, fashion and design. I constantly take classes to learn new skills, like glass blowing and neon bending, so my style is always evolving and will undoubtedly continue to change.
Why do you find L.A. to be such a great place for emerging artists?
Los Angeles is such a great place for art because no idea seems too crazy in this town. And if you can dream it up, you can find a way to make it a reality. So many creative people flock to Los Angeles, whether it’s to pursue visual arts, music, acting or design, L.A. constantly has a buzzing energy of creativity everywhere you go. I see it everyday in the murals on the streets, to art gallery shows, and even at my local coffee shop—Ponsonby Road Cafe—where undoubtedly someone is always sketching or writing.
How did your collaboration with Graffiti Library come to be?
I met the founder of Graffiti Library [Malery Vinal] when she visited my gallery+studio in Hollywood. I just loved her energy and passion for art. She has an amazing way of taking paintings and re-contextualizing them into artistic products people can enjoy in their own homes.
What are the biggest challenges for you personally in the L.A. art community?
The art world can be very challenging, especially for women, from being taken seriously, to being paid and valued like our male counterparts. But honestly, the biggest challenge for me personally is that I’m just terrible at self promotion and the marketing that comes along with being an artist. I wish someone could do all that for me.
How did artists and art-related businesses in your community come together to support each other during the pandemic?
During the pandemic I participated in the artist challenge, wherein I sold some of my pieces and used the proceeds to purchase art from emerging artists. I bought beautiful pieces of embroidery, ceramics and paintings. I also had a life-altering moment when Damien Hirst, an artist I hugely admire, and his team reached out via social media and gifted me an art piece during lockdown. It lifted my spirits so much, and I really hope to be in a position one day to be able to pay that kind of generosity forward.
How does the art world in L.A. differ from that of other places you’ve lived?
What makes Los Angeles stand apart from other cities I’ve lived in around the world, is that artwork, creativity and artists are valued here. People support the arts and see the value in artistic expression.
What are some of your favorite charities/businesses that support artists?
Obviously Graffiti Library is my favorite business that supports and illuminates emerging and established artists. I also love the Flutter Experience in Los Angeles, an interactive art experience that is all about the connection between art and mental wellness. Similarly, I participated in We Rise, which is an annual art show that explores mental health issues. I’m also a huge fan of Creative Growth, a nonprofit based in Oakland, California, that serves artists with disabilities. You can shop the artists’ work in person or online.
What are the best (non-cliché) art walls/murals to take a photo in front of in L.A.?
I know you asked for non-cliché art murals, but sometimes they’re cliché for a reason, because they’re fabulous. I think the best murals are around 4th st in the Arts District DTLA. That area is constantly changing with art and graffiti.
Is there anything else you want to add about your artwork, your other current projects or what you’ve got on the horizon?
I’m looking forward to working with Graffiti Library again. I also have a furniture collaboration on the horizon with Nathan Anthony Furniture. They create handcrafted luxurious pieces made right here in L.A. And I have an art show coming up with Krause Gallery NYC.
Dahvi Shira is a formerand E! Online editor, who presently writes for Mane Addicts and her own blog, Skyelyfe. The University of Oregon Magazine Journalism alum and L.A. Press Club Awards nominee—who has also published work with Billboard, New York Magazine, Glossy, Sweety High and MSN’s Wonderwall—has covered everything from Hollywood and pop culture, to makeup, skincare and hair. When she’s not writing or proving that people DO walk in L.A., she’s discovering new music, whipping up killer paleo dishes, working out and chugging coffee like it’s leaving the earth.