Naomi Likayi sits down with Soluna in this summer feature to chat about her work, inspirations & process in this exclusive Q&A.

Who are you, what do you do ?

“I am a first-gen Congolese American designer/ illustrator based in Portland, OR. I identify as a multifaceted artist, I love to focus on illustration & public art. On the side I can also be found modeling with @q6models." My hope is to create daring and exciting work, and find new ways to be innovative beyond what is offered in the current state of design and illustration. I try to approach my work with fluidity, texture and intensely hued color palettes.".

Thinking about a day in the life. What does your ideal day look like ?

On an ideal day, I could be an early bird, I like to start my days early and make time to read, meditate. Starting the day grounded and with a clear mind, making the space to set intentions. Another part of my morning would include going to the gym, going to get a smoothie or a latte. My ideal day means paving the way for positive productivity + being able to produce work, whether it's creative content for a client, or a personal project. I love days where I feel like I can tap into my ability to create.

Ending my day on a positive note is also important to me & I appreciate living in the PNW for the ability I get to have in accessing nature as a playground for both inspiration and rest, after a long day of work I like to take a walk through my local neighborhood or visit a park. I love sunsets.

Naomi Likayi in a Soluna Collective Two Tone Knit Dress. Sunshine and a field.

Naomi Lakayi standing in a field with Soluna Collective Knit Dress

Soluna Collective Knit Dress in a field, worn by Naomi Likayi

What would you like people to know about your work / process ?

That's a big one and goes way back for me. I started creating as a means to express, art became my catharsis at a young age, especially around adolescence. The solace I found in my art, along with the power to tell my own story began to propel me to explore different creative mediums and what it might mean to be an artist. Art made me feel like “I could make it”, art gave my feelings a place to go. I am a firm believer in art, as a vessel for individual and collective growth.

What can you share about your connection to art ?

I think there are several prominent themes that show up in my art. Exploring and navigating my individual autonomy within my community, taking up space, and releasing my story for the world to see. I hope to provoke feeling, I want to say that a lot of the fluidity in my work is a reflection of how I am inviting myself, the viewers, to take up that space we often find ourselves shying away from, I see this too often within youth in the Black community, in women or any minority group, I hope my work can be a true reflection of the self.

What draws you to create artistically?

Art is healing, it is why I choose to create. Oftentimes it is easy to fall into a rut, especially in the urban environment, I have chosen to lean into art as a way to heal, express, and find joy.

Namoi Likayi portrait for Nike

Naomi Likayi - Nike SNKRS Coffee Table Mural

Naomi Likayi - Nike SNKRS Coffee Table Mural
Naomi Likayi - Imagine Black -Black Possibilities App

The inner workings of Naomi's practice and the freedom she finds in building her works seems to spur from a place of love, moving from feeling and wanting to create a place to connect it all.

Works by Naomi, who is based in Portland, have been featured throughout the city from Central Eastside, the PSAA Boarded Community Mural, Black Rose Market Community Mural, in addition to illustrations for Nike, among others.

Naomi’s intricate and varied artistic/academic background is reflected in her wide-ranging practice. She says she finds art particularly exciting when it functions as a tool for “expression.” Her projects often bloom from an array of materials and take a multitude of forms—including digital illustrations, sketches, and murals.

Speaking of themes, Naomi places her heart in creating for the Black community, directly nodding to her heritage, to Congo and the spaces that claim her. "I also feel like being in the states as a first-gen, pop culture and hip hop play a significant role in my work."

Storytelling is foundational within Naomi’s practice. Inspired by what she describes as the “artistic principles of movement,” the artist’s drawings, illustrations, and paintings transport viewers to vibrant environments. Saturated landscapes, fluid shapes —Naomi’s bodies of work build onto themselves with grace. Intrinsic forms and mark-making infuse her illustrations with raw emotion and dynamic energy. For Naomi ‘movement’ and ‘transition’ are profound conceptual, as well as aesthetic, motifs in the artist’s work.

Early into our interview, Naomi references a somewhat recent journey: the trajectory of her art since the completion of her undergraduate studies. Naomi recalls how her work has continued to evolve with stronger intention and the artistic opportunities presented to her have also reflected this expansion in her work. "Honestly, I can't wait to see where my art practice takes me, where I might be producing work in a few years."



Instagram: @_naolikayi_

Instagram: @mungala_nao

Linkedin: Naomi Likayi

Modeling Q6: Naomi Likayi


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