June 14, 2024

Interview with Christine Moore-Bonbright

In a conversation with GCCA’s Gallery Director,  Christine Moore-Bonbright provides insight into her experience in the Brandon Fellowship at GCCA, the evolution of her art practice, and the impact of strong community support on her art career. As she continues to navigate her Fellowship experience through August, Christine’s stories will help other navigate life’s experiences through her digital illustrations.


Ben Tarcson, Gallery Director: Christine, I have had the pleasure of getting to know you as an artist over the past year, and you first came to the program as a traditional pen & ink / charcoal drawing artist. It now seems, roughly ¾ into the Fellowship, that you have changed course a bit. Has the Brandon Fellowship program given you the opportunity to adjust the trajectory of your art career? And how are you making art differently than when you entered?

Christine Moore-Bonbright, Brandon Fellow: So when I first entered the Fellowship, I had thought that I needed to continue creating the traditional drawing & painting works that I made in college. Those works I made in college were deeply personal to me and they touched on things like family, culture, and identity struggles. I think at first I felt a pressure from within and also an external pressure from my cultural community that I should or I have to continue making those works because I need to represent the communities that I belong to. I felt that pressure a lot and in the early months of the Fellowship, that led to some artistic stagnation and indecision. But as I came to be surrounded by the artists at GCCA, meeting with you and Brandon Fellow alumni, and participating in mentor critique meetings, it made me realize that I really should just create the art that I want. So I asked myself, what does my artistic trajectory actually look like?

While I still love traditional art like drawing with charcoal and it’s fantastic to have those technical skills from that medium, I found it isn’t the medium that will take me to where I want to go. Digital art really is the medium that I am most comfortable with, and I feel like where I create the best art that represents me and my experiences. I think I definitely see myself now, especially as sort of a representative of the digital art community here in Greenville.

A turning point of me wanting to move more into digital painting, character design, and comic work was when I was introduced to my mentor, Honie Beam. After working with her, honing in on what it is I want to accomplish, and getting endlessly fruitful feedback about my process, I felt comfortable doubling down on my new path. And I definitely think that my trajectory and the fellowship would have been different if stuck to my original plan in my traditional mediums, as I probably would have taken the time allotted to me through the Fellowship to explore another facet of my art identity.

Character reference sheet from Christine’s Black Sheep graphic novel

Ben Tarcson, Gallery Director: Let’s talk a bit more about the mentors and community you get to work with. Each Fellow gains access to critical, professional advice and networking opportunities from a mentor group of professional artists that are hand-picked each year to specifically meet the needs of that year’s Fellowship class. How important is having a community of support as you explore the themes and mediums you want?

Christine Moore-Bonbright, Brandon Fellow: After I moved to Greenville back in 2022, I very much felt isolated as an artist. I actually came to the 2022 Annual Showcase on a whim and was pleasantly surprised that a program like the Brandon Fellowship was being offered so I decided to apply the following year. The power of finding my community can not be understated. Not only having the professional support through connections I have made but more important are the friends that I have made through this process. Connecting with Brandon Fellow alumni and the GCCA community has created an atmosphere of belonging for me which has only emboldened my purpose as an emerging artist.

It was also a fun process to work with you to hand pick the mentors we wanted for our Fellowship year. Honie seemed like the ideal mentor for me as she has experience with art & literary agencies, and obviously creating amazing works of art of her own. I told myself that I have this opportunity right here to have a mentor that is literally doing what I want to do in the future, creating illustrative, agency work, and graphic novels. I did not want to waste any time and I made sure I would soak up as much information as possible. We do get to meet during our critiques sessions that we have quarterly with the other Fellows and mentors, but I make an effort to meet and talk with Honie as often as I can. For instance, we met for coffee some months back and she basically sat down with a huge binder of her entire catalog of comic work and files and was like, “So, here’s how I got my agent. Here’s the difference between an art agent and a literary agent. You know, here’s the contracts and how they work, etc”. It was eye opening to have the opportunity to see what it was like to be a contracted, professional illustrator, and what that path may look like for me. It was really important to me to gain those insights so that I can set realistic expectations for myself and hopefully get my foot in the door after the Fellowship.

Ben Tarcson, Gallery Director: Can you give me some insight into your digital and illustrative artwork that you are creating throughout the Fellowship? What are some of your inspirations and prominent themes now seen in your work?

Christine Moore-Bonbright, Brandon Fellow: Right now, I am in the throes of working on my first graphic novel, “Black Sheep”. This is the project I have been working on for some time now but chose this story for my fellowship work because it is heavily character focused and I have always been drawn to character design. I wanted to see my experience represented in the digital and printed mediums. Each of the characters in this story have bits of myself expressed in their design and personality. “Black Sheep” is really a coming of age story. It explores how, in those early stages of our lives, we often attempt to escape from difficult situations. It is scary to confront difficult issues at any age but especially so in those formative years of our lives. Maybe it’s unrequited love that isn’t fulfilled and accepting that you need to let go. Maybe it’s feeling the stress of not having solid career plans after school. It also delves into parental figures impacting how you see yourself and how you subsequently navigate the world.

The first of my inspirations obviously came from the internet. The main inspiration for my work comes from a comic series called “Backlash” by Amber Houston. I have been following it since it began back in 2014 and I was intrigued by the female characters not fitting into traditional female archetypes. Their identity was not centered on traditional roles females occupy in adventure stories and that really resonated with me and where my stories and artwork could go. Other than Amber Houston, I would say my digital painting style has been influenced by Sui Ishidia and the “Toyko Ghoul” series and the character designs of Tas Mukanik.

BACKLASH by Amber Houston

Toyko Ghoul manga cover art by Sui Ishida

Ben Tarcson, Gallery Director: The Brandon Fellowship exhibition at GCCA is quickly approaching. You and the other Fellows will be installing your own exhibition displays that will be on view from August 2nd – September 25, 2024. What can visitors expect from your exhibition?

Christine Moore-Bonbright, Brandon Fellow: My exhibition will be a fully finished display of my pilot chapter of my “Black Sheep” graphic novel in various forms. In a 20-25 page pilot, visitors can read part of the graphic novel somewhere beginning in the middle of the story. To give additional context, I will be printing character reference sheets, digital illustration, concept art, and the cover of the comic as large format fine art prints. I will also be displaying a spread of sketches, scripts, and thumbnails that show the editorial process with my mentor, Honie Beam.

Comic spreads from Christine’s Black Sheep graphic novel

Ben Tarcson, Gallery Director: Finally, what comes next for you after the Fellowship is over?

Christine Moore-Bonbright, Brandon Fellow: Well, the whole process of writing, editing, and illustrating my graphic novel has definitely given me some perspective on how much work goes into publishing graphic novels. While I was writing the whole plot out, I was like, oh, my gosh, this is a much more complicated story than when I started. So I think moving forward, I definitely want to experiment with maybe shorter stories or maybe an adaptation of something that already exists to experiment with graphic novel work. I’ve also been considering getting into agency work, but I might start off with freelance opportunities in illustration, character design.

I also think it would be amazing to begin a digital artist collective in the Greenville area so that digital artists can foster a community in the Upstate where we can meet up, critique each other’s work, and explore new ideas together. 

Be sure to visit Christine in her studio at GCCA and follow her on social media to tag along in her journey through the Brandon Fellowship this year:
Instagram: CLICK HERE

Anyone interested in applying for the Brandon Fellowship, please make sure to subscribe to GCCA’s emails or visit https://artcentergreenville.org/brandon-fellowship/ to learn more! Any questions can be directed to Gallery Director, Ben Tarcson at ben@artcentergreenville.org.