Interview with Artist & Co-Founder of Girlaaa, Trap Bob
Designer of Giphy stickers for Elizabeth Warren’s nomination campaign, co-founder of Girlaaa, a DC collective that supports creative Women of Color. She created the look and feel of The Girls Who Code march for sisterhood, and currently has a sculpture piece in Refinery 29’s 29 Rooms show. Her work is currently displayed on several million PBR cans, as she won the brand’s Art Can contest this year.
In today’s powerful, global resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, artists are doing what they do best: Creating impactful visuals. Meet Tenbeete Solomon AKA Trap Bob, a visual artist, illustrator, and animator who has led a new generation of young voices for many years. Based in Washington, DC. She is known for her use of bold colors and gestures to convey both the humor and struggles of everyday life. Her work is socially conscious and frequently inspired by activism and community issues, with an aim to bridge the gap between her audience and her message. Her work can be found in both the digital space and within the community, from Instagram GIF stickers to permanent murals throughout DC.
We had the honor of interviewing the beautiful talent, whose artwork inspires us to support accountability and meaningful change as we work together to create pathways that heal our nation. In her own words she has said: Normal is dead, and it’s time for CHANGE.
Tell us about your background and the road that led you to becoming a visual artist.
I’m a first generation Ethiopian in this country, and grew up immersed in my culture. My style is rooted in Ethiopian Orthodox art, utilizing bold outlines and bright imagery. I studied Marketing in undergrad and began drawing and getting into painting as a form of stress relief. I fell in love with it and committed my life to being a full time artist. I’m self taught, and began my freelance design and product company, Trap Bob World, LLC, completing projects for local, national and international campaigns. Art is truly my everything.
How would you describe your approach to art and design?
I never take my work too seriously, I like to create art that brings joy to people. I think a lot of my personality and sense of humor comes into my work, so I try to channel that. I look at how I see the message I’m trying to send, and think about how different people may perceive it. With my work, I aim to bridge the gap between my message and my audience so I have to keep a very open mind and perspective.
As a black woman, I have no choice but to fight. For me, art is my ultimate form of expression, so naturally a lot of my work surrounds activism and community issues.
Your work is so empowering and truly amplifies the voices of women, especially women of color. Was it always your main goal to use art as an outlet to express activism and community issues?
It’s not only a form of communication, but also a sort of therapy for me. While standing up for what you believe in is important, it can also be taxing. When I feel lost or down, art soothes me.
Who were your women role models growing up? And who do you admire today?
My mother is the strongest, hard working, selfless woman I know. She’s always been my role model, and to this day I aim to be like her. I also look up to different women like Lisa Frank, Missy Elliot, and Michelle Obama for their amazing work and all that they stand for. Women in general honestly are just so inspiring, there is an endless, rotating list of women I learn from and look up to.
The renewed discussion of feminism is playing a significant role in today’s society. What is your personal advice for women on how to work less competitively and more collaboratively in their respective field?
Be open minded and curious, look at what other women are doing, and support them selflessly. When we remove ego and competition from the equation, we make room for real support and can foster healthy long term relationships. From there we create a real, connected community that looks out for each other without expecting things in return. And not everything has to be a collaboration, when it works it works but even more so we get so much out of just supporting each other in whatever we do.
Your résumé is so impressive, having won Pabst Blue Ribbon’s national art contest, and designing for the Elizabeth Warren Campaign. What I love most is how you made certain that your style shined through each collaboration. Tell us about these collaborations and how the experiences helped you grow as an artist.
It’s been amazing to see my work in such high places, and to be able to represent myself in those spaces. It’s important to me to stay true to myself and my values, so I make sure that is never compromised when I collaborate. Working with brands that support the arts, and believe in me is very rewarding, these experiences gave me more confidence as an artist making a name for myself. It’s definitely led to more exposure and opportunities, and I’m thankful for the relationships built from them. I was able to see my work on a larger scale, and open my mind to more possibilities.
GIRLAAA is such a beautiful collective. What inspired you to co-found the organization and how can creative women get involved and support?
GIRLAAA began as a party to provide a safe space for women and creatives of color. I’m big on involving art in the party and social scene, so I loved the idea of creating events and opportunities of substance and being able to provide for our community. My co founders and I are all like minded black women and creatives, and we all began to see just how much something like GIRLAAA was needed.
We quickly grew into a creative agency, and began partnering with different organizations for events, panels and to provide resources and opportunities to our creative community. People can follow our instagram (@girlaaa.world) and our individual members to stay up to date on opportunities, events and other inspiring groups and women to follow and keep up with. We are truly here to provide and support.
Do you have any advice for aspiring artists and entrepreneurs, especially those affected by setbacks due to COVID-19?
My advice is to keep creating and stay committed. As a creative or freelancer, already life is risky, and you never know when the next project will come or what your next career step will be. So with that theme already built into our lifestyles, you always have to stay a step ahead. Being able to adapt, pivot, and grow are key to creating long term success so you can sustain yourself and reach your potential.
Just for fun, name three women you’d love to do the following with:
Pick their brain: Frida Kahlo
Observe their creative process: Laura Callaghan
Travel the world with: Rihanna
What is your interpretation of a Raw Femme?
A Raw Femme, to me, is unapologetically herself. Proud and expressive – a lover and fighter.