Shaina McCoy’s Artistic Legacy: A Family Affair

It’s a Family Affair

Interview by Shaquille Heath // Portrait by the artist

My conversation with Shaina McCoy took place shortly after Father’s Day, a time when many of us reflect on our family connections. As I sifted through old photographs of my own dad, I couldn’t help but appreciate the nostalgic feeling that McCoy’s artwork evokes. Her vibrant and textured portraits capture the essence of Black familial intimacy, transporting the viewer to cherished moments of togetherness.

A Walk Down Memory Lane

Much like my own family photos, McCoy’s inspiration comes from her own family albums filled with faded polaroids and wallet-size studio portraits. These snapshots, with their feathered bangs and 90s fashion, serve as the catalyst for McCoy’s vibrant paintings. Looking at her work, I can’t help but be reminded of the times spent with my own family, where the music of artists like Stevie Wonder provided the soundtrack to our gatherings.

Black Girl Magic and Self-Care

During my interview with McCoy, I was curious to know how she utilizes “Black girl magic” to take care of herself in the present moment and where she finds joy. McCoy emphasized the importance of staying rooted with family and checking in on loved ones. Connecting with nature, disconnecting from the internet, and engaging in regular physical activity have also become essential for her overall well-being.

McCoy acknowledged that self-care is a day-to-day practice that involves finding balance and taking care of her body and mind. She emphasized that making art is not always the top priority; instead, she prioritizes her physical and mental health, knowing that everything else will fall into place.

Staying Connected

Given the challenges and restrictions brought on by the past year, I asked McCoy about her ability to stay connected with her family. While she expressed gratitude for living close to her family in Minnesota, she acknowledged the importance of adapting to the circumstances. FaceTime, phone calls, and drive-by hellos allowed McCoy to maintain a strong connection with her loved ones, even during challenging times. She also highlighted the joy of discovering stories behind old family photographs and the willingness of her family to share their memories.

Unveiling the Stories

As I delved deeper into McCoy’s artistic process, I wondered how she approached selecting the photos to paint. Did she always know the identities of the people captured in these nostalgic images? McCoy explained that sometimes, she is drawn to a particular piece based on the dynamics between individuals, such as a person holding a child or an elder. In such cases, she would reach out to her family for more information, unraveling the stories behind each photograph. She shared an amusing anecdote about mistaking a cousin in one painting, highlighting the importance of capturing the essence and spirit of the individuals in her art.

Reflecting on Childhood

Self Portrait Number 9, a painting of McCoy as a young girl, stands out as one of her favorite pieces. I was curious to know what goes through McCoy’s mind when she reflects on her past self while painting. She described the experience as somewhat surreal, like an out-of-body moment. Looking back, McCoy feels a deep sense of pride for her journey and imagines how the little girl in those portraits would be proud as well.

For McCoy, these self-portraits serve as a reminder of her purpose and inspire her to continue creating art for her future family. She envisions having her own children and wants to provide them with everything they need, both as a parent and an artist.

Aspirations and Artistic Journey

From an early age, McCoy felt drawn to creative activities. Her aspirations evolved from wanting to be an art teacher to becoming a fashion designer and, eventually, a painter. In high school, she realized the influence art teachers had on youth and contemplated passing that influence onto others. However, her passion for painting ultimately took precedence, and she immersed herself in mastering the craft. McCoy remains open to teaching and sharing her knowledge with her community, emphasizing the importance of having a supportive space to do so.

Celebrating Childhood

Children, especially Black children, are prominent subjects in McCoy’s artwork. I asked her whether this focus on childhood was intentional or a natural inclination. McCoy explained her fascination with the mother and child imagery she encountered throughout her studies in art history. Inspired by her family’s history and cherished family photos, she sought to recreate images that celebrated Black children, Black girl magic, and Black boy joy. Additionally, McCoy’s personal connection to her parents’ experience as teen parents further fueled her passion to honor the beauty of childhood in her art.

Representation and Self-Identity

McCoy emphasized the importance of representation, sharing her own experiences of feeling underrepresented in the art world. Growing up, she rarely saw artwork that reflected her own identity. Today, through her unique artistic style, McCoy aims to ensure that young Black children see themselves and their potential in her paintings. She recounted the joy of witnessing children interacting with her art during a pandemic gallery opening, where they saw themselves in the artwork and realized the possibilities they held.

Unveiling The Unseen

A distinctive characteristic of McCoy’s work is the absence of facial features in her portraits. I was intrigued by this artistic choice and asked her to shed more light on it. McCoy recounted her time at the Perpich Center for Arts Education, where she encountered limitations due to a lack of access to certain painting mediums. She described a turning point when she created a series of small paintings for a benefit supporting the houseless community. The experience of showcasing her work and receiving positive feedback from her instructors encouraged her to embrace her unique style, despite her initial desire to paint realistically.

Moving forward, McCoy continued to refine her technique and developed confidence in her ability to convey emotion and capture the essence of her subjects without facial details. The absence of faces in her paintings creates a connection between the viewer and the artwork, allowing each individual to project their own experiences and identities onto the subjects.

A Thread of Creativity

The creative spirit runs deep in McCoy’s family. Her grandfather, a photographer, played a significant role in shaping her artistic journey. McCoy fondly shared how her grandpa’s passion for capturing moments in photographs provided her with a wealth of material to draw inspiration from. She described the countless albums filled with cherished memories that they share, and the joy of having fresh material to work with whenever he presents a new photo. McCoy also recognized the creative talents of other family members, including her great grandmother, who was a quilter, and her father, a barber with an eye for detail.

A Lifelong Collaboration

McCoy expressed deep gratitude for the support and collaboration she shares with her grandfather. She emphasized that their creative bond is a blessing and serves as a constant source of inspiration. Reflecting on her family’s diverse talents, McCoy recognizes the tactile nature of their creativity and cherishes the memories associated with each family member’s unique artistic contributions.

A Family Affair of Creativity

As our conversation drew to a close, I couldn’t help but marvel at the intergenerational creativity that flows within McCoy’s family. Their diverse talents and shared experiences have shaped her artistic path and continue to fuel her passion for capturing the beauty of family and childhood.


In conclusion, Shaina McCoy’s colorful and textured portraits provide a window into the beauty and intimacy of Black family life. Her artistic journey, influenced by family photographs and personal memories, allows viewers to connect with their own experiences and identities. McCoy’s deliberate choice to forgo facial features fosters a sense of universality, inviting each viewer to project their own stories into her artwork. Through her work, McCoy celebrates Black children and the joy they embody, ensuring that young individuals see themselves represented and empowered. Her commitment to self-care and staying connected with family anchors her creative process, allowing her to bring the essence of family to life through each brushstroke.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can Shaina McCoy create custom portraits?

Yes, Shaina McCoy accepts custom portrait requests. Whether it’s a personal family photo or a specific moment you want to immortalize, McCoy can work with you to bring your vision to life.

2. How can I purchase Shaina McCoy’s artwork?

You can purchase Shaina McCoy’s artwork directly from her website or through selected galleries and art events. Keep an eye on her social media channels for updates on upcoming releases and exhibitions.

3. Are prints of Shaina McCoy’s artwork available?

Yes, prints of Shaina McCoy’s artwork are available for purchase. You can explore her collection of prints on her website and choose your favorite pieces to adorn your home or office.

4. Does Shaina McCoy offer art workshops or classes?

While Shaina McCoy currently focuses primarily on her own artistic practice, she has expressed a willingness to share her knowledge and skills with others. Be sure to follow her on social media and subscribe to her newsletter for any updates on future workshops or classes.

5. How long does it take for Shaina McCoy to complete a painting?

The time it takes for Shaina McCoy to complete a painting can vary depending on factors such as size, complexity, and her current schedule. Each artwork receives the attention and care it deserves, ensuring that the final piece captures the essence of the subject. For specific inquiries about timelines, reach out to McCoy directly through her website or contact her representation.