Ally Spotlight: Tolani Lightfoot AKA Thunderbird & Lightfoot
Since submitting her first contest entry last summer for the legendary Paul Simon, Tolani Lightfoot—aka Creative Ally Thunderbird & Lightfoot—has been a familiar presence and a force to be reckoned with on Creative Allies. The Philadelphia, PA-based artist/designer has picked up wins for singer-songwriter Julianna Raye and the Wounded Warrior Album Charity, submitted multiple runner-up designs and been nominated as a 2011 Ally of the Year finalist.
Read on to learn more about the prolific designer behind tons of awesome submissions for Feist, Susan Justice, Rick James, the String Cheese Incident, the Shins, Sondre Lerche and many more.
Creative Allies: Tell us a little about yourself. Is graphic design your full-time job?
Tolani Lightfoot: I am a three dimensional artist by day, so I make large-scale sculptural works and installations. My work has always been very much centered on fantasy, mythology, dreams and music. I try to convey these elements in all the design work I create.
I started doing design work at home shortly after the birth of my daughter, Paloma, both to help support my family and to fund my fine art. But very quickly I found myself viewing the work that I was doing on the side as fine art. And thanks to Creative Allies, I have been given a platform to share these ideas and images. So now I try my best to divide my worlds.
CA: What’s your favorite medium for graphic art? Tell us a little about your methods and inspiration for creating one of your winning pieces.
TL: I always start out with pencil and paper. And from there I may work in a few different media. Watercolor, acrylic and pen and ink being my favorite, although I have been becoming friendlier with markers.
For [Wounded Warrior Album Charity], it was easy. I had recently been notified of a close friend being killed in Iraq. It was devastating because we were to meet over the winter holidays. And we were going to introduce our families and kids. Well, that never happened. So I knew I needed to take on this contest. My husband and I named our daughter Paloma, Spanish for dove, and the dove being a symbol of peace was what I wanted to use as the main image.
I wanted the image to be bittersweet. To convey both hurting and hopefulness. I used color pencil and ink for this design.
TL: I am a graduate of Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston, MA.
CA: Where do you live? Does your location affect your work in any ways?
TL: I make my home in West Philadelphia! One of the most creative and amazing places in the world. I have a studio in my home, something I have coveted for years. I do all my work there.
CA: What are your favorite types of creative projects to work on? What other hobbies, interests or specialties do you have?
TL: My favorite projects right now are my deer mounts. They are where my head is at the moment. I’m also working on life-sized female/deer hybrids. I like hybrids. I really love working in 3D. And I hope to further explore that through animation this year.
CA: Who are some of your favorite visual artists and musicians?
TL: Favorite musicians…hmmmm…hard question. To list a few: David Bowie, T-Rex (Mark Bolan), Tangerine Dream, Bryan Ferry, Kavinsky, Mikado, John Carpenter, Beach House, GNR.
As for visual artists: filmmaker Ken Russell, Ralph Bakshi, Ralph and Wendy Pini, Frida Kahlo, Damien Hirst, Assume Vivid Astro Focus, Beatriz Milhazes.
See more of Tolani’s work at tolanilightfoot.com.