The colorful and creative Essence Bailey

“What piece of clothing describes you most?” I asked. I was sitting across from senior Essence Bailey on a long wooden table splattered with paint and pencil markings.

“I’m thinking about a blouse that I had when I was in middle school,” she said. “That was my favorite top, I wore it all the time. You could tie it at the back, and it had a pattern of diamonds, all black, green, and white.”

I imagined the colorful and flowy blouse and how it perfectly encompassed Essence, with her vibrant personality and bold clothing choices.

A gallery of artwork by Essence Bailey
(click image to see larger)

Before our interview, I had only talked to Essence maybe once or twice. We were in the same math class, and every day when she swayed into the room, I noticed how colorful and unique her outfits were. Sometimes she wore layers, sometimes a mixture of different patterns and textures. It was always something different.

On this particular day, sitting with her in the art room, she was wearing maroon shoes with a matching maroon bag and maroon lipstick. Her brown curly hair was in three buns atop her head.

It was my first time in the art room, but for Essence it’s practically home- along with her love for fashion. Essence is an artist.


I first witnessed her talent when she drew a detailed scene on the blackboard in math. It was a picture of a tree, the moon, and the stars. It looked so effortless, the way she transformed a barren chalkboard into a work of art in a matter of minutes.

“I’ve been drawing pretty much all my life. I was always looking to draw in class – that’s all I wanted to do!” Bailey said.

Bailey’s passion for art carried on through high school. She has been taking art at Mason for four years and recently got to display some of her pieces in the IB art show.


Essence creating a painting in the art room.

Essence creating a painting in the art room. (Photo by Jessie Beddow)

Bailey took me to her drawer in the art room to show me the artwork up close. She pulled out her favorite piece – a colorful cityscape she painted of New York. She explained that it was inspired by the painting Place Vintimille by Edouard Vuillard, which she first saw in the Guggenheim museum in New York.

“I wanted to try and approach his style. It appeared in his piece that there were two filters in the painting, so I wanted to strengthen the contrast in the colors in my painting [of Washington Square Garden],” she said.

In addition to the cityscape painting, Bailey showed me an array of various other pieces in the drawer, including a self portrait, a scratchboard drawing of an elephant, and a computer graphic design.

“I try to experiment with different tools and techniques,” she explained.


A piece Essence showed me that immediately stood out was a large canvas painting of model Tyra Banks. The colorful and intricate painting won the Regional Scholastic Art award this year.

She posted pictures of the painting on her Instagram page, which now has almost 24,000 followers.


“When [the painting] was finished, I actually commented on Tyra’s Instagram profile that I had painted the picture of her,” Bailey explained.

To Essence’s surprise, Tyra saw the comment and went onto Essence’s profile to see the pictures.

“She asked me if it was for sale. And I said, ‘For Tyra Banks… indeed!’” Bailey laughed.

Although she replied that it was for sale, Tyra has yet to send any contact information about purchasing the painting.

Meanwhile, Bailey has been working on other projects and continues to pursue her love of fashion and art. She was even asked to design the 2017 George Mason graduation ticket and brochure cover.

Despite all of Essence’s accomplishments, this is only the beginning for her. She will continue to pursue and develop her interests at the Columbus College of Art and Design in Ohio next year, and is planning to major in fashion.

“I really want to incorporate art into fashion. I want to explore different cultures and I want to travel. Taking inspiration from other countries and incorporating that into my own work to make something new… that’s what I want to focus on.”


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