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African American Artists: Lois Mailou Jones and Faith Ringgold

Black artists have often struggled to get the recognition that they deserve in the art world, particularly when it comes to fine art. This week, we are going to look at two influential African-American artists who paved the way for black artists to become more recognised and respected.


Lois Mailou Jones began her career, as a textile designer and often sold her bold fabric creations to department stores. One day, a decorator told her that a 'coloured girl' wasn’t capable of producing such beautiful designs. This prompted Jones to shift her artistic focus to the fine arts so she could sign her name to her work, and no one could doubt her ever again. 


Project 1 is inspired by Jones and features mask drawing. It includes one of Jones' favourite ways to “age” a drawing - covering it with black oil pastel and then scraping it off. It’s a process also known as sgraffito and can be messy, but the final etched look is well worth the trouble.


Project 2 borrows some of Lois’ favourite patterns and colours. Mix and rearrange those patterns to come up with your own special combination!


Faith Ringgold is another artist known for her large story quilts. In 1985, she made a piece entitled “Flag Story Quilt” which was basically a collage of the US flag made from newspaper cuttings and old scraps.

Project 3 will see you design your own flag collage. The template is of the US stars and stripes flag, although you could choose to adapt this and create a Union Jack version instead.