February is the month of love, so we took the opportunity to sit down and get to know the lady behind the beautiful street art hearts that have taken over Philadelphia. The mixed media and street artist’s name is Amber Lynn, perhaps better known as Amberella (a nickname that started 15 years ago and has stuck). Most of her work is conceptual, and often comments on popular culture, body image or lady drama.
Learn more behind this extremely talented artist, including her inspirations and future projects to keep an eye out for this year.
“Art is not only my outlet and therapy but also my passion and drive to exist.”
PPRG: Your beautiful artwork can be found all throughout Philadelphia, specifically your acclaimed Goth Hearts. Tell us about how it all began. How did you find yourself on a journey to become an artist?
AL: I think that I’ve always been an artist in some form or another since a small child. I’ve always been involved in the “arts” whether that be dance, music, visual arts, or just fashion and expressing myself. I feel that expression and the route you take with that IS art.
PPRG: We, too, love when things happen organically! What do you ultimately want people to take away from your work?
AL: Ultimately, I want people to feel something from my work. Typically my work is “trigger” type of work, meaning my art tends to trigger some sort of response from the viewer fairly quickly. My work will trigger something inside of you, but it will be personal based on your own experiences and opinions. I’m simply setting the stage for you to feel something, which in turn I hope creates deeper thought, conversation, and ultimately action. I’m really touched when I hear from people how my work made them feel and in turn what they did with those feelings or how the work helped them or related so specifically to their lives and how.
PPRG: Does your work reflect personal influences? What inspires you? How do you continue to stay inspired?
AL: I’m pretty over-the-top, both personally and artistically. I’m the one wearing a sequined outfit at an art opening… or really whatever the hell I feel like that day! Because why not? Fashion is a form of expression too, and I want to have fun with it and be a character through my wardrobe choices as well. Experiences are always happening which, in turn, ignite feelings so I’m always feeling inspired. I’m an extremely passionate and emotional being, so just the change of every day and getting through life keeps me inspired.
PPRG: We love that! Talk to us about your merchandise and what you want people to know about it. How do you go about creating it?
AL: As far as my merchandise, I’m selfish; I’m creating things that I want to wear or own. And I want them to feel special. So you will notice extra details in any thing that I offer because I’m really invested in anything that I do or create. It means the world to me to even be able to produce a sweatshirt or a hat, so I want it to be amazing. This is why you don’t see a t-shirt of every heart design on my website. That wouldn’t be special at all, and that matters to me. I want to keep merchandise limited, exclusive and pay attention to the details.
“My favorite part about being an artist is being a voice and touching others’ lives through my ideas and creativity.”
PPRG: Is there a reason you chose this city to publicly share your art? (We’re obviously not complaining about your decision!)
AL: I’ve been doing street art in Philadelphia since 2009, and I chose Philly because it’s my home. So it only felt natural to be out on the streets of my everyday life. A lot of work has dealt with relationships/feelings, and most of these love affairs are rooted in this city, so that felt appropriate as well.
PPRG: Home is (literally) where the heart is. Congratulations on winning Rad Girls Artist of the Year among some great Philly company! Do you plan on expanding your art to other cities?
AL: Thanks so much! That award was really special and it couldn’t have come at a better time. I needed an affirmation to keep it moving and recognition for my hard work felt really wonderful. I am so grateful. Yes, I plan on expanding my art to other cities! This past year, the hearts have made it to Baltimore, Brooklyn, Chicago, D.C., Jersey City, Miami, Nashville, New York City, Orlando, and most recently in the new year, New Mexico. My friends and mentors have encouraged me to share my work throughout the country. They remind me that there is more than just Philly, and I should share the experience of stumbling upon a heart in other cities.
PPRG: We agree with your friends, your art is too special to only share with Philadelphia! What are your future plans for 2017?
AL: My plan this year is to keep traveling with my hearts, work on a larger scale and work in other languages. It’s really interesting to sit down with someone that is fluent in another language and talk with him or her about how these words translate into their language and the differences because of their culture. It’s fascinating and rewarding to learn of their culture when it comes to feelings and relationships. I also will continue releasing Power Hearts and work in social justice activism. (I’m sure other work will arise simultaneously).
“Working through issues good or bad is what keeps me going and ideas flowing.”
PPRG: On your website, you give a shout out to a number of nonprofits you stand behind. Tell us more about these organizations and how you’re involved.
AL: I get asked to do a lot of non-profit work. I wish that I could do it all, but my art is also my livelihood so I have to be pretty selective at this point and focus on just a few. A few of the nonprofits I stand behind include:
- Urban Roots and MTWB Foundation– I learned of them when they asked me to do a t-shirt for a giveaway at one of their fundraising events. I love what they both do which is a focus on athletics and the arts (MTWB) and Urban Roots with a heavy focus on community-based revitalization projects that foster youth mentoring, community engagement, public relations, and the arts. I care not only about our city as a whole but it’s communities as well and how the children living here can be happier and thrive.
- Skateistan is my jam right now. They are an award-winning international nonprofit organization that uses skateboarding and education for youth empowerment. Over 1,500 youth, aged 5-17 (a heavy focus on girls), attend Skateistan’s programs every week in Afghanistan, Cambodia and South Africa. Their organization aims to give youth the opportunity to become leaders for a better world. I’ll be working on a project with them in the upcoming months helping to raise money for the organization through art.
- Counsel for Relationships (CFR) holds my interest, as they are a community-based nonprofit counseling center that provides a unique combination of comprehensive services, education and research to help people understand, respect, and improve the quality of the important relationships in their lives. I also have a special interest in domestic violence and when I recently partnered with another artist named Mia Herring on the Worthy Hearts project we created the enamel WORTHY Heart pin that has a portion of proceeds going to CFR.
PPRG: You mentioned mentors earlier. As a mentee, what have you learned from your experience and what advice do you have for aspiring artists?
AL: I have five pieces of advice for young artists:
- Don’t force something that isn’t there. If you are in it for popularity, fame, or money, you are in it for the wrong reasons and that will show and things most likely won’t work out. Hard work and true passion about what you are creating is the only way. Your sleepless nights and relentlessness will to get projects completed to your standards and vision will show, I promise.
- Don’t copy others purposely; it’s tacky, noticeable, and so embarrassing for other artists to see and experience. It waters down the original creators work and message. Be respectful of other artists in your circle, that goes a long way too.
- Talk to other artists about how and why you inspire one another and support each other. Collaborate with others if it’s a match not only artistically, but personally as well. You should really trust someone to allow them into your personal creative space of ideas! Some of my greatest friends have come through collaboration.
- Stick to your own vision and practice your craft with the only expectation of pleasing yourself. Don’t care what others think; it SHOULD be all about you, because YOU are the creator. Other things will happen organically.
- Remember your worth. Often people don’t realize that artists need to be paid and ask for a lot of things for free, or for less. Being an artist is a career that provides a special service and skill set, which is more often than not a luxury. You should be paid for your ideas, creations, designs, work, time, and energy.
PPRG: Lastly, can you share with us some of your favorite places and go-to spots in the city?
AL: I have so many! Sweet Box Truck, any of the Ritz theaters for movies in the winter, Shane Confectionery (great sweet treats), TMOMS (delicious pierogies), The Philadelphia Museum of Art, City Hall is just gorgeous year round, and of course, Barbuzzo. In the warmer months, I’m riding my bike throughout the city and fond of the Pier, Rittenhouse Park, Ben Franklin Bridge, and catching the sunset pretty much nightly.