Creating art wasn't something 22-year-old Tatiana EL-Khouri grew up daydreaming about. She wasn't the child constantly carrying a box of crayons and finger paints, in search of a free space to express herself. Nor did EL-Khouri grow up in a family of artists, or in an environment brimming with creative influences.
Instead, the Los Angeles illustrator's addiction to the creative process was almost accidental; something stumbled upon during the waning days of high school. But once she found her way into the world of creative expression, via a senior year art class, EL-Khouri realized it was where she belonged all along.
"It was like I was in another world. It was such a great experience to have a blank page and then have something come together that was recognizable," recalled EL-Khouri during a recent interview from her south central Los Angeles home.
That formative day was a little over four years ago and EL-Khouri, a recent graduate of California State University Northridge, is among the current group of up-and-coming Los Angeles artists working to build portfolios and make names for themselves.
EL-Khouri however, whose work ranges from illustration to rich, vibrant oil paintings and folksy sculptures with an African and Central American influence, has already begun to separate herself from the pack.
Last September, with a little aggressive resourcefulness, EL-Khouri found her way onto "The Tyra Banks Show" — getting her foot in the door by signing-up for a makeover segment.
"When I saw that Tyra Banks had a show coming out, I went on the show's Web site and looked through the upcoming show topics that they needed guests for. I don't have any emotional problems or issues with my boyfriend's mother, or any of those things, but then I saw that they were going to do a show about makeovers and what girl doesn't want a makeover?" EL-Khouri explained amid a sprinkling of laughter.
EL-Khouri completed an application to appear on the makeover show, describing herself as an artist whose personal wardrobe didn't reflect her creative profession and the producers came knocking. The young artist and her artwork were featured on the show.
Not long after the makeover segment taped, Banks arranged for a showing of EL-Khouri's work in Los Angeles. The gallery was a small, intimate setting — the room was filled with friends, family and even a few art directors.
"When people saw my work there, they said, 'Oh, you really are an artist," EL-Khouri recalled. "It was just really good to get my name out there."