Instagram artist Cortney Herron brings her images into the real world at The Riveter

By Sarah Davidson

Cortney Herron (top right) is finding her footing between the worlds of illustration and abstract art with a new show in Marina del Rey

There’s a mirror selfie on the back of artist Cortney Herron’s business card — rather, an illustration of a mirror selfie. The self-portrait with thick, cartoon-inspired lines and an unabashedly pink palette is quietly bold and very Cortney Herron. A self-described “behind-the-scenes” person, Herron tends toward observation and reservation, but lately she’s been stepping out from behind her canvas, screen or sketchbook.

Herron works in a variety of mediums to create pieces that range from totally abstract (a female figure doubled over in a wave of shaky lines) to sharp and witty (a pressed juice bottle labeled “boyfriend cleanse … not pressed, absolutely no f*cks given”). Her Instagram (@cortneyherron) includes photos of her IRL fine arts practice (pens and paints and palettes) and offers a window into her whimsical illustrative world, where a Post-It note can be a voice of encouragement, urging “Get Your Life.” She created the self(ie)-portrait in 2016 while feeling especially connected to her creativity.

“I like knowing that my art can speak for me, but I knew that eventually I had to put myself out there,” says Herron. And now that her work is on view at Marina del Rey’s women-focused coworking space The Riveter, Herron is also, in a way, on display.

“I’m nervous and scared, because it’s my truth,” she says. “It’s my work. It can be weird and random at times, but as I’ve grown and changed as a person I’ve realized it’s OK to be different, it’s OK to be unsure about stuff, it’s OK to be vulnerable.”

When she’s not at her day job as content manager for online art marketplace Fine Art America, Herron is usually painting or drawing at home in Marina del Rey. About a year and a half ago, while grappling with a little bit of late twentysomething uncertainty, she committed to seriously pursuing art. Now 30, she sells prints in her own online store and has partnered with Refinery29 and other web-based brands.

On view for the next four months, Herron’s work is a good fit for the modern, minimal, millennial vibe of The Riveter, which does away with beers and table games in favor of inviting meeting areas, communal tables and a mothers’ room. An abstract painting with brushstroke-inspired shapes in mustard yellow and blush pink complements a midcentury modern chair, while a canvas of surreal, line-drawn faces finds peaceful coexistence with a white wall.

In her art, Herron has also become more comfortable exploring the different facets of her own identity. Many of the pieces on her site celebrate the female form, from ethereal nudes to striking sketches of women that recall vintage high fashion illustration. In some of these pieces, the color of the backdrop — usually pale pink — shines through from behind the subject. In others, Herron depicts skin color, which is often a refreshing rainbow of black and brown hues.

“Everything I create is inspired by me or things that are happening around me,” she says. “I feel that it’s so important to be genuine and true to myself and race is something that … it exists. It’s a part of me.”

Herron cites “Insecure” creator Issa Rae as one of her inspirations.

“What she has done in terms of letting the world see what’s real — what black women go through, what life is like — was almost game-changing,” she says.

Next up, Herron wants to start reaching out to the brands she wants to work with, instead of waiting for them to reach out to her. She also hopes to one day paint a mural somewhere in L.A. and release an art book — anything to continue showing her work in the physical world as well as the digital one.

“This opportunity to showcase my art has put this kind of spark and fire in me,” she says.

See more of Cortney Herron’s work at The Riveter is located at 4505 Glencoe Ave. in Marina del Rey.