By Lauren H. Dowdle
Photos by Blair Ramsey
Glitter and paintings of influential women don’t normally end up on the same canvas, but that’s exactly what people will find with Natalie Zoghby’s artwork. Her colorful, vibrant pieces put a fun twist on icons—from Dolly Parton to Supreme Court justices.
Not only do her pieces inspire others, but creating art has also helped her. Being dyslexic, Natalie recalls struggling in many of her classes as a student—but that wasn’t the case when it came to art.
“Art was something I excelled at and was able to pursue and dive into on a deeper level than anything,” Natalie says.
She followed that passion throughout grade school in Hoover, going on to earn a degree in art and fashion design from the University of Alabama and a graduate certificate in art and medicine from the University of Florida.
In addition to creating artwork, Natalie also shared her talents with patients and families at places like Children’s Harbor by teaching art classes before COVID.
“I really think the art and creative process has so much healing power,” Natalie says. “I love to show people that putting a little bit of paint on a canvas will help them meditate and give them the ability to subconsciously process so many emotions.”
Natalie now lives with her 5-year-old son in Vestavia, where she continues to follow her dreams as an artist—though her artwork has evolved through the years. Before the pandemic, she focused on abstract pieces, but after, she felt drawn to something different.
“I wanted to create work that was meaningful and people could connect with,” she says.
That started by finding something she connected with. As a lover of art history, Natalie says she saw how few pieces in galleries were created by women and wanted to narrow that gap to empower other women. So in 2021, Natalie debuted her “Women of Influence” series of paintings to highlight women who were making a difference.
The glittery collection featured women like Dolly Parton holding a syringe, referencing her contributions that helped further the development of the COVID-19 vaccine. Other portraits included former U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, singer Lizzo, poet Amanda Gorman and Vice President Kamala Harris. The pieces can be found at House Plant Collective in Avondale.
“I was afraid people wouldn’t like it, but they connected with the collection in a way I hadn’t experienced with my other work,” Natalie says. “It was the first time I created a body of work that represented me. It was wonderful. From that moment on, I wanted to create work people would identify with.”
Another woman who inspired Natalie was U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. After seeing the justice’s daughter sitting behind her mother during her confirmation, Natalie says she knew she’d found her next muse. The painting of the justice was featured in the Grand Bohemian Hotel Mountain Brook’s gallery for an exhibit called “Women in Color,” which is where former-U.S. Senator Doug Jones saw the piece and texted Justice Brown a photo of it.
This past summer, Sen. Jones came by Natalie’s booth at The Market at Pepper Place and told her Justice Brown would be in town for the memorial service marking the 60th remembrance ceremony of the 1963 bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church. Natalie was invited to a private dinner a few weeks later where she got to display the portrait and meet the justice.
“I couldn’t have imagined that would have happened. She was so excited to see the painting,” Natalie says. “It inspired me to set my bar even higher for my dreams.”
While she’s passionate about all of these pieces, she says painting people also makes her feel anxious. Natalie sometimes struggles drawing what she sees due to her dyslexia, but she’s learned to lean into that fear and work through it.
But no matter what she’s creating, Natalie is always experimenting with new ideas. She uses materials like acrylics, spray paint, glitter, charcoal, spray foam and anything that helps her achieve the effect she’s going for with the different pieces.
“I love bright colors and bold, expressive paintings,” Natalie says.
One project where she puts that creativity to work is with creating the window displays at the Pizitz Food Hall. Due to the large size of the pieces, the project has been one of her more difficult creations—though she’s enjoyed the process.
“I love making big art with glitter and spray paint,” she says.
Natalie also participates in the ArtBLINK Gala each year at the Kirklin Clinic of UAB to raise money for the O’Neal Fund for Excellence. During the event, she creates a painting live on stage with other artists. The artwork is then bid on as part of the silent auction, and for the past two years, Natalie’s pieces have won the highest bid.
“I was concerned about bringing all of my glitter to a black-tie event, but they loved it,” says Natalie, who painted a six-foot-tall bottle of Dom Perignon champagne this past year. “It reinforced that if you follow your passion and what makes you happy, others will connect with it, too.”
Natalie takes on commissioned works like family portraits as well, along with painting live at events like weddings. She also offers merchandise like candles and prints featuring her artwork. No matter the style or piece, her artwork is sure to encourage and catch people’s attention.
“When I’m at shows or out with my work, I want to inspire the next generation,” she says. “I love when children and other girls love my work and get excited because they aren’t used to seeing women in more traditional roles painted with bright colors and glitter. I want it to be colorful, fun and lighthearted.”
To view Natalie’s work or contact her about a commissioned piece, visit nataliesparkles.com. Pieces purchased on her website can also be picked up for free at her art studio in Vestavia Hills.