Painting the Divine

by Kim Gill • photography by Two Eagles Marcus

Chakila Hoskins discovered her artistic gift at the age of seven. Her father drew a sketch of her favorite TV star, Punky Brewster, and then challenged her to do the same. Hoskins’s portrait of the ’80s sitcom character, with her signature pigtails tied up in flower hair bands, turned out to be as incredibly accomplished as her father’s version. She was struck by the positive remarks and affirming words from her parents.

“It made me think, at that moment, ‘I want to be an artist when I grow up’,” Hoskins said. “From then on, I carried a pad of paper and a pencil with me at all times, drawing everything I saw.”

Hoskins’s childhood was stressful at times. She would escape her tense world by engaging in her art and writing short stories.

“It was therapeutic for me,” she shared. “I could erase everything that was going on and it would become my happy time.”

Visits to downtown Grand Rapids for festivals, concerts and museums with her family enhanced her desire for the arts. As a child, she remembers walking by Kendall College of Art and Design (KCAD) and proclaimed it to be her “dream school.”

Art classes in high school, however, depleted her confidence.

“It actually plummeted,” Hoskins expressed. “I questioned if I was really good at all as I compared my work to others.”

It would take her several years to regain belief in her artistry. In 2006, working in the retail industry and raising two daughters (she now has three), Hoskins decided to begin taking classes at Grand Rapids Community College.

“GRCC is where my skills as an artist really began to develop,” she explained. “Drawing had been my foundation, now I was being challenged to paint in oil. I didn’t really even know how to paint.”

She credits instructor, Nick Antonakis who saw something in her that she didn’t see in herself.

“He pushed me every chance he could, and I’m so grateful to him for preparing me for the painting program at Kendall,” Hoskins shared.

Graduating with an Associates in Fine Arts in 2009, Hoskins finally entered KCAD—her dream school— in fall of that year, an educational opportunity she described as truly amazing.

“I’m really thankful for my experience there,” she said. “I loved and admired all my professors but the three who I worked with closely while in the painting program were Diane Zeeuw, Margaret Vega and Jay Constantine.”

Preparing for her thesis gave Hoskins a direction for her art. Her current portfolio of paintings is a reflection of that work. In a concept development class with Vega, students were assigned a project: to create their own language and society to incorporate into their artwork.

“Once you discover your gifts, it’s your obligation to share them with the world.” 

“She pushed me to dig deeper, and I eventually came up with a concept of a world of fraternal twins, one being visually impaired, one with sight,” Hoskins described. “They would commune together daily by walking through a labyrinth made of walls with both written text and Braille biblical scriptures, navigating their way to the center to pray.”

From that assignment, 12 paintings were created, all with different labyrinth designs and biblical scriptures embossed in Braille.

Since graduating with a Bachelors of Fine Art from KCAD in 2012, Hoskins has forged her own unconventional course, creating work that reflects her spiritually, with themes often centered around the idea of eternal life. She begins each painting with a single word.

“I really believe that God speaks to me through my work,” she divulged. “He gives me a word to research.”

These single words are now titles for paintings: Regeneration, Transformation (Metamorphosis) and Visitation. Hoskins researches each word, reflects on the information and writes poems to accompany each painting. She transcribes parts of the poem into Braille, then transfers the dotted image onto a prepared panel, enlarging or reducing it as needed. Her palette is limited, using mostly black, white and shades of gray to create a dream-like state with occasional pops of color to represent the idea of eternal life. 

December of 2016, Hoskins earned her Masters of Fine Arts in Painting from Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University. With her MFA, Hoskins has been offered teaching opportunities. She taught several Continuing Studies courses for the KCAD youth program over the summer. Hoskins is currently teaching art part-time at the New Era Christian School.

“I never knew that teaching was a calling for me, but several people informed me that they thought I’d make a great teacher,” Hoskins said. “I’ve accepted my calling, I’m walking the path to see where it leads. Once you discover your gifts, it’s your obligation to share them with the world.”

Step into Hoskins’ visceral world of artwork and poetry at

Kim Gill

Kimberly Grace Gill is an independent fine artist specializing in portrait painting typically with a social justice orientation. She is a graduate of Aquinas College and lives in Byron Center with her husband, Pat.



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