CREATIVE DIRECTOR. DIGITAL ARTIST, COVL. MIAMI, FL
We initially wanted to sit down with D'ana Nunez because she designs the technicolored, futuristic illustrations of our dreams. Doused with spunk, and not lacking character in the least bit, her work exudes the type of genius that essentially consumes ones entire life–from wardrobe color choices right down to altering your creative eye altogether. Nunez's designs live on t-shirts, journals, pins, pillows and you might've seen it on the AMA's, as they incorporated her cool graphics during performances by Bruno Mars, Chainsmokers and Halsey. Couple that with the fact that she's been commissioned to work with brands such as Method, YesJulz Agency, Agenda Show, Seagrams Gin, Google x Nexus, The New York Times, Qupid Shoes and many others, it's apparent why we wanted–okay needed–to get to know her more thoroughly. The story of her transition–from fashion show producer to full-fledged digital artist–shows us nothing is completely set in stone and change, though scary, is beneficial.
As Nunez and Krav dove into conversation–in between her trying make work deadlines–her raw passion for what she does became evident. She's always looking for new ways to continuously fall in love with her work and become more skilled at what she does. And if you ask us, that's what cultivating a career is all about. Keep reading for more.
Krav: Before I knew you to be this monumentally talented digital artist, I knew you to work in fashion show production with Oscar De La Renta and other designers. What sparked this transition from fashion to art and why?
D'ana: I've always felt like I needed to do storytelling, so whether it was through fashion or through blogging, I felt I had something to say or a story to tell. With graphic illustration, I picked it up over a year ago and I love how digital illustrators and artists are able to take a specific theme or color palette and interpret it into something that's witty and funny. Parris, my fiancé, bought me a Wacom tablet and I picked up the niche for illustrating because it goes back to storytelling.
Was changing career paths frightening in any way?
That was one of my biggest fears. Going from something that I was comfortable doing and so good at, and then going to an unknown territory. But I figured that I needed to protect my happiness, sense of creativity and individuality. I knew that I wasn't going to be able to achieve that if I didn't step outside the lines of my comfort zone. So, yes it's really scary but I recommend it for anyone that's looking to grow, looking to explore and see what more life has to offer. We're just so comfortable in our boxes that it does disable us to see something that's bigger, better and more life-changing, especially for those that are in the creative industry.
Did you go to art school? or, are you completely self-taught?
I'm completely self-taught. I did go to college but it was for fashion merchandising and then I dropped out. I've always had a knack for drawing, my brothers were incredible artists, although they never pursued it. But I grew up in a creative environment, so when I went from pen and paper to digital, it wasn't that much of a change. It was more of getting used to a new way of creating. Everything that I know is basically YouTube, looking at how other illustrators do their stuff and seeing how I can take that and make it into my own.
Can you expand on not going to school to work in your field? Going to school is essentially the standard in society, so what's your take?
Education is important but if you've always had the sense of urgency in yourself to create or do anything that has to do with the arts, you can learn that on your own. I say that because when I was at the Art Institute for fashion merchandising, I started interning for a fashion production company and I was learning more about my field with them, than I was with my school. So there just came a point where I left school and decided to further pursue fashion production. I was already in my industry and I was getting an immense amount of education that I wasn't getting at school. I guess it varies in your field and what you want to go into. I feel like in the creative field, you can do it on your own. If you're hungry, if you're driven, if you're inspired, you can reach out to a mentor or agency and ask to be taken under their wings. Most of the time, those agencies and mentors are more than glad to welcome you. This was luckily my path and the experience that I had with interning. I recommend interning over schools like Art Institute. I've spoken to a lot of kids and they've had to leave the school because they paid a ridiculous amount of money but the education just wasn't present.
When you have big projects to complete for brands, what's a busy day like for you?
Usually I'm up by 8am. I like to take an hour or so to drink coffee and self meditate; whether it's reading something or learning something new really quickly. Then, I'll start diving into my client work. I do block scheduling, so I don't spend too much time working on a certain project because then what happens to me is I start not being able to foresee the project being done. One, I get frustrated and then two, I'm not putting my all into it because I'm like "I spent 3 hours on this, I just want to get it done." By that point, I take a break, a walk or just veg out for a second. Today, I foresee myself having a very late day because I have about four projects that I have to get done for clients, so I probably won't be done until about 9pm tonight. But in the midst of all that, I'm pausing, going outside or talking to my mom or fiancé. It breaks up the heavy cycle of looking at the computer for immense amounts of time. When it's not as busy, I'll be able to squeeze in a personal project and that gives me some sort of gratification.
How do you maneuver freelancing and entrepreneurship? How have you gotten used to working outside of an office environment?
I've been able to experience both. Like the typical 9-5, I go in to the workplace–I wake up in the morning and I work form my desk at home. The space in itself is kind of the same, you have to make an effort to dedicate yourself to the project for a certain amount of time, and then stop to recharge. It's about doing things to get your blood flowing. You don't really see it as much but your brain starts to reactivate again.
What elements or artists continue to help you develop your style?
I love, love, love Kelly Shami. She does all of the art direction for Parkwood and then Hattie Stewart. She's based in the U.K and she does all of the doodles on magazine covers and she's also done a bunch of stuff for MAC Cosmetics. Coloring and the ability to manipulate a certain thing that's so basic and make it fun is what inspires me to take that and incorporate it into my own projects. A huge thing about my projects is that I work with color first and then I illustrate whatever it is. Color is everything around us, it's what makes us gravitate to something that we love, something that we remember. Taste, smell. That kind of thing. I pick my color palette first and then I go in and think, "Okay I have five or six colors, what can I do with this?"
What has the term starving artist meant to you?
Back in the day, before I was freelancing full-time, starving artist probably would have meant the sense of urgency and the need to create all of the time. You're working a 9-5 and you're starving because you're not doing what you love, therefore you have to binge on other things. Now, the definition of starving artist has changed for me because I'm freelancing full-time. Now it's more of a monetary thing. Rent is due soon and I'm starving for money and other brands to realize that hey, I'm amazing and we should collaborate. My course of life has definitely changed my definition of that.
Some people kind of sink into that mindset and let it box them in, so how do you not let being a starving artist define you?
I always work on myself. I've had a lot of big brands tell me no and I've had a lot of just general people tell me no. But that fuels my need to work on myself. Maybe it's because I'm not what they're looking for or it's because I still have a lot of growing to do in my design and technique. So every time I get a no or I box myself into that mentality, I have to get out of it because there's always room for improvement. I'm not the best illustrator in the world and there's always much more that I can learn and pursue. Create a space where you think; It's okay that it's a no and it's okay that I'm a starving artist, but what can I do to improve? Mind over matter.
For those who want to dabble in digital art or make a career out of it like you have, what's your advice and what tools do you recommend?
For learning tools, I definitely say YouTube. With digital art, at the end of it, yes there is technique and there are ways of doing things, but the cool thing is that there's no wrong way to convey what you want to design. I think that's what makes every digital artist and designer out there different and amazing. They take those basic fundamentals and they manipulate the hell of them and make something that defines them as an artist. So my advice is to not define yourself by the ways of this so-called digital world, but take it, learn from it, and make it your own.
It's a known fact that creating art can take a lot out of you, so how do you balance creating with self-care?
Man, that is so true. I've taken a lot of trips lately and that has helped me because around November of last year, I started feeling extremely exhausted and it was a part of the reason why I resigned from the agency that I was at before. I looked at Paris and said "Hey, we should travel." So from November to January, we hit little spots in the U.S. We gained new perspective and spent time with family. As artists, especially freelancers, we're always at home. We're always trying to find ways to take a new breath. Going to Atlanta, Nebraska and Dallas allowed me to see new things and implement that back into my work.
The slogan for Musings of Krav is "We Dream In HD," so how do you dream in HD?
By remaining true to myself, pushing the envelope in my creativity and in my personal life and trying to create that perfect balance that isn't so perfect, but it works for me. Always learning, always being receptive to constructive criticism. Love, life, energy, traveling–all of those contribute to my ability to Dream in HD.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Illustrated by D'ana for Musings of Krav, shot by Parris Pierce