Gwynned Vitello: Your work has real vibrancy and immediacy, so I can see how you got lots of work as a graphic designer. The paintings kind of burst and sing, but I guess you felt boxed in doing corporate work. Tell me about your transition to full-time painting.
Ana Leovy: Thank you! Painting has always been my passion, and, as a kid, I always dreamed of being a painter. I initially wanted to major in visual arts, but ended up going for a “safer” choice and studied graphic design, out of my fear of not being able to have a successful career, of not making a living. Although it was not my dream job initially, I don’t regret choosing graphic design as a career. I ended up loving it and I’m grateful because it gave me so many tools I use today.
I started transitioning to full-time painting about three years ago. I’d been working as a designer in an ecommerce start-up in Mexico City, completely fed up with the routine and the long commute. It was a good job, but I felt like there was something missing and it felt wrong to stay there any longer. I decided to move to Barcelona and did a masters in graphic design applied to illustration. I think that was my true beginning! My love for design grew while discovering creative sides within illustration. Spain was particularly special to be because I was surrounded by people who lived off art and inspired and pushed me to do the same. I had lots of spare time between classes, so that allowed me to get back to my sketchbook and let it all out. It was very cathartic.
So who or what inspires you? Are most of the subjects interpretations of yourself, as well as fictional characters, famous folks and friends?
They are definitely extensions of myself, of my thoughts and emotions. These characters are not normally based on anyone in particular, unless it is a commissioned work, where I’ll get asked to do a representation of a real person. But to be completely honest, doing this makes me a bit nervous. Even though I am not aiming to be realistic with my style, the fact that there are actual people involved reduces my creative freedom, in a way. So I have avoided this sort of work lately, focusing more on personal pieces, where my characters are completely made up.
Don’t get me wrong! I also get lots of satisfaction when doing commissions based on existing people. I love how intimate and meaningful this is, but I also think it’s important to step back every now and then and continue this exploration on my own so that my work evolves. What ignites my inspiration constantly changes, but lately I find myself needing to portray social scenes like groups of people dining together, dancing, kissing, hugging, simple activities we all took for granted and were taken away. I guess I am craving all of that. Nostalgia is very present in my work. I think there is a lot of beauty in sadness.
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